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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. Carl

    Actually, the belief in divine pigskin intervention isn't the stupidest part of this poll. That honor goes to the 26% of all respondents who said that god DOES reward faithful athletes with success, but somehow think that this DOES NOT have any role in determining which team wins.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      as far as polls go, you could be right. But the dumbest article I've read out here is how the Twilight movies are like Jesus' love or something like that. It's a torturous read, but I think all atheists should take the time to stomach it.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  2. GodFreeNow

    Wow. I mean this literally when I say, "retarded."

    Any christians out here in this 27%?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • vinster76

      I am a christian, and unlike some, I dont think God is in His armchair with a Miller and popcorn rooting for one, or favoring one team over another, despite what some say....I do think He has enough to do watching us let this world suffer, and doing very little about it.....

      January 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • theorycraft

      are you just mad because some people still choose to place their hope in a bearded white man rather than a youthful black man in a suit? Or are you just cynical because your paternal father didn't care about your recital when you were young?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ theorycraft, not sure who that question is directed to

      January 29, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not sure theory craft knows, either, God Free.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  3. sqeptiq

    This article describes, maybe not the most, but pretty close to the most moronic phenomenon in modern human history. To know that most of these people can vote is depressing.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • theorycraft

      This is the kind of comment liberals pin on redneck conservatives all the time. Get off your high horse, you don't need a degree from mensa to participate in a democracy

      January 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      mensa grants degrees? Since when?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Not when but where! In the mensa's room of course.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  4. mjbrin

    hahahahahahah!

    January 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  5. DN3

    All I have to say is 'Bahahahahahaha!' and I believe in God. How ridiculous.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  6. Regular_Dude

    GOD would rather manipulate the trajectory of an oblate spheroid then help starving children nd people in 3rd world countries.

    Seems legit

    January 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • vinster76

      God is wondering why his created people are not feeding the children in the 3rd world countries.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Carl

      One reason why god's "created people" aren't feeding all of the people god plopped on unfarmable land is because when we try to do so, His faithful followers often try to kill us.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  7. So I was curious about the 27%. . .

    . . . and so I googled it, and found these interesting facts:

    27% of Americans check Facebook while on the toilet

    27% of Americans are "Birthers"

    27% of Americans think teachers should carry guns.

    27% of Americans think the poor are just lazy.

    27% of Americans say the 2012 Election has hurt their relationship with a friend or family member

    And, most interestingly, 27% of Americans don't think America will exist in 100 years.

    So basically, 27% of America is witheringly stupid . . . and they vote Republican!

    January 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • So I was curious about the others in theneighborhood of 27%. . .

      More American giggles:

      37% believe in haunted houses, but only 32% believe in ghosts. Go figure.

      26% believe you can clairvoyantly know the future.

      25% believe in astrology

      21% believe you can communicate with someone who has died, and the same percentage believes in witches (the supernatural ones, not the Wiccans).

      42% believe that people are sometimes possessed by the devil (it never holds up in court, though).

      36% of Americans believe in UFOs.

      20% of Americans still believe the Sun orbits the Earth.

      33% of Americans think that the freedom of religion in the Constitution does not apply to "fringe" groups and religions.

      16% of Americans think Obama is Muslim

      January 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • But what if its the other 27%

      I thought that was interesting and decided to Bing it myself. I found that

      27% of Americans are 9-11 "Truthers"

      27% of Americans think removing assault rifles will eliminate mass shootings.

      27% of Americans think the rich get their money by stealing it from the poor.

      27% of Americans say the 2000 Election was stolen by Bush

      And, most interestingly, 27% of Americans hope America will not exist in 100 years.

      So basically, 27% of America is witheringly stupid . . . and they vote Democrat!

      January 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "27% of Americans think the rich get their money by stealing it from the poor.
      27% of Americans say the 2000 Election was stolen by Bush"

      Surely these numbers are actually much higher than 27%?

      I wouldn't say G.W.Bush stole the election. It was handed to him by a bizzare combination of the work of Katherine Harris, Palm Beach County ballots and the SCOTUS.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Observer

      @But what if its the other 27%,

      Bush didn't win the election despite losing the popular vote, by stealing it, but lost because of the pure blind luck that the ballot in Palm Beach County caused confusion that resulted in votes being thrown out..

      January 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Observer

      correction: lost the popular vote but won on pure blind luck.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • theorycraft

      Yeah, stupid doesn't have an official party affiliation... but if anyone's going to ruin America, it's going to be the liberals. The worst you can say about conservatives is that they want to go back to how things were yester-year. And in the 250 years we've been beating women, enslaving minorities, preaching religious prudence, promoting capital punishment, and fighting to get government out of our pants, we've done pretty well. Not taking sides here but being stuck in the past can make a country irrelevant but itll still be around. Thinking we can hug our way out of war and poverty.... that just might kill us.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Observer

      theorycraft,

      The last conservative president left us losing a half million jobs each month; a plummeting stock market, and started a $1,000,000,000,000 war for false reasons.

      With the liberal in office, we are now adding jobs each month and after 4 years in office, the stock market is up 85% which is the 3rd greatest increase by a first-term president.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      theorycraft, you claim that stupid doesn't have a party affiliation. If you represent the conservatives, you've refuted your own argument.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  8. MightyMoo

    I like George Carlin's take on God in sports.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  9. bob

    man created god and the same man that believes that there god would prefer one team from the other. followers

    January 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  10. Jonas

    Wow. This makes me weep for our country - that people actually believe God cares which sports team wins. Christian conservatives like to demonize Islamists for being barbarians, but, really, they're just a few degrees away, except they want the laws of this country based on the Christian Bible, not the Muslim Koran.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • kt

      Yep. Watch out. We are surrounded my morons.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • End Religion

      So now you understand why we need to end religion now.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      All of these people in the survey must have been muslims; surely christians could not be this...uh, wait, check that.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Skip

      @ Jonas, you speak out of ignorance when you judge Christians the way you do. Prayer and religion have been banned from our public schools and you see what has happened. And people think guns are the problem. I'll continue to pray for you.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • elgeevz

      Very eloquently said. I thoroughly agree.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • vinster76

      these folks are not barbarians, though they may be very immature in their faith.....as I said earlier, God doesnt have a favorite team, and he doesnt push the odds because one team or another has more christians on it than another team.....I think God is a bit bigger than that

      January 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Skip, you're a lying ass. Prayer was NEVER 'banned from public schools.'

      If you have to lie to prove your point, you have no point.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  11. Rational Libertarian

    Founding Fathers

    As awesome as you guys were, especially Hamilton and Madison, could you please turn it down a notch?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  12. Ken Margo

    With the hunger, homelessness, wars, violence, sick, death and this is just the tip of the iceberg. When does god have time to watch a game? Why should he? If being religious means god rewards you as a player. What happened to Tim Tebow?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  13. Pablo

    I'm a practicing Catholic, and what I would like to believe is a rational and learned believer. However, God may influence aspects of sports, but if he influenced the outcomes the Packers would win the Super Bowl every year.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I have met many learned, intelligent belivers. But they weren't rational. Belief in the Abrahamic god, indeed all gods, requires the suspension of the rational.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Believers

      January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Pablo

      To libertarian...perhaps, but I also think no matter what a person believes concerning the creation of the universe (God or no God) it is beyond our comprehension and all rational thought.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Catholics bullying atheists:
      http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/12/23/atheist-kids-and-bullying-just-xbox-away-god

      January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Pablo

      To end religion...all I and most Catholics can do is agree with you in opposing any bullying or anything else done in the name of faith that is not done in true love, as opposed to bigotry under the disguise of love. The majority of us are not like the portrayal so many seem to have.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Pablo

      And saying I'm a catholic was not intended to invoke debate. My comment was light hearted as I'm also a packers fan, in the context of the article.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • sam stone

      pablo: if it is beyond all comprehension, how do people feel they know what god likes or dislikes?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      "rational believer" is an oxymoron.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  14. Apple Bush

    The ghost can be seen but is not seen. The Ghost loves you and hates you.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  15. Ponyboy Garfunkel

    One might expect baseball teams like the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres to have fared better, historically. It troubles me that a relative newcomer, the Devil Rays, has a richer history.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  16. Really?

    27% of Americans are morons. The human race could be so much further along by this point.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Fred

      I would have expected the moron rate to be much higher than 27%

      January 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • ironman59

      Agreed. The day religion dies is the day mankind truly begins to live.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  17. John Adams & the U.S. Senate

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    January 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  18. James Madison

    Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

    The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

    (4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights)

    January 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  19. Thomas Jefferson

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  20. John Adams

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:53 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.