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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

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    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    Make sure to read comments

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    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

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    May 5, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  2. mictori

    God is more than one who takes sides. I wrote this blog entry regarding God as a parent like the Harbaughs – wanting both of their children to win. http://godgoespop.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/god-doesnt-pick-sides/

    February 4, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  3. Randy

    People that dont know the Lord would think that way, read the bible then u will know what God is about, God cares about your soul in the name of Jesus, he wants to save your soul from hell if u would surrender your life to him and live for him , he is not concern about no football game or worldly things, he wants u to come to him and get saved thats what God is about, learn of him read the Holy Bible.

    February 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • End Religion

      Some of us are atheists because we did read the bible.

      February 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Prophet Maximization

    The True God requires and helps those needing recovery to go the "way" that has the greatest "truth" and greatest value to "life" – the intent and purpose of the law.

    The False God wants games, contests, conflict, and war which leads to the way of "Leviticus 26", "Mathew 24", "7 Seals", and "The Book of Enoch" where the one who imitates God will have his angels melt. This is evident in the lack of planning to avoid the economic crisis that will cause the problems listed in "Leviticus 26".

    February 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  5. emily

    Oh, so THAT'S why there are so many starving children, wars, etc. God is too busy trying to decide who will win the Super Bowl.

    February 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  6. dale

    the last two times there were 4 consecutive blood moons in the gregorian c alendar was 1948, and 1967. israel reinstated itself in 48, and 6 days war in 67. the next time that happens is 2014-15

    February 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • dale

      blood moon associated with Christs return.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  7. Douglas

    The Bible is unmistakenly clear:

    Gay behavior and gay coitus are condemnable sins against God and humanity.

    Through the realization of celibacy, LGBTQ can redeem themselves and others trapped in the abyss of
    downward spiraling sin that deliers souls to Satan for a feast of evil.

    Reach out to LGBTQ at your place of worship and let them no that they are bound for glory when they rise up, reject fornication and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    Miracles are possible!

    January 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Athy

      No? Try "know" next time. Barely literate fundie.

      January 31, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Observer


      Skip the HYPOCRISY. The Bible is clear that there must be FAR FAR MORE Christian ADULTERERS than there are total gays. Work on the MUCH BIGGER problem to show you aren't dealing in anything but hypocrisy.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Nah, not likely a real fundie...very few people actually use the word "fornication".

      January 31, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    A study done in 2005 by Dr. Jon D. Miller of Northwestern University, an expert in the public understanding of science and technology, found that one in five American adults thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.

    January 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Pete

      In other polls a third of Americans believe in ghosts, a third of Texans believe that people lived with dinosaurs, half of the country believes in creationism, 10% of us believe that environmentalists are secretly behind oil spills, more than half believe that FOX NEWS is the most trustworthy network, almost half of us actually think that Christianity is older than Judaism, only a quarter knew that we won independence from England, and about 40% believe in ESP.

      January 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @Pete Well, that's depressing....

      January 31, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Saraswati

      For a good night sleep, just assume they were kids trying to make a clever statement about relativity.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Chad

      I think the most shocking statistic is that ~8% of Americans believe that God does not exist.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • Observer


      Yes, it is shocking. Most atheists are too afraid to admit it.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Athy

      Shocking indeed. But apparently it is increasing.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Really-O?

      "I think the most shocking statistic is that ~8% of Americans believe that God does not exist."

      The United States of America...the crazy uncle of the developed world.

      January 31, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Mick

      I wish I'd said that, Really-O.

      February 2, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • PassingBy

      >a third of Texans believe that people lived with dinosaurs

      I believe that the dinosaurs live with Texans.

      February 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  9. EvidenceBased4

    What is more interesting to me is that ONLY 25% believe God controls sports. If Christians believe that there is a divine plan for everyone and that everything has a purpose in that plan, then all of them should believe that every move of every player in every game is part of that plan.

    It is those who are rational enough to not believe that God controls sports that should be questioning their faith.

    January 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  10. Doug Philips

    The stupid in this country is more omnipresent that the idiotic god that most of our citizens worship.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Brother Maynard

    From the article:
    ' “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.” '
    Then why do people pray? What possible use is it ?
    I'm sure that nobody on the New England team prayed before the game " Dear jesus please allow me the strenght to play like cr#p today"

    January 31, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  12. Southerner01

    So if God helps decide sporting events, does that mean he approved of Penn State during the Paterno/Sandusky era?

    January 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • End Religion

      Yes, I think it is very clear that Christianity approves of child r@pe. In its own book of rules God apparently r@pes a 13 year old, which they call "divine". They also actively aid and abet child r@ping priests by helping cover up their crimes and occasionally moving them to new locations to offer them access to newer crops of children.

      January 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • theupwardcallofgod

      This is certainly an interesting article which raises a legitimate question for those of faith as well as for those without any specific spiritual belief system: Does God care who wins and if so, why and how much and what influence does He have over the outcome? For an interesting take on this I would recommend visiting this blog: http://theupwardcallofgod.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/does-god-really-care-who-wins-the-national-championship/

      January 31, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • sam stone

      I think so. During Penn State's first game in 2012 (against Ohio University), the announcers said that Penn State has more tight ends on their roster than other football teams

      January 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  13. meifumado

    And every last one of them is a fool for thinking this.

    January 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  14. A Frayed Knot

    Athletes are some of the most superst'itious beings on the planet (and it looks like a bunch of fans are too).

    This article tells about some of them (article is 4-5 years old, though – I'll bet there are some more current doozies):


    Ray Lewis's picture ^^^ looks like "Touchdown Jesus"!

    January 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  15. Honey Badger Dont Care

    And in another poll, one quarter of Americans are stupid.

    January 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Aldewacs

      UN-surprisingly, the same quarter...

      January 31, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  16. Bootyfunk

    god should spend more time making children bullet proof...

    January 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Kim

      Or putting guns in the hands of children, and their teachers, if he listens to the NRA. More guns, that's the cowboy answer!

      January 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Agnostic theist

      It's pretty much all over isn't it? Civilization and all. Atleast as we once knew it.

      February 1, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  17. Heather

    Did anyone pay attention to the fact that ONLY 1,033 people were surveyed over the telephone... and they say " more than half of americans" talk about a huge generalization.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Observer

      You might want to take a class in statistics and estimating.

      January 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Ah, yes. Statistical analysis. The only job involving numbers where you already know the outcome you want and just collect enough data to support your curve with the occasional outliers.
      Bet if they called more homes in Texas or Alabama they would have gotten higher percentages.

      January 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      48 % of Americans believe in creation, and don't believe in evolution, so I would probably think this is either accurate, or a low estimate.

      January 30, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • End Religion

      Who answers the phone these days unless it is a known caller?

      January 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  18. saab93f

    I am lost for words.A deity picking sides in a game but not bothering to save children. Lunacy, total lunacy.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • God

      I love my football. Children with cancer, mmmm not so much. Besides, they grow so much if they do it all on their own. Gotta go, there's a guy that needs my help in a poker game.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  19. Stupidity knows no bounds...

    The faithful athletes are "protected with good health"? Tell that to the most vocal Evangelical Supercross rider Trey Canard who broke his back last year...yet still thinks Jesus is protecting him out on the track. He should stop racing on Jesus's day off, or when Jesus is busy tending to Ray Lewis. Seriously, it would be laughable if the poll came back with even 2% believing such nonsense. These morons think they should be part of the discussion on matters of national concern...I wouldn't trust somebody so idiotic with opening a jar of pickles.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
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About this blog

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.