Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Now not too long ago I got into an argument with someone over My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the gist of it mostly being how stupid I was to enjoy something made for little girls. Eventually I snapped back something along the lines of ‘So how come MLP is stupid but Christianity somehow gets a free pass?’. Which got me thinking: What exactly is the difference between a fandom and a religion? And are we really that different after all?

So lets start with that fun chestnut: Definitions. What, exactly, is a fandom. Well the simple and most obvious definition would be ‘a group of people that share a common interest’. Trekkies like Star Trek, Whovians like Doctor Who, Bronies like My Little Pony etc. The list goes on and on. We like something, we find other people that like the thing we like and we bond over our mutual like of something. Can’t make it any more simple than that, can I?

… So how does that differ from religion? I mean what is religion if not a bunch of people connecting over a holy text and coming together because of it? What are Christians if not fans of Jesus Christ and the Bible? What are Buddhists if not those that follow the teachings of Buddha? I could go on, listing many examples of world religions whose key competent is that they have a shared belief in something. But then if fandom and religion are so similar, what is it that sets them apart?

Well the most obvious answer is, of course, belief. A Whovian is probably not going to think that the Doctor is a real being, whereas a Christian will believe that Jesus Christ is. A Brony will acknowledge that their show is fictional, whereas Mormons believes that the Book of Mormon is real. And so on and so forth. A fan will acknowledge that their thing they’re a fan of is fake, a religious person will acknowledge that the thing they believe in is real. And more power to them. No one has the right to tell you what you can or can’t believe in, any more then they have a right to tell you what you can and can’t like. Sure people can question it, try to understand it, or even see it as foolish, but that doesn’t change your like or belief in it. But then I remembered a comment I heard from a long time ago:

“What about those fans that take it too seriously, that think it’s real”. And there are fans out there. Fans that hold Klingon weddings or hold certain characters dear to their heart. Fans who send out death threats to the creators that defy their expectations and their wants. Truly crazy stories about really weird individuals. Naturally the Brony community, the newest ‘big’ fandom (and the one with the biggest difference in demographic) is often hit with these accusations: All Bronies are paedophiles, all Bronies have sexual fantasies about the ponies, all Bronies etc. etc. It’s quite a common slur made against the Brony fandom. But (and this works best if the person making these claims is Christian) to that person ask them this:

“If the Westbro Baptist Church does their racist, sexist and homophobic acts under the name of Christianity, does that then mean all of Christianity is bad?”

And of course if they’re a decent person they’ll say no, that’s just a crazy off-shoot of Christianity that’s pushing their own agenda and making the rest of them look bad. They’re not the same as the good Christians out there doing good for the world. In which case: Why is it any different to when it comes to Bronies? Yes there is a subset that have different likes and preferences, but they’re not exactly spewing hate speech for all the world to see. They’re not using their favourite show to condemn people and curse them to Hell. In comparison to the Westbro Baptist Church they’re actually very open and lovely with just different sexual preferences. But why is it okay to condemn all of a fandom by one section of it but not do the same for a religion?

Ah but no, no that’s not true is it. We can and have condemned an entire religion due to a few individuals perverting the name of it. How many Islamic followers were insulted and abused in the wake of 9/11? How quickly were people to judge the entire religion as bad, as being the cause of the crime committed by a radical crazy off-shoot? Of course no one noticed the irony that Christianity, aka their beliefs, were an off-shoot of the very religion they were insulting but that’s beside the point. It’s clear that even whole religions can get targeted due to the actions of a few individuals. But if one is willing to stand up and say ‘no we can’t judge my whole religion based on the actions of one small hateful group’, why can’t that same one stand up for others as well?

But before I go I will try and get this back on topic (as unlikely as that is) by clarifying a few points: Yes I am an atheist, yes I don’t believe in God or Jesus Christ and yes I believe the Bible is a work of fiction. From my viewpoint the Bible is just a book, a book of no more power or significance then something like Twilight. The only power this book has comes from people believing that this book that I think is fiction is instead fact. It’s only when we turn fiction into fact do we turn fandom into religion.

However that doesn’t mean I think Christianity is ‘bad’. Wrong, yes, but only from the standpoint that since you can’t prove any of it it’s not logical to believe in it. But bad? No, of course not. I may not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but I can believe in the message of peace and love the character in the book is trying to spread. Likewise I might not believe that the Doctor or Superman are real beings, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the message their trying to get across: Be kind and good to one another and don’t be evil. Whether they’re real or not, or whether you believe they were real or not, isn’t the point we should be focusing on. What we should be focusing on is the good these characters can teach us and how we should incorporate that into our everyday lives.

So there you have it. My turn on the soapbox bashing at misconceptions and trying to prove that we’re not really that different at all. If you disagree with something, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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