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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. JamesB

    Meanwhile 73% are pretty sure that either God is somewhere else, taking care of sick and starving children around the world, or that there is no god, and the people that believe that are still taking care of sick and starving children throughout the world.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  2. manhandler1

    Wow! Just a affirmation of just whacked out a good portion of the American people are. And I mean WHACKED OUT! We won't catch up to the rest of the developed world until all the religious wackos gradually fade away. So, let me get this straight....some God somewhere (who knows which one) is interested in football but doesn't intervene when 20 children get smoked with an assault weapon. Ok...got that....next whacked out question.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Will

      They don't have to gradually do anything. We can speed up the process a little, you know?

      January 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  3. Laura

    Tebow to the CFL?

    He better pray harder.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Will

      I know, right? You'd figure Tebow would pray for a reasonable spiral...

      January 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  4. fensel

    Any person with basic comprehension skills can see how idiotic it is to believe that God would affect sport outcomes. Even religious people can agree with that.

    Think a little harder, and you'll realize it's equally arbitrary that God would choose to financially benefit certain people over others. Thinking that God affects sport outcomes is no more childish than thinking that God affects your income, career, or relationships.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  5. Paul

    It does not surprise me at all that 27% of Americans would self identify as complete and total fools.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Will

      I am surprised that it's only 27%. 73% of Americans realize that God doesn't give a rat's asz about sports. That's progress as far as I'm concerned...

      January 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  6. Nyah

    Can we get any dumber as a nation?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  7. T

    ......YOU HILLBILLY GOOFS ARE THE WORST SINNERS................

    January 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  8. Aezel

    27% of Americans are total f***ing morøns.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  9. fotocat

    My head is going to explode!

    January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  10. Joe

    If so, then what happens when two opposing athletes of the same denomination play against one another? Does God reward the more pious of the two? Do their prayers cancel out? If one of them performs a burnt offering before the game, does that increase his divine favor? If the offensive line all pray fervently, but only the receiver corps of their opponent bends a knee, is it a matter of sheer numbers? What if there's an atheist on the team? Does that negate the prayers of the QB?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Robrob

      In case of a tie, God counts all the burnt offerings at the tailgate parties.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  11. El Flaco

    If there is a god, he has as much interest in the happiness of individual human beings as I have in the happiness of individual ants in an ant colony in my back yard.

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

    Of course God is pulling for one football team over another. The heck with starving children in the Sudan. He has no time for such loafers.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Beth

      Exactly. Glad to know God has his priorities straight.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  13. Robert Brown

    Here is a little glimpse at what God’s angels were up to in Daniels day.

    From Daniel 10, this is an angel speaking to Daniel.

    12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

    13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

    20 Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.

    21 But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.

    Daniel 11:1
    Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.

    There is open warfare in the spiritual realm, the angel that came to Daniel was delayed 21 days by one of Satans princes. It appears that God is carrying on with his plan and Satan is doing everything he can to prevent it. In this example the angels are fighting satans princes to affect world events, are there wars in the spiritual realm over ball games? I don’t know, but it seems they are busy fighting over a little more important things. I believe he takes care of his children and helps them to accomplish what he gifts them to do, like bless others spiritually with their gifts.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      Morganucodon "Morgie" is an early mammalian genus that lived during the Late Triassic. It is our ancestor, a survivor of the meteor strike which decimated the dinosaurs and allowed us to take over the planet. Thanks, Morgie!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morganucodon

      January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Aezel

      So you admit your God isn't omnipotent or all powerful and can be foiled by other beings then.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Robert Brown", but all that is unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL". Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      January 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Gir

      "There is open warfare in the spiritual realm"

      1. This sounds a lot like a fantasy novel.
      2. Why would an omnipotent god even bother engaging in a war?

      January 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  14. Beth

    This is about the saddest thing I've read in a long time. People really believe that God sits back and allows suffering and injustice, however He does find the time to rig sporting events?!? This is part of why people like me have turned away from religion, such self-serving malarkey.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  15. Mike

    God's not a football or baseball fan. He prefers bowling. That's what you hear when it thunders.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  16. keith

    what a bunch of crock!! this is as stupid as blaming others for your mistakes and believing in folk tales.... GOD "doesn't exist and sure in the hell would have time to dictate a professional sports game or college game or highschool game." Many of you are brainwashed as the people that teach you this everyday and every Sunday...

    January 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Will

      Now that's a great point. Does God bother to pick the winners in high school games too??? Holy crap God is one busy guy! No wonder the rest of the world is going to pot, what with God spending all his time picking the winners of millions of sporting events....

      January 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
  17. Akira

    God must not favor the Cubs.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • justmyopinion

      This guy/girl is funny

      January 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  18. Ryan

    I pray for all you, may He have mercy. We kick God out of everything and then wonder why the world is crumbling. Open your eyes people, you think we came from monkeys? Its funny almost all non believers believe in bigfoot, lochness, ghosts, chupabara. However you wont believe in our creator, read a book, understand that everything in todays world has all been prophesized. I suppose half of you believe men are born gay as well. You people disgust me.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • 21k

      ahh, had to happen. and it was so enjoyable up to this point. some non-believers just joking quietly amongst themselves, then sister mary ryan bursts in and starts cracking knuckles.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • keith

      @Ryan keep praying, cause truthfully it is u that disgusts us. GOD didn't make me, my mom and dad and science did. Who made dinosars and cavemen who were around before you supposed GOD was. When u wake up tomorrow morning sit on your knees, put your hands together and pray for a brain.... Wait that will never happen. You are just like all the others worshipers or cults, asking where was GOD when all these killings, hurricanes and etc. happen. U ask where is he, why did he allow this, oh it was the devil or video games or movies or tv. Get a life.!!!!!!

      January 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Observer

      Ryan,

      "almost all non believers believe in bigfoot, lochness, ghosts, chupabara"

      Ghosts? Like the "holy ghost"?

      Get serious. Non believers don't believe in talking serpents or unicorns like believers supposedly do.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Beth

      /sigh And here we go with the ignorant ramblings of someone that doesn't understand how evolution works, doesn't understand that Jesus preached love and tolerance, and doesn't understand that most non-believers are well educated and don't believe in lock ness or big foot or God or any other imaginary monster. Apparently that homeschooling you received didn't do you any favors.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • fensel

      No, most atheists do not believe in bigfoot or the lochness monster. Additionally, your understanding of evolution is pathetic.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Joe

      "almost all non believers believe in bigfoot, lochness, ghosts, chupabara"

      No. We don't.

      Whatever a "chupabara" is.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Will

      Hey Ryan, since you're on such good terms with God, can you tell me who he's picked to win the Superbowl? I might as well take advantage of your relationship and at least put down a five spot! Oh, and tell me the World Series winner too. For the next five years. Thanks...

      January 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • keith

      @Beth you view of evolution is so stupid... You kinda forget to mention that dinosaurs and cavemen were around before your GOD was supposedly preaching. Yet, there is no evidence of his existence, except for 32 re-writings of what he supposedly spoke kinda like Santa Claus. Where is your GOD buried, where are his parents buried and there parents, etc. We are finding fossils of dinosaurs yet find nothing of your GOD. Its sad but typical of Warren Jeffs people to think that someone controls there lives each day. Oh ya, who wins the game on Sunday..

      January 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Ryan

      God IS the reason for hurricanes, and the worlds destruction. . as it has all been wrote in the bible. It is very sad that one believer will be thrashed by multiple non believers.. however it is not suprising as the bible also has predicted that most will be blind. you believe in dinosaurs but not santa claus, you believe that a man should f*** another man? satan loves you. I have never been fed religion, I have found the Lord on my own. I was fighting for my country before i was allowed to drink. @keith nobody tells you what to do, you do what you want? who are you Cartman from southpark.. you sound like a childish b****. The people who invented santy clause and the easter bunny and the loch ness monster are the people who dont believe. evolution? so your telling me that we evolved from a piece of dirt? explain please?

      January 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      I dare anyone here to explain anything to Ryan.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Observer

      Ryan,

      It was the Bible that said we came from dirt. Read it.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Scott

      It's not surprising that a person of faith would make such ignorant assumptions.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  19. 21k

    the real miracle here is that no religious folks have puked their bs onto this site yet.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Ryan

      call me religious, no I am not. I am however a believer, and i supposed you have a pittiful life wandering around with no answers other then you came from a f**ing monkey.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • 21k

      ha! great stuff. no i came from my parents, not a monkey. i am glad that i did not come from, nor have to spend eternity with a being that would not stop hitler, even though he did create him (and people like you) in his likeness.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Ryan

      therfore you believe since life is nothing but unicorns and lolliipops that there is no God? Satan was givin free reign of this world. there will be hell on earth before there is heaven. keep living in a life of pitty, but soon you will see the truth. very soon.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • keith

      @21k Thank you for saying it how it is, to bad I didn't read your post before I wrote mine. I, as you do each and everyday make our own choices, nobody tells me what to do when or how or why, it is me that makes the decisions not a fairy-tale. The same religious people who beleive in a folk tale and believe that it is true are the same ones that lie to there kids for years about Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, St. Nic and that religious children's schools are better than public schools. At least in public school they are not force fed RELIGION but are taught what is in the real world. Ryan should maybe be more open instead of having his head stuck up the 32nd edition of the 1st Testament.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • niknak

      You are about the dumbest person that posts here Ryan, and that is really dumb as we have heaps of fundies post here whom are scraping the barrel of dumb.
      But keep on believing in the sky fairy, I am sure it will hook you up when you die.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  20. Elton

    Terrorist thank God too when their victims are blown up. God must feel sick that It created the human species.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Ryan

      terroist thank the profit muhammed, who also thinks its alright to fornicate with little boys, thus false religions. which has been predicted in the bible.. do any of of you people read other then the inquire or fox news? or do you just criticize all your ignorance that you have compiled with your worthless lives.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • keith

      @Elton You are so correct and Ryan's response is typical of a brainwashed person. Muhammed is a GOD the people of ISLAM pray to, just like the GOD that Ryan prays to is supposedly named JESUS and he made u and I. Who made dinosaurs and the cavemen before this supposed GOD???? Santa Claus lives at the North Pole right next to the exploratories from other countries with there little elves.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:37 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.