By Jason Sheridan
In this time of political strife and bloodshed world over, I, like many, look to my faith for comfort. I am not a Christian, because there are too many ambiguities and too many followers have lost their way. I am not Catholic, because I am not good with names, and I don’t wish to be impolite to Saints. And I’m certainly not Jewish, for as Mad Max taught us, they are responsible for every problem in the world ever. No, in the best of times and the worst of times, I put my faith into theme parks.
Theme parks give us everything traditional religions provide. They help us escape from the rigors and hardships of everyday life. When we are at our lowest points, a trip to a theme park will lift our sprits and remind us that there is good in the world. They have the power to make us experience an entire range of emotions in the span of a five-minute ride. And honestly, who has not felt closer to a higher power when they’re 50 feet in the air on a roller coaster?
Of course, we are all looking for existential fulfillment. To this end, our religion has rituals similar to other faiths. Like the Buddhist repeating the word ‘ohm,’ we will go on rides over and over again for it is only through repetition that we will find inner peace. Like the guilt-ridden Christians, we know we are not perfect, and we must atone for our sins. We do so by paying extravagant amounts for terrible fast food and gawdy, unnecessary souvenirs.
I will go so far as to say we are even more progressive than most religions. The Pirates of the Carribbean ride, a hallowed institution in the world of theme parks, recently added a Jack Sparrow animatronic while remaining true to the spirit of the ride. That brought in the masses in droves. What has the Catholic church done recently to reconnect with the people? Ban birth control? Yeah, that’ll fill the pews.
A misconception about us is that we hate waiting in line. While we are skeptical of anything that gets between us and our rides, true believers do not mind waiting in line. No, if the ride has been created correctly, then the queue is not a burden, but an extension of the ride filled with hidden Easter eggs meant to enhance the experience. And plus Christians have waited 2,000 years for Jesus to come back, surely we can wait another 10 minutes to ride The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.
We are an inclusive people; we accept all races and welcome even the most casual theme park enthusiast. We try not to be snobbish, but you may find the devout reciting things like the number of ghosts in the Haunted Mansion (999, but there’s room for a thousand), the type of woman the pirates in the Pirates of the Carribean ride were trying to buy (the red head, they wanted the red head), and the sage words Doc Brown utters when exiting the Back to the Future ride (Hurry up and get out before you meet yourself coming in!).
Now to those who have legitimate qualms with a belief system based entirely on family vacation destinations, I will point out that religions have been based on less. The Kaktahte tribe of West Africa has built an entire belief structure on a copy of “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C+C Music Factory.* And while many religions can claim to be based on foundations of piety and wisdom, how many are based on things that are totally awesome? I mean…have you ridden The Incredible Hulk coaster? It’s pretty sweet.
To be successful in practicing our faith one must occasionally do what is required of all religions—abandon logic for faith. If one were to think logically, one would realize that that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is on the other side of the park, and there’s a parade going on, and the park is going to close in ten minutes, do you have no concept of space and time Jason? To which the devout reply, “Get off my ass Dad. This is my vacation too.”
As I write this I am in the Southland of California. The reason for my presence here has often been speculated as for schooling or some sort of internship-job. These are lies. I am here making a pilgrimage that all theme park enthusiast, must make once in their lives. Like the Jews to Israel and the Muslims to Mecca, I have come here to bask in the birthplace of the theme park. And while the general Los Angeles area could best be described as a vast suckhole of all things good, I survive, each day, through my faith. To put it into a language the average Joe can understand, ‘Dude I’m having an awesome time, which should not be considered a surprise since my religion largely revolves around riding Space Mountain, eh, home dog?’
*The CD was accidentally left behind by a missionary in the early 90s. Of course, the tribe does not have any sort of device to play the CD, but they enjoy the texture of the plastic case and the exquisite rainbow colors of the disc.
Jason Sheridan is a senior TV-R major who thinks that taking photos during roller coaster rides adds to the commercialization of the theme park religion. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.