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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 • Faith • Sports

soundoff (741 Responses)
  1. rabidatheist

    This DOES NOT surprise me, seeing that 48% of the United States does not believe in evolution, and do believe the creation myth. A myth, claiming to be the word of god, that right after he creates the universe, refers to the moon as a "light source". One would thing that the god that created the moon would know that it only reflects light, and is NOT a light source.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      *one would think* sorry.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  2. indycatur

    I am so glad that god prefers to answer athletes' prayers while millions of children starve and die each year!

    January 30, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Damocles

      Warms your heart, doesn't it?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  3. ME II

    Well, first things first. I've got to thank Dan Merica for a good article.
    Well done!

    January 30, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  4. serdich

    God did make a mistake and tried to cover it up by drowning all the test subjects... if that's the best god can do I'm not impressed..

    January 30, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • lol??

      Then you're not impressed with the human trafficking, approved by mobsters, of zygotes?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Observer

      Donald Trump would have fired him.

      January 30, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  5. Gerald Tinnon

    Two words can describe these results and this poll: Complete Silliness.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • lol??

      Brought to you by two posts. Must have sumpin' to do with double mindedness.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • End Religion

      "double-midedness" is just cult jargon to guilt members into staying on the cult path. The reason the phrase exists is because cults are frauds, and the average person will have doubts about its ludicrous claims. Calling someone double-minded is only an attempt to shame someone out of free thinking. Not that we expect anything other than nonsense from you.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  6. Gerald Tinnon

    Two words can define this poll and these results: Complete Silliness.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  7. Universe

    Isn't it smarter to believe in God rather than finding out later on that He does exist but that would be late

    Islamic scripture (Quran says)

    “They say (subconsciously), "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    “The life of this world is no more than illusion and vanity, while the abode of the Hereafter is far better for the righteous. Do you not understand?! [6:32]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “God: there is no other god besides Him, the Living, the Eternal. Never a moment of unawareness or slumber overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Who could intercede with Him, except in accordance with His will? He knows their past, and their future. No one attains any knowledge, except as He wills. His dominion encompasses the heavens and the earth, and ruling them never burdens Him. He is the Most High, the Great.” [2:255]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Science

      And the poope tossed the angels out of the game last month

      January 30, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • dansmith630

      "Isn't it smarter to believe in God rather than finding out later on that He does exist but that would be late"

      That's called Pascal's Wager and it's pretty childish – what happens if you pick the wrong God out of the thousands that mankind has dreamt up? No worse than not believing at all.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Universe

      The use the brain God has blessed you with to figure out the right path..
      “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

      “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

      ‘They said, "You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided." Say, "We follow the religion of Abraham – monotheism – he never was an idol worshiper." [2:135]

      It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

      “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

      They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.[22:74]

      If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess. [Quran 6:116]

      January 30, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Nathan

      "Isn't it smarter to believe in God rather than finding out later on that He does exist but that would be late"

      No.

      In fact, it is entirely irrational.

      All you've done is stolen and re-presented a warmed over version of Pascal's Wager, a piece of "logic" so bad it was eviscerated as such centuries ago.

      Heck, by your SAME argument, you should believe in Odin, Ra, Zeus, and Quetzlcoatl "just in case" they turn out to be right. And you should carry garlic and wooden stakes at all times "just in case" vampires turn out to be real because, hey, no harm if you carry those things and they aren't real but big loss if you don't carry those things and they are!

      I can't believe people still honestly use this stupid logic to justify believe in so ludicrous a concept.

      January 30, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Really ?

      Really ? You defend your argument (stance) by referencing verses in the the Quran ? Really ?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • dansmith630

      When one religion is backed up with as much evidence as any other religion (i.e. none), you cannot simply 'use your brain' to decide. What happens if you are brought up by your parents to believe in the 'wrong' religion and have no exposure to the 'true' one?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Kim

      Universe
      I've heard it said that Pascal's Wager is like taking a mortgage out on your home and betting in June on who will will the next Superbowl winner, except that we actually have proof that the Superbowl is real, and that teams actually do win. We have no such proof that anything awaits us after death, much less that your "team" will be the inevitable winner. It's a bad bet, and a lot of us would rather invest our resources in something actually proven to better lives.

      January 30, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Science

      And the talking snake, don't choke on the bone

      Check your god(S) at the cave enterance before entering.. No god(s) required for studying humans..

      updated 1 hour 55 minutes ago
      Jan. 29 2013

      Scientists have unearthed and dated some of the oldest stone hand axes on Earth. The ancient tools, unearthed in Ethiopia in the last two decades, date to 1.75 million years ago.

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50620121/ns/technology_and_science-science/

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  8. Kim

    The only argument that makes sense for Christians is to claim that God, working with believing players to give them the courage to be better ones on both sides of every game, ultimately makes the game a better one, and more entertaining. They would have to shift their minds from believing that their team winning is something to pray for, to just praying for an exciting game no matter who wins, but that runs against the very nature of being a fanatic of either sports, or religion now doesn't it? Christianity is all about "their team" ultimately winning that big cup at the end of everything, and all the other, nonChristian "teams" suffering for that loss. There is no appreciation for how well players on the other teams do. It's all about God wanting the "home team" to win, and the rest of us to lose, and be humiliated. Not exactly the best emotions that sports, or religion has to offer.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • dansmith630

      Absolutely.

      What concerns me the most about the mindset of these people is that they think sports are important enough to warrant a prayer – if they're that certain prayer works, shouldn't they be embarrassed about not using their religious fervour to pray for more important matters? It's a pretty selfish state of affairs.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Kim

      dansmith630
      They pray that their point of view ultimately wins out all the time. They pray that Jesus will come soon to make the nonChristians bow down and be humbled. How is this different from praying that the other team and their fans bow down and be humbled by losing to their team? For the most fanatical of Christians, the really conservative, big "C" ones, there is no real ecu.menical outreach to other faith communities. They KNOW that theirs is the only team that deserves to win. Isn't that selfish, or at least self-centered?

      They look at everyone who can enjoy a good play by another team as not being true fans, or at fellow fans who speak doubtfully of their team's chances of winning the season as "losing their faith." So, what we have here is a merging of faiths, Christianity and footfall in this case, where not only are fans and players expected to pay homage to God, but God is also expected to pay homage to them. They just cannot see how their God would not take something that they hold so dear as seriously as they do, which is also where we get their firm belief that God has chosen America as his new favored people, and that God is for Republican ideals like getting rich, owning guns, and cutting social programs. Through reverse reasoning they see themselves as being "right" with God, so whatever they believe MUST be what God wants, right? Talk about over-inflated egos, eh?

      January 30, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • dansmith630

      Thanks, your explanation makes a lot of sense!

      January 30, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  9. Charlie

    What kind of weird, petty, god would take sides in sports? Religion really is a mental illness.

    January 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • lol??

      Now don't go blaming God. It was a troll poll.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  10. bill

    The fact that half of America believes that god influences football games is absolute proof that religious people are stupid.

    January 30, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • lol??

      Here's a claim God makes,

      "Dan 4:17 This matter [is] by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." Seen any "base" mobsters lately? They gravitate to servanthood.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • BU2B

      "lol", your book was written by men, so that statement was also written by men, not "god".

      January 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Science

      @lol??
      Aslo claims the talking snake and a bone... choke.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • sam stone

      lol??: oooh, a book written, translated and edited by men. you don't get any more representative of god than that

      January 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • lol??

      The A&A's have no problems with Aristotle and his evolution, written by a man. Jesus had no problem with scripture, either.

      "Jhn 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

      January 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Science

      lol??

      The soul is on the bottom of your shoe.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  11. Woody

    God doesn't care who wins, as long as they cover the spread.

    January 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  12. lol??

    "Luk 21:26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

    January 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • sam stone

      blah, blah, fvcking blah

      January 30, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Nathan

      Matthew 34:23
      "And behold unto them He said "Hold they games of skill and chance in open air so that I may witness and affect thy outcomes."

      January 30, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • derp

      God can't see inside a dome?

      January 30, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Science

      @lol??

      Check your god(S) at the cave enterance before entering.. No god(s) required for studying humans..

      updated 1 hour 55 minutes ago
      Jan. 29 2013

      Scientists have unearthed and dated some of the oldest stone hand axes on Earth. The ancient tools, unearthed in Ethiopia in the last two decades, date to 1.75 million years ago.

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50620121/ns/technology_and_science-science/

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  13. Sane Person

    1/4 of Americans are self centred fools

    January 30, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • lol??

      The mob has the answer with a new law for everything.

      January 30, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      Arent most mobsters christians?

      January 30, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  14. Spot the Almighty

    God watches soccer and hates the NFL

    January 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • sam stone

      God is a fan of Wayne Rooney

      January 30, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Kim

      Catholic God instead of evangelical God, you mean?

      January 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  15. Al

    Ray Lewis thanks God that he has not been arrested for murder.

    January 30, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  16. Reality

    Then there is Lewis' other gods, the steroids!!!

    January 30, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Really ?

      No man, they can test for that. He is most likely using growth factors (MGF, TGF, IGF-1).

      January 30, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  17. worldcares

    My last comment was a response to Facepalm.

    January 30, 2013 at 4:27 am |
  18. worldcares

    I think you are forgetting who God is. Every human being on this earth has been given a spirit and an ego; to love or hate, to believe or not believe, to judge or be judged., reflects our human life.

    January 30, 2013 at 4:03 am |
    • Science.com

      @Check your god(S) at the cave before entering.

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 30, 2013 at 5:44 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      god drowned babies in his great flood. god is a baby-killer. there is nothing more monstrous. why would anyone worship a deity that murders children?

      January 30, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • Reality

      "Our spe-cies is an African one: Africa is where we first ev-olved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth. The earliest fos-sils of recognizably modern Ho-mo sapiens appear in the fossil record at Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago. Although earlier fossils may be found over the coming years, this is our best understanding of when and approximately where we originated.

      According to the genetic and paleontological record, we only started to leave Africa between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago. What set this in motion is uncertain, but we think it has something to do with major climatic shifts that were happening around that time—a sudden cooling in the Earth’s climate driven by the onset of one of the worst parts of the last Ice Age. This cold snap would have made life difficult for our African ancestors, and the genetic evidence points to a sharp reduction in population size around this time. In fact, the human population likely dropped to fewer than 10,000. We were holding on by a thread.

      Once the climate started to improve, after 70,000 years ago, we came back from this near-extinction event. The population expanded, and some intrepid explorers ventured beyond Africa. The earliest people to colonize the Eurasian landma-ss likely did so across the Bab-al-Mandab Strait separating present-day Yemen from Djibouti. These early beachcombers expanded rapidly along the coast to India, and reached Southeast Asia and Australia by 50,000 years ago. The first great foray of our species beyond Africa had led us all the way across the globe."

      For the human dispersion map out of Africa, see the January 2013 issue of National Geographic.

      January 30, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Kim

      worldcares
      You speak as though God gave people free will, ... but that he only approves of people making certain choices. Is that really freedom? Here, in the reality of this world, if we do not like the laws of the land then we can either work to have them changed, protest their unfairness, or move to a different land, right? God's law supposedly applies to everyone, no matter where you live, and is undemocratic and unchangeable. Christians believe that you can protest God's law at your leisure in hell. That's rule by tyranny, and you might as well claim that the people living in North Korea have freedom as to say that God grants it.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Which God?

      @worldcares. To which god are you referring to? The god/desses of old, before yours? Or as stated by someone above, the cathoic god or the evangelical god... or your "personal" god. You know, the one you have a "relationship" with. Which god?

      January 30, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  19. worldcares

    The concept of Religion is what civiilzed man.
    The conception of birth, also evolves.
    Without religion, there would not be science.
    Everything cycles.

    January 30, 2013 at 3:35 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      religion was man's first attempt at explaining the universe. now we have a better way: science. it's time to put fairy tales to bed. we can be good people without a god that doesn't exist.

      January 30, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Without morse code, there would be no internet.
      When's the last time you went to the telegraph office to send a message encoded as dots as dashes?
      As we evolve, the stepping stones to our progress get consigned to the dust-bin of history.
      Informative, interesting and sometime amusing to study, but no longer relevant to modern culture.
      Thus it is with the telegraph – so should it be with religion.

      "Now we all see – religion is just synthetic frippery. Unnecessary in our expanding global cultural efficiency."
      – Dr. Greg Graffin

      January 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • truth be told

      if a so called atheist says it, its a lie. This simple Truth puts all their bs in proper perspective. It would be good if the self deceived atheist could recognize that they are indeed liars. It is obvious to all morally decent people that atheists are liars and in many cases the atheist itself knows it is lying but they still persist.

      January 30, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Observer

      ttuth be told,

      "if a so called atheist says it, its a lie."

      Mindless ignorance. Get an education.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Damocles

      Mmm mmm mmm.... nothing says loving like tbt.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  20. Facepalm

    So does God influence ALL sporting events, or just the NFL? What about collegiate jai alai matches? What about amateur bowling leagues? What about the Olympics? What about the SPECIAL Olympics? Seems kind of pitilessly mean that he would have a preference over which mentally disabled kid won out over the other mentally disabled kids, doesn't it?

    January 30, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • Roger that

      God said that he will not be interested in college football until they develop a playoff system.

      January 30, 2013 at 7:39 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.