The Olympics: Where Humanism Sparkles Like Gold and God’s Like Bronze

The Olympics: Where Humanism Sparkles Like Gold and God’s Like Bronze August 5, 2021

The Summer Olympics have changed a lot since I was a kid. Back in the 70s, when there were just a handful of television channels, the Olympics was the most anticipated sporting event, primarily because it only occurred every four years.

The Olympic Games represent the world’s largest secular sporting event. The reason the Games are so successful is because athletes follow a few simple humanitarian guidelines and cast their religious differences by the wayside. / Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

My fascination with the Olympics as a child was personified by the way the Games brought together people from virtually every country in the world. Every athlete spoke a different language, glowed with a unique skin color, and exhibited different mannerisms because they all came from faraway cultures I’d never seen before. Unlike watching Sunday morning football on NBC, this weeks long extravaganza offered my mind a glimpse of the way humanity can come together peacefully to achieve a common goal.

The “Spirit” of the Games

There was an essential quality to these early games; a spirit that the athletes brought with them, which signified the best that humanity had going for it. It was the spirit of oneness—togetherness. One in which every athlete was willing to lay aside their cultural differences and accept their fellow competitors as though they were their own brothers and sisters.

We also see this camaraderie happening in the games today. When athletes who follow different ideologies are still able to put their dissimilarities aside and embrace one another after events. Even more significant, (given the tensions that exist around the globe between competing religions and warring factions), is that athletes must leave their spiritual beliefs in their dorm rooms when they come to the Games because these beliefs don’t matter. Religion is irreverent at the games—if not entirely unwelcome.

In my mind, this elevates the Olympic Games to the stature of being the world’s largest secular sporting event.

The Olympics are believed to have originated in Olympia, Greece back in 776 B.C.E. Some events are rumored to have even featured nude athletes. The first of the modern Olympics were kicked off in Athens, Greece in 1896 with delegates from 34 countries. This year’s 2021 Olympics in Japan plays host to representatives from 206 teams.

Considering the vast differences in ideologies and beliefs among the individuals who are competing, it’s easy to understand why athletes must adhere to universal humanitarian principles in order to get along with one another and for the Games to be successful.

What are a few of these humanitarian principles?

  • Athletes must share a mutual respect for one another.
  • They must exhibit a tolerance towards others who adhere to different political persuasions.
  • They must value religious freedom and grant fellow competitors the freedom to believe as they choose.
  • Above all, they must treat others as an equal. In other words, they must suspend whatever notions they have that their way of living is superior to that of their competitors.

What makes these humanistic principles so special is that they represent a modeling for good behavior that permits people who share completely different worldviews to get along with each other. This model has been followed throughout the Olympics since its inception, but these are also principles that must be utilized whenever large numbers of people come together who share completely different beliefs about life.

In many respects these principles are not exemplified by many of the world’s largest religions and the reason is quite clear. Humanism is an ideology that works towards engendering peace and unity among the world’s inhabitants. Religions, on the other hand, are institutions that breed notions of exceptionalism and thus, division among people.

So, enjoy the Olympics. And if you are a fellow freethinking humanist enjoy a sense of pride that the games are conducted with these nobel principles in mind.

About Scott R. Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and now writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides and Picking Wings Off Butterflies. You can read more about the author here.

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6 responses to “The Olympics: Where Humanism Sparkles Like Gold and God’s Like Bronze”

  1. Growing up in the military and living places where we didn’t always have a television, I didn’t really pay attention to the Olympics. I went to college before cable tv became common, so nobody had a television. As an adult, I traveled and lived abroad, and because electrical power and sockets vary from country to country, there was no point in buying a tv.

    I do remember Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper with almost zero experience. He was helped by everyone–likely because he was no threat to anyone’s medal chances. And who can forget the Jamaican Bobsled Team? They even made a movie about those guys.

    The promise of the Olympics is friendly rivalry, regardless of country or creed. Not sure they always get there.

  2. “Cool Runnings” is the name of the movie. Gotta love a team that’s defying all the odds to win. I had to Google Eddie and the Eagle since I’d not seen it. I’ll have to put that movie on the list to watch. Hugh’s a good actor and sky jumping is one of my favorite events in the Winter Olympics.

  3. I saw Cool Runnings but not Eddie the Eagle. I just remember being in a pub and watching the interviews on tv and Eddie saying all the teams were helping him.

    Oh! I also remember back in the 1980s, McDonald’s running some sort of game where if you collected tabs with the name of a team and that team won, you won….something? I forget all the details, probably because I didn’t have the money for fast food so I didn’t play that game.

    Currently, Trump (the man with ridiculous hair) is trying to shame an American soccer player for…having purple hair. The irony appears to have gone right over his head. He and the folks he claims to support are also trying to shame the entire USA contingent for not doing better, medal-wise. This is the complete opposite of what the Olympics are supposed to represent.

  4. I’d also heard people were giving gymnast Simon Biles grief for pulling out of the competition a few weeks back. I don’t expect all Americans to understand the level of training these athletes endure and the enormous pressure they face in competing on the world stage. Many, I suppose, just think these athletes are there for their own amusement. Or that they are letting American down by not winning enough metals.

    The spirit of the Olympics goes over a lot of people’s heads.

    As I said in my post, so much has changed with the Olympics from back in the 70’s until now. I resisted the urge to write a more negative piece, because there’s much to say on that subject. Like the sexualization of female athletes … or disqualifying athletes because they smoked a little pot … or all the rules of the games. But the biggest issue I see is that the athletes that do make it to the Games have enjoyed a tremendous support system that permits them focus their lives on sports. That support is often in the form of financial support and the right connections. It takes a lot of money to compete, and because of this reason there are many poor and under privileged people in the world who will never have that advantage.

    Guess what I’m saying is that the Olympics don’t really represent what the “humanity” has to offer, but rather the skills of a privileged minority. This does not takeaway from their obvious talents. But I’m certain there are kids running around right now on playgrounds who could shatter the 400m runs, but we’ll never see them compete because they’ll never have the same support system as those in the games today.

    Which is why the movies like you mentioned appeal to us. These movies are about the long shots winning, which is far more satisfying than watching the expected favorites win.

  5. I give Simone Biles all the credit for realizing she was not able to compete safely, and to sit back and cheer her teammates on. She was a foster child, went away to train and was sexually abused, and yet she kept showing up to practice for hours every day and doing the hard work it took to get to her level. I’m absolutely sure she wanted to compete or she wouldn’t have put herself through literally years of training. I”m also impressed by her emotional maturity to make such a decision.

    I also remember the orphan Oksana Baiul, so desperate to win in 1992 that she threw in un-rehearsed jumps at the end of her routine to score the extra points.

    In this current Olympics, when high jumpers Mutaz-Essa Barzim (Qatar) and Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) had identical scores, they asked to share the gold medal and embraced as friends. Moments like this are what I choose to focus on.

  6. I have huge respect for Simone. With all the training she’s done nobody should question her pulling out if she thought she needed too. I’m happy the choice was also in her hands. I’m sure there are competitors from other countries who don’t have freedom to “opt out” of events. I’m thinking in particular of the female athlete from Belarus.

    I watched those high jumpers. They made us all proud.

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