There was an interesting article on IO9 about the possiblity of Star Trek fans enjoy a 'religion' type community - and the author Michael Jindra in the journal Sociology of Religion brought up this point of Trekkies and their world:
"But early on I realized I was dealing with something much bigger and more complex than I had anticipated...it had features that paralleled a religious-type movement: an origin myth, a set of beliefs, an organization, and some of the most active and creative members to be found anywhere…Religion often points us to another world; [Star Trek] does the same."
So that boils us down to some questions about our fandom: Disney. More specifically, I'm talking Disneyland. I'm not talking that Disneyland fans are 'in a religion', but that the community uses specific things that parallel several common traits that religions have.
So, let's look at these questions and see how they interact with our community:
(1) Does the religion have a founding prophet and an origin myth?
While Walt Disney started it all with a mouse, it's obvious that Disneyland was created upon several reasons. Walt's opening day speech says it well:
“To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past...and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America...with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Right there is our origin story and myth. We know that this is the reason Walt opened Disneyland - he told it right to us. We have a connection to not only a person, but a grand purpose for Disneyland!
(2) Does the religion have scripture and an accepted canon?
It would seem that in our community that in order to bring out the best opinion possible, many of our members quote Walt himself. I would argue that many of the phrases that we see come up over and over again (Disneyland is not a museum...,Disneyland will never be complete..., etc.) are used as a guide of the direct that Disneyland should take. The 'accepted canon' would be the history of the park itself. From Walt , to his death, to Pressler, Ouimet, and others - Disneyland has a 'accepted canon'. Many people belive that Matt Ouimet was the one who 'saved' the parks from what Pressler did - and so we 'accept' that.
(3) Does the religion have a unifying belief system? Does it offer salvation?
I would argue that the ideas behing Disneyland, and Walt's opening speech - signify why we keep going to the parks. We have this belief that 'all who come to this happy place are welcome'. Even our varing meets show us this - when people of all types come together for fun times in the park.
As for 'salvation' - I wouldn't put it that high. However, before meeting my Disneyland friends online (and in the park) - I had little social life, and was seriously confused over who I was. This community helped me through bad times, helped me figure out who I was - and most important was there as a support group. So, while the park didn't 'save me' - I believe that the community of people I met there did.
4) Are adherents of the religion sometimes stigmatized by nonbelievers?
From personal experience, I know this is true. There are some people that just don't see what many of us see in Disneyland. They see nothing more than a theme park. I see friends, family, memories and wonderful times. I get harassed (jokingly) all the time about my Disneyland obsession - at work, home, etc.
Anyway, I thought the article was interesting enough to lay out some parallels for our community that we have here.