Religion in sports
May 25th, 2010
10:54 AM ET

When did God become a sports fan?

Baseball players point to the heavens after hitting home runs; NFL players pray in the end zone after scoring. Competitors routinely thank Jesus, along with their sponsors, in post-game interviews. Thanking God from the winner's circle has become so common that one British newspaper published a letter to the editor entitled: "Leave me out of your petty games - Love, God." The letter raised a question: Does God care who wins on game day? And, if so, do losers somehow have less faith?

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- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science • Faith • Sports

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. puggle

    How many lives have been lost because of the "my god can beat up your god" or "god is on my side" way of thinking? A silent wish for a good game or that nobody gets hurt would be better than a showy display. Athletes may think they're being humble when they credit god for their win, but what they're really saying is god wanted them to win and the other guy to lose. Where's the humble in claiming you're god's favorite? Hubris is more like it.

    May 30, 2010 at 4:20 am |
  2. Gdog

    Along the same lines, a tornado rips through a community, kills 5 of 6 people in some particular house, and the lone survivor thanks god for sparing his/her life. It's all the same, completely irrational and a result of being conditioned as a child to believe there is some creator out there looking over us. And then add in the egos of these athletes in the modern era of sports in the United States.

    May 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  3. Reality

    As to whether God is a sports fan or even cares who wins: First, one assumes God already knows who will win so why should he really care. Or does he know?

    As per one of the great observations:

    "Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history" .

    "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human
    activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we
    and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

    For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."- Schillebeeckx

    May 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  4. Atheism4Ever

    Yet another example of how ridiculous all this religious nonsense is. The only way to confront religiosity is to make fun of it until it will become embarrassing for people to address their imaginary friends in public. Just look at the pictures – how ridiculous all these guys look. Imagine someone pulling his ears while standing on one leg. Funny? Stupid? How is it different from Rich Franklin's pose? Does he really believe that assuming a certain pose and uttering certain words will have any effect on the outcome of the match? If he indeed does I would seriously question the soundness of his perception of reality. Two words – religious schizophrenia.

    May 29, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  5. Truth B. Told

    The bottom line is that people have their beliefs. Who cares what they do after they score a touchdown. I hope someone starts a breakdancing religion so when the referees penalize them for excessive celebration, they can cite freedom of religion and get it overturned. It's all kinda silly though, if you ask me. They might be looking up saying thanks for the abilities, but I wonder if the Jews looked up and thanked God for giving them the strength and ability to walk miles during relocation to the camps that turned out to be home to the gas chambers during World War II? I sure hope not. That would be pretty upsetting. Just so some of you don't start calling me an Atheist because you're ignorant, I'm not one. I'm actually a Deist.

    May 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  6. IceT

    Why do you really think sports figures make public displays for God...attention. "Since you're all looking at me right now I'll just let you know I'm religious", a lightly veiled attempt to say, "I'm a good person". Religious beliefs are deeply personal & don't need public displays. Have you ever seen anyone make the sign of the cross and point to the ceiling at the end of a good meeting presentation, while all eyes are on them? God knows your heart, public displays are purely a selfcentered act.

    May 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  7. The_Mick

    Interesting, Ben Franklin raised a similar, but more intellectual question: why would a Supreme Being care whether or not we worshiped Him? If He's so far above us He doesn't care if an athlete thanks Him for the athletic gifts God bestowed on him, why would God care if we thanked him for anything period? When I slowly raise the water temperature and place some fresh water in the aquarium to simulate Spring and get my Dwarf Gourramis to lay eggs, I don't expect the resulting new fish to worship me in any way for paving the way to their existence. Like Franklin, my guess is that any Supreme Being is similarly so far above us that he cares as little about Church as he does about sports!

    May 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • jim

      Exactly! God doesn't care about religion. Only humans do!
      People do annoying things in front of me on a daily basis.
      Get over it an stop whining.
      Atheist sound like Ferris Bueller's sister and the Christians sound like Bueller's prnicpal.
      Not a very compelling sequel.

      May 30, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  8. Ted

    When did God become a Sports fan you ask? Easy question, Since about 1842 actually. The founding of Notre Dame University. God is a Fighting Irish fan!!

    May 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • jim

      Thank you for an appropriate response to a ridiculous topic.
      Really? Reading atheists and deists argue about the existence of God.
      Great idea CNN......You dopes!!

      May 30, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  9. adrifter

    I wonder how Christians would react if some famous athlete after winning a championship proclaimed: "I'd like to praise my parents. God and Jesus are fictions, and had absolutely nothing to do with this!" If athletes have the right to promote their religious beliefs through sports, don't atheists also have the right to promote their non-belief?

    May 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Cleareye

      The do, of course. It's just that the Taliban sports fans would not approve.

      May 30, 2010 at 7:42 am |

    the reason why athiest respond to articles written about god is to try to inform you of your bran washing past... You are being controlled by religious predators,,religious con men,,religious thieves..The above individual is a sad example of religion.. Is he actually praying to beat his opponent to a vegetable and win fame and fortune,,,,and wants a little help from his imaginary friends..WHAT A JOKE– A VERY SAD DELUSIONAL JOKE

    May 28, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  11. Scott

    This article has nothing to do with atheism - it has to do with the narcissistic display by athletes who think that they're ultra-blessed. Funny how no one crosses themselves after they strike out, miss a field goal, etc. It's flat out obnoxious, and has no place in sports. And if you're so convinced that I'm wrong, see how you'd feel if I start kicking a football or hitting a baseball in your church.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:16 pm |


      May 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  12. Joe

    Jesus made me fumble.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  13. JasonJohnson

    I find it inspiring and well within the rights of athletes to freely express their thanks unto Jesus for the awesome gift(s) He has graciously given. For one to claim these athletes should express their praise unto to Jesus in a private fashion, should perhaps express their dislikes in a private fashion thus we have fair grounds. However, I believe that a lifestyle should be lived accordingly. Although God may not be interested with who wins the World Series or Super Bowl, I would strongly argue that God is very well concerned with players charging the pitchers mound or committing flagrant fouls. These actions display a moral disposition within the player than should be addressed. Perhaps we can take a second look at a player who curses, spits, bites and ear, stumps another players leg, or gouges an opponents eyes etc. and praises God vehemently; but which of us can cast the first stone? God bless

    May 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Joe

    In just over 200 years we have gone from discovering electricity to creating artificial life and leaving our own planet. Hopefully in the next two hundred years science will finally put an end to the planetary scourge that is religion.

    May 27, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Cleareye

      Science should not attempt to end religion. It would inhibit the world of imagination. It's good that some people believe in imaginary friends in the sky, or see a messiah on their toast. Their existence is proof that we humans can create anything, even gods.

      May 30, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  15. Joe

    "This pushes religion very close to being a rabbit's foot that we rub before facing a challenge"

    Too late. It's already there.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • kareem

      ... thats a good point

      June 3, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  16. righteous-in-Christ

    It is an honor to see such "REAL" man to bow before the presence of the Lord and give Him thanks!

    May 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • Cleareye

      You're being worked. This guy is like Beck, he knows how to build a fan base.

      May 30, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  17. righteous-in-Christ

    Why do Atheists bother reading an Article that has to do with God? They love to argue, whine, complain, and proclaim that there is no God....and you are telling us because.....you said it? LOL, don't like the fact that God exists and we share His loving word, well, move on the the Atheists article where all fools agree with each other!!!

    May 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • BM

      Atheists are interested because god is used as an excuse to claim we are bad people. This is and has been used to discriminate against us, and to justify violating our rights to free speech (blaspheme laws), freedom of assembly and commerce (blues laws), etc. This includes violating our rights by outright murder by burning at the stake and other forms of torture. Religion also impacts non-believers when the religious war between each other as in all the Islamic conflicts, those between Catholics and Protestants and the like. God is also used as an excuse to distort science, as in creationism, and to intrude into our lives in the area of abortion. Stop putting words into the mouth of your imaginary friend and using those words against us and we'll stop being concerned about your delusions.

      May 30, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  18. righteous-in-Christ

    Question, why do Atheist have such a problem with others believing in God? Have any of you truly thought of the fact that you could be wrong? Let's say that Atheists are right about what they claim, "There is no God", if that was so, for us who do believe, when we die and realize that there isn't a God, we lose nothing....period. But, if you are wrong, if we believe in what Atheists say and when we die, guess what, we are going to find out that all our lives we denounced God & we face Him in judgment day. God will tell us, depart from Me, I know you not. Guess where we are going to end up.....H3Ll. There is only one God, the creator of heaven and earth. Though many claim that there are many other gods, but how many can honesty claim that their "god" created heaven and earth?
    Religion = Humans working their way to God, but fail. Faith with out Works is dead, and Work without Faith is dead. Both must be put together. For without Faith, it is impossible to please God.
    (Nondenominational) Christianity is God working His way to men and woman through a relationship in Christ Jesus.
    JOHN 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. Whosoever believeth in Him, shall not parish, but have an everlasting life.

    May 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • SgStuck

      RighteousinChrist- The nothing to lose argument you've just described is known as Pascal's Wager, and it might make a bit of sense if there were only two options. The fact is that there is an essentially limitless list of choices to pick, so just blindly saying "Hey God- just incase you exist I believe in you" doesn't ensure we'll make it to some Heaven or avoid hell.

      The other argument I've heard to this is that if there is a god who would turn down a good person who has done their best to better the world around them but just didn't believe in the right fairy tale, then I don't think I want to spend eternity with that being.

      In the end I have no problem with what you believe and I realize that many people's lives are much better because of their faith in many different religions. I really don't mind athletes saying a simple thank you or writing a Bible verse on their cheek either, but when they start asking their entire team to pray with them (Tebow) or proselytizing to millions of fans it gets on my nerves.

      If your religion inspires you to do good for the world, then stay with it and do good for the world, but please keep it out of politics where it can be abused to control other groups of people and push discrimination.

      May 27, 2010 at 6:45 am |
    • Jean

      The question is not whether you believe or don't believe in God, but rather does God even care about sports? To me, it is beyond ridiculous to believe he does. To think he has a "favorite team" would completely dishonor him. Please people... don't be so shallow.

      May 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • geckopelli

      Active religious belief is harmful to present day society. it is the major source of armed conflict in the world and promotes a no-personal-resposibility culture.
      Belivers are capable of completely amoral acts in the name of "god". Witness everything from the Spanish Extermenation of the New World to the Holocaust to the creation of Isreal to 911 to the taliban to Pat Robertson, George W Bush and Barak Obama. All claim god's support.
      Someboby is full of something– and it ain't no supreme being!

      May 30, 2010 at 4:49 am |
    • Brian Macker

      We have a problem with you believing in a god that would intrude on atheist's lives. For example, the Islamic god is a violent supremacist that advocates subjugation and murder of non-believers. I've got a problem with that. I also have a problem with many interpretations of the Christian religion that lead to witch burnings, persecution of scientists and science, blues laws, justification of slavery, punishment for blasphemy, voting and office holding restrictions, adoption and marriage discrimination, and so for. Only a blind bigot would not be able to see the harm their prejudice was causing others.

      May 30, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  19. Reality

    The solution:

    If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go of God".

    (Ex-Catholic, now atheist) Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go Of God" will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book or blog on the historical Jesus, books on the "Ultimate Happiness Prescription", atheism or secularism.

    Buy the DVD or watch it on Showtime. Check your cable listings.
    from http://www.amazon.com
    "Letting Go of God ~ Julia Sweeney (DVD – 2008)

    Five Star Rating

    May 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  20. Michael Sahdev

    No, God does not care who wins on game day, but as a Christian win or lose we thank him for giving us the ability to play, the protection from injury, the feeling of joy from success, and the hope to do better next time. We hear the thank you's to God more from winners because there the ones being interviewed most often, but if you are to watch the end of any NFL game you'll see members of both teams (winners and losers) joining together to give glory to God who gives us the ability to even have the chance to have fun and play the games we love.

    May 25, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Paul DeMotte

      Too often the winners give credit to God for their victory rather than for keeping them safe. This pushes religion very close to being a rabbit's foot that we rub before facing a challenge. There's an old fashioned word for using God to get what we want. It's called idolatry.

      May 26, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Cleareye

      Do you also fault your god when the opposite happens? When a church full of innocent children burns down on a Sunday, is it as easy to expalin as – it's god's will? He moves in mysterious ways? Hogwash!

      May 30, 2010 at 7:50 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.

May 2010