27% of Americans Believe God Wants Their Team to Win

In light of this Sunday’s Super Bowl match-up, the Public Religion Research Institute polled over 1,000 Americans on their feelings on the entanglement of sports and religion. (Note: The survey is limited to sects of Christianity and a broad “unaffiliated” group. I wish they had included other groups, but so it goes.)

As it turns out, 27% of those surveyed think that God plays a role in determining which team will win a sporting event. A majority of those surveyed (53%) also think that God rewards faithful athletes with “good health and success.”

I don’t find any of this too shocking. If you are the type of religious person who thinks prayer is real or that God controls things, it makes sense that you would apply this to all aspects of your life, even the more trivial ones like sports.

For me, the more interesting part of this survey compared people’s priorities on Sundays. Among the people who considered themselves sports fans, only 15% considered sports very important or the most important thing in their lives, compared to 58% who cited religion instead. But when it came to actual behavior, people were more likely to watch sports than go to church (41% vs 37%)!

So while people are less willing to admit that religion is about as important as sports in their lives, their actions speak for themselves.

I have always thought that there are many similarities between sports and religion: your choice of sport and team are largely determined by where you grew up or by your parents’ choice in team (check out this cool map). There is a certain ritual to attending a sporting event: the tailgating, the pregame celebrations, the cheering done during game stoppages. You bond with other fans of your team: I love flashing The U at people in Miami Hurricanes gear when I see them at airports. There is a connection to something that is larger than yourself, and a feeling of belonging. There is even a built in dislike for “outsiders” who think another team is the “one true team.”

For me, it’s unsurprising that people follow sports about as regularly as they are active in their religions — but aren’t willing to admit it. For the most part, people accept sports as an unnecessary part of their lives. It is a hobby, an activity that they enjoy, but it doesn’t have life or death consequences. Maybe more people should carry this attitude into religion along with their actions.

About jkmiami89

Jessica Kirsner is the Development Associate with the Secular Student Alliance. She graduated in the Spring of 2012 from the University of Miami with a BA in biology.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Classic “my god can beat your god” mentality.

    Except here they actually are mostly all praying to the same (albeit mythical) god.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      the gawd of SF is definitely *not* the same gawd of TX or MS. don’t make them come over to your house and bbq your flesh in His honor for confusing them.

      • Tor

        Hi Chicago Dyke. Nice to see you here. No, your gawd is not my gawd, no matter what Naomi said. Or was it Ruth? Or Babe Ruth?

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          the queer gawd/ess(es) are all about dancing, mimosas and shopping on Sportsball Day.

          we worship in our own way. ;-)

          • Tor

            Let those of us who don’t give a shit about the Souper Bowl dance, drink fabulous cocktails and have a wonderful Sunday.

  • Conspirator

    Interesting that the two teams that made it to the Super Bowl come from the elitist NE part of the country and the ultimate hippie land. What does that say about god’s choice? Also, if SF wins, does that comment on their god’s view on homosexuality?

    • observer

      They have a back-up if SF did win: devil diddit.

    • Tor

      The “9ers are in trouble with the local community.

  • alanrlow

    Nothing unexpected there. The progressive dumbing down of America at work..

  • Rain

    Ty Cobb wasn’t religious, and in fact was a total jerk. Since he was the best baseball player ever, then we can presume that God likes non-religious total jerks. No word on Honus Wagner, although he does have a really cool name though.

  • Abhoth

    This explains why god allows children to die of hunger, be tortured and murdered etc. Too busy making sure US athletes perform their best.

    • WallofSleep

      Nobody can trivialize the god of Judea like a Christian can.

    • Octoberfurst

      Yeah I find it amazing that Christians think that their God—the master of the universe– has nothing better to do than help sports teams win. Oh sure he could be stopping droughts, feeding the hungry, stopping injustice, etc. But he doesn’t. However they do believe he will help the Ravens or the 49′ers win the Super Bowl! How idiotic!

  • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

    By the most astounding coincidence, it happens that about 27% of the American population are village idiots, too. Remarkable!

  • anniewhoo

    The title of this article could have easily been, “27% of Americans are batshit crazy”. Funny, I listened to an NPR show this evening about retired professional athletes and the constant pain they live in due to their injuries. I guess god didn’t reward those guys with good health.

  • allein

    Tomorrow I will be watching the Puppy Bowl. I guess Dog will be determining the winner.

  • pillbucket

    27%? Where have I seen that number before?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    As a native of Maryland I should be on team Raven but I am so fucking tired of hearing about Ray Lewis I hope San Fran shoves the pig skin deep up his ass.

    • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

      Still better than hearing about Teblows.

  • Tor

    People in my childhood congregation noticed that the pastor’s sermon was noticeably more brief on Sundays when there was a big game.

  • C Peterson

    I wonder what happens when the Father wants one team to win, and the Son wants another? Does the Holy Ghost get to be the tie breaker?

  • dgriffey

    Yeah, there are those who think God’s right behind them, wanting their team to win and wanting them to get ahead while someone else gets left behind. Of course, bad theology proves nothing. Just like Pew Study’s frequent findings of atheists who pray or say they believe in God. What’s it mean? It means that any belief – or unbelief if you prefer – has those within its ranks who understand little of what they profess. Which is why education is always such a boon.

  • bernardaB

    Tough luck Niners’ fans, I guess Baltimore is god’s team. Must be because of all those gays in SF. Thank god though that he decided to make it interesting until the end. I guess god too likes a bit of suspense and that must be why he also created the blackout.

    • Good and Godless

      The legalization of gay marriages in Maryland are the template the rest of the country should follow.

      • bernardaB

        Well, I guess god must have been confused and couldn’t make up his mind whom to support. He knew about SF, but maybe he received the Maryland memo at the last moment and decided for a comeback by SF. But finally he just threw up his almighty hands between two bad choices.

  • Good and Godless

    People who claim divine moral superiority entitles them to try to cheat at sports is indicative of the lack of ethics and inherent dishonesty in their cults.

    Even Squidbililes know help from jesus is cheating:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kWsG4kB6iM 0:35


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