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Poll: Quarter of Americans say God influences sporting events
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has regularly thanked God in the Ravens' somewhat improbable run to the Super Bowl.
January 29th, 2013
02:10 PM ET

Poll: Quarter of Americans say God influences sporting events

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - With millions of Americans set to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, a new survey finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God "plays a role in determining which team wins" at sports events.

The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

“In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics," said institute CEO Robert P. Jones, "significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play."

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes. Poll results varied among regions and religions: 36% said yes in the South, 28% in the Midwest, 20% in the Northeast and 15% in the West.

Among nonwhite Christians and white evangelicals, 40% and 38% said yes, respectively; 29% of Catholics and 19% of white mainline Protestants also responded that God plays a role.

Jones said these figures reflect many Americans' belief in a very active God.

Minority Christians and white evangelical Christians “have a very personal view of God, a God that is very active in their daily lives and very concerned about the things that matter to them,” Jones said. “So far as sports are one of the things that matter, it stands to reason that God is playing an important role.”

Faith and sports have long gone hand in hand; many athletes regularly thank God after their team wins, and some even write references to Scripture on their game-day gear.

After Kurt Warner’s 1999 Super Bowl victory with the St. Louis Rams, the evangelical Christian used his post-game interview to thank God. “Well, first things first,” Warner told a reporter. “I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”

Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers could see the same profession of faith. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who will make this Super Bowl his last game in the NFL, has regularly thanked God in the Ravens' somewhat improbable run to the Super Bowl.

After earning a berth in the big game by defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Lewis told reporters, “God doesn't make mistakes. He's never made one mistake. ... God is so amazing.”

“I'll tell anybody. One thing about God's will, you can never see God's will before it happens,” Lewis said after the game. “You can only see at the end of it. For his will to happen this way, I could never ask for anything else.”

In the Public Religion Research Institute poll, 50% said they approved of these types of faithful expressions, while 45% said it doesn’t matter and 4% said they disapproved.

“That is a minuscule number,” Jones said of the people who disapprove. “Even if you look at religious unaffiliated Americans … only 8% said that they disapproved.”

The telephone survey was conducted January 16-20 with a random sample of 1,033 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Evangelical • Faith • Sports

soundoff (741 Responses)
  1. 100% of Believers are Insane!

    Morons – the lot of you.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  2. Sally White Bread

    Wow. Americans have to be the dumbest smart people on the planet. We're doomed – it's only a matter of time.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Oh

      I guess they made god into want to believe he is......I beer guzzling loose sweatshirt bud....who knows how to taunt and trash talk the non-believers....

      January 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Saraswati

      There are dumb people everywhere. I sat in a room full of grad students in China, most of whom were laughing about how silly Americans were with their god business. They had no argument from me. The conversation turned during the evening to theconcept of Chi. It turned out not only did almost all of them believe in this invisible power, but they presented evidence from presentations every bit as fake and crackpot as you basic faith healer cr@p. Really, people will believe almost anything...but they'll never admit that their own ideas are as loony as the next guy's.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Saraswati: if your personal energy, or Chi, were not real, then no man would be able to break 13 concrete slabs by focusing it.

      Unfortunately, some people think that just because they do not understand something, that it does not exist.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @JimmyJoe, Are you joking or serious? Sorry, but I honestly can't tell with the mix of your joke name and semi serious sounding comment.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • Saraswati

      ...because people really say stuff like that...all the time...

      January 29, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  3. vinster76

    my last comment for the night as I know you will all miss me, I will make it brief.......Only a fool or an immature christian believes God has a favorite football team, or player....Everyone get that? Ok. Lastly, I have YET to hear someone explain the design in the universe......I have heard the slow motion time of evolution, but no explanation for the source of the process, or the intelligence that from "nothing" came "something", I mean seriously, I dont have all the answers, but truly, some of these have been downright stupid.......There have been in the past, and continue to be today, far greater intellects than mine who have been apologists for the christian faith.......for example, just one, just one of the sites you can go to for honest, critical argument is reasonablefaith.org.......That's just one........But I know you will not venture to go there.....You have decided for yourself what is truth......that is in and of itself another example of human pride......Good night, and may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob open your eyes and heart to the Truth......

    January 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      "YET to hear someone explain the design in the universe"

      That's because 'design' implies a designer. For an explanation of that, you should try church.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Observer

      vinster,

      You couldn't answer one single question or respond to any comment made to you.

      No wonder you are running away.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Sally White Bread

      And Vinster, may the One True God, THOR, God of Thunder, smite you for being a heathen and nonbeliever

      January 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Vinnie, dear, you're the one who's running off. Stick around and argue your point. Or are you too much of a coward?

      January 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • So if "something" can't come from "nothing"

      then where the fruck did your Holy Jeebus come from?

      January 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Marybeth

      We just can't insert God in the gaps of what science has not yet been fully able to explain. This is what the Romans and Greeks did thousands of years ago....
      I'm not saying there isn't a God but we are all just one God away from being atheists.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      A lot of people are only one God away from being atheist, Marybeth. That's why we need for them to look for God(s) where they can be found these days: in Cracker Jacks and maybe sometimes in specially marked boxes of Captain Crunch.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Marybeth

      @Tom, tom the other one.
      Point being that the numerous gods of the past explained the universe to the Romans and Greeks until our scientific knowledge evolved. So sea storms weren't caused by Poseidon, or lightening storms by Zeus? We're only one away...
      The design behind this universe has gaps that are unexplained, so therefore there must be an "Intelligent Designer" aka God behind it all? What happens when we do explain it all through science? Will God still exist in the minds of men?
      I think so, because we need him to.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Yo, Vinnie!

      Bow down before her majesty, Godzilla, or be swept away when she comes to rule. You will die horribly in her atomic fire breath, and then will know eternal suffering.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      We need him to exist in the minds of men, Marybeth? But it (God) is primarily the explanation for things that don't have an explanation. God kind of gets in the way of our looking for answers, and in the way of our honestly saying we don't know.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Marybeth

      @Tom, Tom...
      Agreed. Because we're afraid of the answers we might find.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  4. Saraswati

    Even the survey folks themselves are willing to admit that phone surveys are biased toward church attendees:

    http://www.people-press.org/2012/05/15/assessing-the-representativeness-of-public-opinion-surveys/

    And several studies indicate that polling methods are biased towards conservatives, even when base demographics are adjusted. The actual numbers here are probably somewhat lower.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Nice reference there. It shows that Pew is at least diligent in wanting accurate results.

      I have long suspected that while they make a very reasonable effort not to be guilty of any confirmation bias, there is an inherent respondent-based bias toward people of faith and a bias toward self-identified declaration of affilliation of faith in surveys by polling organizations like Pew, PRRI and Gallup.

      This shows up in the relatively low total number of people self-identifying as SBNR and atheist/agnostic in the polls compared with what I see in the people I meet. I think that as a practical matter the 'nones' are likely to be much larger than 20%.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      Agreed, the accuracy of a phone survey is diminishing with the large numbers now unwilling to answer. The demographic variables required for balancing just become too numerous to be practical. It's too bad, since for now it's all we've got.

      January 31, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  5. whoa

    Influence is such a soft word. God either decides it or he doesn't, or doesn't exist at all.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  6. admin

    This just in... 27% of Americans are inherently stupid...

    January 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  7. Jeebus Chreebus

    If you believe in a "God" who takes the time to influence the outcome of sporting events but can't be bothered to lift a holly finger to stop the suffering of millions of children who are born into poverty and abuse every year, you might be suffering from a very serious mental illness called religion.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Kevin

      If 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, and millions bet on it, and many millions have a real rooting interest, why would god pass up that chane to influence those people all at once? Sports seem the perfect way for god to reach many people at the same time. I bet, for whatever reason, that many people can recall the outcome of a sporting event that changed their life. Why would god be absent from sports but be everywhere else? If you don't believe then that's fine, but pointing to sports believers as evidence of the stupidity of religion just points out your own narrow mindedness.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  8. Dave Harper

    I'm surprised – I would have put the percentage of morons in America at higher than 27%.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  9. JBen

    It become more and more obvious that man created religion, not God. He wouldn't be so stupid.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
  10. JPO

    What a bunch of geniuses. Does anyone know which team God favors?

    January 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • DaveLake

      Dear JPO,

      That is easy-the Green Bay Packers. Vince in the old days had a direct phone line to god.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  11. vinster76

    I have been accused of nonsense, and not presenting facts......interesting I still hve not recieved an answer from you geniuses out there, from this ignoramus, as to how it all happened....Oh wait, someone said random chance over millions and billions of years.......laughable.......that is about the same odds as a windstorm blowing through a junkyard and making a fully functional 747.......the odds are infinestimal.....It has also been suggested that I just google my questions in order to get my answers.....Who wrote the answers?? Man! Why do I ask him? But most of all, there is this snarling, nasty viciousness toward a person of faith.......Your problem is the problem of the entire human race from the outset: Pride......Man has always worshipped himself, prided himself in his own arrogance........You should read your own posts......your pride in yourselves, your refusing to humble yourself to One greater than yourself is your own folly. I personally dont care what you believe or dont believe – I only have to answer for myself......The very same pride and arrogance displayed here was also evident at the trial and execution of Jesus.......mankind is still the same.....quite an argument against the progressivism of man............

    January 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • DaveLake

      You need to learn the slow building process of evolution. To compare it to a plane coming together is nonsense. It shows a total lack of understanding.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Mo Bettah

      vinster,

      Truly humble yourself then - and say "I don't know" - instead of making stuff up (or believing the stuff that old Middle Eastern Hebrew men fantasized about).

      January 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      So why don't you tell us how it all happened, then explain it and show the evidence for your supposition. That's all any of us can do.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • JPO

      Stupid! 747s didn't evolve, but plant and animal life did. It didn't take very long for one creature who evolved over millions of years to make many 747s. However, it did take a while for the technology to develop from the Wright Brothers' first plane to a 747.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Saraswati

      You do realize people aren't saying it happened all at once, right? Do you actually understand how large and how old the universe is? I'm not saying there's no god...how would I know? But to laugh at the power of accu'mulated effects of chance is to fail to understand evolution.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      vinster....you must be...related to...William..........Shatner.

      Really, dude, if you think you have answers, post 'em. Otherwise, you're just another moron posting nonsense.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  12. Jeebus Chreebus

    That explains why God is too busy to stop the mass murder of children in their schools by lunatics with guns.

    He's geeking out on football.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • DaveLake

      Yep-I also heard he is a big fan of the game:)

      January 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
  13. DE

    Simply unbelieveable! This country gets dumber every day.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Dave8582

      @DE

      I have known for years, that god favors certain teams over others. It mostly depends on the number of the team's cheerleaders, who are virgins.

      Cheers!

      January 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  14. ezgoer89

    Ummmm... does this mean 27% of adults also believe in Santa?

    January 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  15. Rjinx

    27% ???????? that is astounding. Naive, stupid, silly? What is the word for these 27% of people?

    January 29, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • DaveLake

      It sure scares the heck out of me that people are living with cave man mentality.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • JPO

      Isn't 27% close to the percentage of far right Republicans in the electorate? Could be a coincidence. Maybe not.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
  16. DaveLake

    What? God doesn't really help the religious players? But I see them point to god after a touchdown! And when they miss a perfect pass in the end zone I see them point.....ah wait.. uh guess they are not pointing anywhere. Wait......-god was on the side of the defense player and he is pointing to the sky! It sure is great watching god pick sides throughout the game while kids are being abused at home begging for his help!

    January 29, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  17. Johnny 5

    Religion is so bizarre.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  18. GayAtheist

    Hmmm...god must be an islamist...because they are winning.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  19. Miss Demeanor

    So, Uhmurika's Patriotic Chritstian RIghtwing gun-loviin' gawwwd won't lift a fingertip to save school-children (apparently because Westboro Baptist talked him out of it) but will take the touble intervene and throw a ball-game (remember the most important life lesson your coaches taught: cheatin' ain't cheatin' f you don't get caught) for his preferred team. Does this sound a little nuts to you?

    January 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  20. GraveBeforeTheChains

    100% of American men are entirely too into sports and 27% of those are complete idiots.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "•More than 6-in-10 (62%) Americans say they consider themselves a fan of a particular sports team.

      However, among these self-identified sports fans, less than 1-in-5 report that being a fan of their favorite team is the most important thing (1%) or a very important thing (14%) in their lives.

      Roughly 4-in-10 (42%) say that being a fan of is somewhat important, while more than 4-in-10 (43%) say it is not too important or not at all important.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • JPO

      Maybe 99.999% but include me out. I have no time to waste on nonsense no matter whose side god is on.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.