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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. Golyadkin

    I was under the impression that more than a quarter of Americans believe that god controls everything. Who are the people who think both that God controls everything and that he doesn't control sports? Because I want to know what makes them think that "sports" don't belong as a subset of "everything."

    January 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • blyclaflin

      Last year San Francisco, Baltimore, New England and New York were in the conference champions. New York ended up winning the Super Bowl the year they legalized gay marriage. So using this deductive reasoning set forth by this 28%.....God supports gays and gay marriages. Sweet!

      January 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Christians (the majority of US god believers) normally throw "free will" into the mix to separate god's control from "everything". I think they vary wildly on how much he/she/it interferes.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • lol??

      You're onto something. Sports is just a job. Plenty of people pray that have dangerous jobs.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      God must have been helping someone win a basketball game when those refinery workers in Algeria were attacked.

      Apparently they had dangerous jobs and praying didn't do them a lot of good.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Demanding consistent reasoning from a religious kook is like asking a brick wall to dance.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Youngheart

      IKR if you believe in God you believe in God, and if you don't, then you don't. That's like saying, "I believe God exists." *turns on TV to football game* "Just kidding, not anymore." *Turns TV off* "Oh, now He's real again." You can't be part way. Sports is defenitely part of everything last time I checked.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  2. lol??

    All those people crammed into such small places. If the peace luvin' terrorists attack, the insurance companies will hide behind an "act of God", for protection that keeps on payin', err givin'.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  3. Terry Wisland

    I always wonder why NASCAR drivers crash so much and even get injured and die sometimes, considering there is a prayer for their safety before each race asking God to keep them safe.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  4. adammichel

    And, this is a major flaw of this country - I love the US, but our religious disease hurts and stunts us. We need to stop brainwashing children, tax churches and remove any and all religious influence from politics - until that is done, we will be stuck in 2nd gear (or going in reverse)

    January 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      All of the more secular countries out there got there by moving social support systems from the church to the state. It's a fantasy to think its going to happen here in some other way.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  5. Star-Spangled Bullsh!t

    Well.....I guess it's now finally official: 25% of the population truly have sh!t for brains. Shocking.

    January 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  6. Mike D49

    so god allows little kids to be slaughtered en masse and doesn't lift a finger to intervene, but cares enough about a sporting event outcome to intervene?

    January 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  7. vinster76

    My God does not have alot of explaining to do.....He is the Creator of life, He has no duty, none at all, to explain His Supreme sovereignty over all creation.....I agree with you that He couldnt care less about which team or athlete wins or loses.....He does care about this same creation He made....As for no proof there is a God, have it your way....you cannot in any way prove He does not exist......You cant do it.....However, the incredible precision in nature, the positioning of our solar system in just the right way to support life, down to the smallest part of the incredible engineering of DNA posits MORE for His existence, than random chance....THat, to me, requires far more suspension of rational belief than I can fathom......I do not hold your opinion against you.....for millennia there have been people alienated from God.....As it says in Romans, His divine nature has been clearly seen by man, so he is without excuse........I could not have said it better.....

    January 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • OldWhiteMan

      Which god...Zeus, Amon Ra, Brahman...i think this 27% of god's finest work...Human Beings...is proof enough that all these great naturally occuring patterns are just random chance and there are just a many examples of something a smart god would never allow...like killing 20 kids in Connecticut for no reason.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Marybeth

      I agree there is no proof there is no God. It's absurd to say so. However the intelligent design behind all of life in the Universe may in fact come to eventually be explained by science – not random events falling into place (although why not as we would only be experiencing the surviving perfect results). Just because there are gaps in our knowledge, I don't think we can just insert God as an explanation – as proof. There is no proof either way. That's why it's called faith.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • End Religion

      Vinster, the average American middle schooler shakes his head in disbelief at the gaping emptiness between your ears. Grow up. Your god never existed.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Mike Evans

      I couldn't have said it any better. I might add, if I may, the fact that people who take time out of their day to argue against the existence of God proves all the more that He does exist. No one argues against the existence of Santa Claus, because everyone knows there is no such person. People want to explain away Our Creator's existence because they really do know there's a judgment day coming. As Jesus said in John 2, people do not believe because "people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil". And that's the bottom line. Just thought I'd share this thoght.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      vinster76,

      That was an excellent post. God bless you!

      January 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      OldWhiteMan,

      You assume God doesn’t exist because he allows tragedy. Do you also proclaim he is real when miracles happen?

      Matthew 5:45
      That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
      Isaiah 40:6-7
      6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
      7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

      Luke 13:1-5, About this same time Jesus was told that Pilate had given orders for some people from Galilee to be killed while they were offering sacrifices. Jesus replied:
      Do you think that these people were worse sinners than everyone else in Galilee just because of what happened to them? Not at all! But you can be sure that if you don’t turn back to God, every one of you will also be killed. What about those eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were worse than everyone else in Jerusalem? Not at all! But you can be sure that if you don’t turn back to God, every one of you will also die.

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

      The very fact that Bobby Brownnose applauds your post is proof it's dreck.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "incredible engineering of DNA"

      I'd bet all the money I have that this guy does not know a thing about chemistry or how to formulate a sound argument.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "the positioning of our solar system in just the right way to support life"

      Is this arrogance or stupidity? Do you really think the earth was created just so it could support a nincompoop like YOU? You've got a lot of thinking and reading to do before you start spouting such nonsense.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Thank you, TANK! This sort of crap just amazes me every time some ninny posts it.

      Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Mo Bettah

      vinster,
      "...incredible precision in nature, the positioning of our solar system in just the right way to support life, down to the smallest part of the incredible engineering of DNA"

      Meh. It could be better. This is barely grade "C" work. Stuff crashes into other stuff all the time out there. Stuff goes wrong way too often with DNA and the human body.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  8. mttrailboss

    What a bunch of BULL.. I dont' deny, that over the course of several years, that I am becoming skeptical of the existence of a God. I do believe, there was a human being called Jesus Christ, that lived on earth and there might be a 'Holy Spirit' surrounding us ALL. As for a real God.., I am having real doubts.., and I am NOT alone. Worldwide church attendance is down big time and I can understand why.. If there is a real God.., prove it ? There is too much disbelief, doubt and evil within the world.., where is God.., because he certainly is NOT here or helping. God.., show your presence.., because millions and millions of people are losing their faith in you, as a God and little faith in the church and their leaders. God.., where are you and what the hell are you doing.., sleeping ? God..., millions are losing their faith in you and the so call church. Mike.., an ex-priest.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • thoughts

      that must be hard to be a ex-priest with so much disillusion and non-belief that questions all.
      Is it?
      How did you reconcile the loss of your faith – when it happened?
      I think there is a God – just not how it has been politically pushed – just a life force that exists in all things
      Do you think like that now – or is that how you thought before when you were a priest?
      Why did you become an ex-priest?
      I also think that the players belief in their god may help them – as this type thinking is transformative in its ability to put one in a stronger frame of mind to be in the moment – it gives them courage, faith, and strength to be in the now – acceptance maybe that not all things are in their control – but they are going to let fate decide and play their best within the paramaters of that fate ... and then not beat themselves up too much when they don't win – because they did their best and let god or fate be part of the game ... perhaps.
      I do think that the power of people to be united in faith and in prayer is something that even if you do not believe in religion because of how it does not match science – and therefore have no faith in the god of this or the god of that – it is still a strength that cannot be denied for what it has accomplished – even if it is no longer working as many of us wish it would if there were only a way for it to work.
      the power of prayer, especially in union with others, is transformative.
      Have you found that to be true?

      January 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  9. raphael

    Get bleeping serious, god must have better things things to do then pay attention to any sports, only a damn fool would believe that god gives ahoot about sports!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  10. Marybeth

    Daniel in Denver:
    Tragic, yes. It's the cause of division, conflict and ultimately war.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  11. Colin

    No matter what else one can say about them, that they are forgiving, loving, caring or whatever, come end of the day, Christians are really fvcking dumb. Just, dumb. The total hosesh.it they believe would be doubted by an educated fifth grader.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  12. lionlylamb

    This video is not only a way to harness lightning which is nothing but an electrical discharge, such an instrument could well be made as becoming a 'phaser' like in star trek! Think about it

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVif4hUAJ8c&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd-tWGWtYwU&w=640&h=390]

    January 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do these clips have anything to do with the subject of the article, LL?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      I flunked English but am now doing my own 'thang'! Thanks though for your kind thoughtfulness! It's really enlightening to know you care!

      January 29, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So they're completely unrelated but they make you feel all fuzzy inside. Got it.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  13. GodFreeNow

    If the San Francisco 49rs win, I wonder if these 27% will see it as god's love of gays and liberals, as San Francisco is probably the gayest, most liberal city in the America.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  14. Tonyd

    If there was a god, why would he or she care about sports and their outcomes

    January 29, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  15. cave man

    American Christians are as deep as a tea cup.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  16. politicaldivider

    More proof that people who believe in religion are completely idiotic and insane.
    God: "Hmm, these starving African kids who are being turned into murderers at 6 years old can wait. I HAVE A TAILGATE PARTY TO GO TO!!!"

    January 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Kevin

      Love it! Come on people, THINK! Try Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins for some real thinkers.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Marybeth

      I'm not sure of "idiotic and insane", but I think scared is a better term. Most humans are afraid of their own mortality and the consideration that our individual existence may not be so very special. We need God, heaven and the idea that even bad things happen because God so willed it, in order to feel better. I realize it's out of context, but religion certainly is "the opium of the masses"

      January 29, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  17. MikeyZ

    Like God doesn't have anything better to do with His time.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Dan

    wow 27% morons

    January 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Part of me is surprised this number is so low though. Over 45% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10k years old.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • OldWhiteMan

      well Satan must get in the game too then...maybe that is why Teebow hasn't been playing.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  19. Mayan_Priest

    Perhapse we should start sacrifing people,or animals.Y'know,cause God is in charge?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  20. ...

    Because obviously he's up there with his infinite supply of beer and pizza rooting for the 49ers.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I don't believe even god is dumb enough to root for the Packers.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:54 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.