Emile Durkheim chose to define religion as, “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church all those who adhere to them…” If this is a valid definition for religion than I propose that the people of the United Kingdom should start the Church of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. For those of you who do not know, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is a British Formula 1 racing team based out of Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. And for those of you who do not know what Formula 1 is, it is a racing series with a yearlong season that can be compared to Indy Cars in the United States.
Formula 1 cars are open-wheeled racing machines that travel at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. The racing season ranges all over the globe between China, Australia, Dubai, Hungary, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil, India, Korea, Malaysia, Great Britain, and even the United States. It has hundreds of millions of followers around the world, and is broadcast in nearly every country on earth.
Many of the people who watch Formula 1 are supporters of the British based team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. But for the sake of this conversation we can just refer to them as the McLaren F1 team. McLaren was started all the way back in the 1960s and has developed into one of the most successful Formula 1 teams of all time. The team has millions of die-hard followers all over the world, but their main fan base is located at their place of origin, Great Britain. McLaren’s Formula 1 team has provided the British people with a great sense of national pride for over four decades, and their loyal British supporters are typically lifelong fans.
I had the good fortune to attend last weekends round of Formula 1, the British Grand Prix, located at Silverstone Raceway near Milton Keynes. The first thing that struck me upon my arrival was the number of McLaren supporters attending the event. More than half of the people were wearing some form of McLaren attire, and each time one of the two McLaren cars passed the grandstands the crowd roared with applause. Nearly the entire crowd was supporting McLaren’s two British drivers and the crowd was littered with the team’s colors of silver and orange.
According to Emile Durkheim’s definition of religion it can easily be argued that most British people “worship” the McLaren Formula 1 team. Fans are unified in their belief that McLaren is the best Formula 1 team. It can also be argued that the people worship it because Formula 1 is forbidden to them. Out of the millions of people in the world who would like to drive a Formula 1 car, only twenty-four people are given the privilege of fielding one in a race. The beliefs and practices held by fans of McLaren’s Formula 1 team unite them into a single moral community. And although it may not be called a “church”, the structure of beliefs around Vodafone McLaren Mercedes can easily be identified as a sort of religion.