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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. Dennis

    "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".
    -Why would you post such sorry numbers for something you are trying to support? They also crow about: "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". OK, then...don't forget that 75% of Americans DON'T! Man, people waste so much energy chasing this dogma around.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  2. fuzzynormal

    God loves me and cherishes me.

    The world he created revolves around me. Of course he influences games for me. Me. Me. Me. God and I have an understanding. I know what he wants on this earth because I've thought about it more than anyone else and I prayed good. Really good.

    I pray harder than my opponent so he helps me win because I believe in him and he's great.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  3. David

    If God cares who wins the Superbowl then we're all screwed.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  4. even sports are a fixed game

    and bowel movements.

    actually I would be more impressed if God made the bad people, who will have no future redeeming value, die sooner.

    Why does God have it in for the good and innocent dying young?
    another fixed game.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  5. megatalldave

    The survey question is broken. A devout Christian believes God has an influence on everything in the Universe, from the structure of the Andromeda Galaxy to whether your favorite sandwich is still served at your favorite restraunt. This would, then, also include football.

    If someone wanted to find out how what percentage of people in the U.S. believed that the outcome of a football game was divinely determined in the sense implied, the questions would have to have much better phrasing. In fact, if a student submitted that question as a survey question for my Stats class, I would tell them why it was broken and ask them to try again.

    Also, a lot of people have been calling the 27% of people that responded this way 'stupid'. Thinking that someone that disagrees with you must be stupid is as big of a mistake as the 27% might be making, if not bigger.

    Being wrong doesn't make someone stupid, it makes them human. Mocking people that you think are wrong just makes it more difficult to admit it when you yourself make a mistake. And besides, it shuts down any sort of reasoned discourse, replacing it with a dogfight.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • jrmullowney

      If what you say is true, then your god is also responsible for illness, crime, natural disasters, war – basically all suffering is god's doing.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • jaw4

      Yes. I can in fact refer to that 27% as stupid-and not because I disagree. To disagree would mean they have a valid point that a logical person could possibly agree with in the first place! They're stupid because they believe a force outside the mind of man is responsible for the outcome of a damn football game. That my friend is stupid. (and quite arrogant to say the least that God has nothing else to do than watch a game and root for whichever team gets the most prayers for a win. Please.)

      January 30, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • megatalldave

      My personal belief is that the problem of evil makes the concept of God impossible. I think that people that believe in God are wrong. I think they've made a mistake.

      But being wrong and making mistakes doesn't make someone stupid.

      Most Christians I've asked know about the problem of evil. As far as I can tell, they just see it as an outstanding problem that is not as important as the other concepts in their belief system.

      jrmullowney, I didn't mean to trick you with my neutral tone. My mistake.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • megatalldave

      Unless CNN reported the question wrong, don't you think it might be possible that with such a badly phrased survey question that some otherwise sensible Christians might answer 'yes' on the basic principle that they believe that God is involved in everything?

      But I (an atheist) and most Christians I know would agree that if someone thinks that God is on the side of their particular sports team, that they probably aren't the deepest thinker.

      January 30, 2013 at 3:14 am |
  6. Democritus

    So I guess they believe that god spends time fixing sporting events instead of shielding defenseless children from high powered rifles in their classroom. Wow.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • jaw4

      Apparently so. "Sorry about Sandy Hook, various plane accidents, incurable cancers and the folks in that Brazilian bar. I've been really busy with the NHL strike, BCS Championship and the Super Bowl."- said God never.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:13 am |
  7. Nietodarwin

    So perfect that ignorant Tim Tebow is on the pic for this article. So glad to see his pompous moron self failing. This article is just more proof that the bible thumpers are NOT very intelligent.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:22 am |
  8. Bostontola

    There's something seriously wrong with education in America. In this case it's religious education. No way religious leaders believe this yet so many believers do, that is failure.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:18 am |
  9. J.C.

    A new low in sports. And life.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:17 am |
  10. us_1776

    There is no Sky Fairy.

    Get over it.

    .

    January 30, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  11. EJ

    I believe in God but do not believe he cares about sports. I love sports but would never pray about the outcome. What does God care?

    January 30, 2013 at 12:12 am |

  12. Of course God cares. Football is serious. Serious money changes hands. Serious domestic violence goes on during and after the Superbowl. Buy a Police monitor and listen to what goes on during the GAME.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Glad to see you point that out. Worldwide, there's more domestic violence during the world cup, but here in the USA the super bowl is THE biggest domestic violence day.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • Mike

      This myth has been circulating since the early 90s. It has been debunked.
      http://www.snopes.com/crime/statistics/superbowl.asp

      January 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
  13. joey-schmoey

    OMG

    January 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  14. Morrison Braddock

    Yes! God can be bothered to get involved with our sporting events, but he can't be bothered to help the 1000's of starving children that die in agony each and every single day. God's a peach.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  15. gggg

    Only complete arrogance could convince someone that God would even CARE about a human sporting event. If God is really going to care about human activities, don't you think he'd intervene in any war zone to bring it to a halt before he'd take an interest in a GAME? With an entire UNIVERSE to worry about, why would God affect the outcome of something so trivial as a pointless GAME? Who are these idiots?

    January 30, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  16. sarahfalin

    These articles are great time savers. You don't even need to read them to know that it is full of *****.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  17. rzitka@hotmail.com

    So God is too busy to stop 20 children from getting shot to death at their school but has a moment to make sure the 49ers win.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  18. Nathan

    Yes...because that's what god has to do with his time, play favorites in sporting events.

    Besides undercutting human achievement (your team could only beat my team with divine influence?), how does god pick between teams? The ones that pray hardest? Does this mean that for every sports hero that credits god after a victory the other guy gets to literally blame god for the loss? Does god alter sporting outcomes because he likes the players or because he likes someone else, like the down on his luck guy placing a bet or the faithful servant who just happens to like one team more than the other?

    January 29, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  19. Dave

    Those 27% of people are either imbeciles or live in Fantasyland. It is 2013 and people still pretend to believe in a god. How embarrassing .

    January 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  20. Michael

    Really sad.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
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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.