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
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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. KentAZ

    Things like this are one reason why so many people are becoming agnostics and atheists.

    (FYI–I am a professed Christian and this strikes me as contra-biblical nonsense)

    January 30, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • sam stone

      it is more like things like this are why people are skeptical of the religious. it has nothing to do with atheism or agnosticism

      January 30, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  2. miscreantsall


    January 30, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  3. el-hombre

    News flash!
    I just spoke to God; he confirmed that he does influence sport, and the Jets will win the Super Bowl on Sunday.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Water to Whine

      This is alarming, because he told me it's going to be LSU. And I believe!

      January 30, 2013 at 1:54 am |
    • sam stone

      gambling is how god makes his money. and the collection (protection) plates. sort of like tony soprano, without the personality

      January 30, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  4. StafCoyote

    A disturbing variant of the so-called prosperity gospel, which itself is of Calvinist origin. As a Christian from the theological right-wing of the Reformation (i.e. Anglican), I entertain deep skepticism about whether God intervenes directly in the outcome of sporting events. I am also not one of the c. 40% of Americans who acknowledge a creationist belief structure.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • hypatia

      are you related to Domenican Coyote? *g*

      January 30, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Water to Whine

      If you are merely entertaining deep skepticism that god intervenes in sports, then I entertain deep skepticism about the ostensible intellectualism of your comment. Is it that you just can't deny your love for "Angels in the Outfield?" By the way, the original is better than the Tony Danza remake.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:53 am |
  5. browser

    The difference between people who pray at church and people who pray at the Sports Betting counter in the casino is that the people who sports bet really mean it!

    January 30, 2013 at 1:29 am |
  6. Water to Whine

    There are very few American Christians who actually have a deep understanding of their religion. They just go to church, listen to the preacher brain wash them, give ten percent (if that), and then go to Luby's. Most everything in the USA is over simplified for the benefit of the general population. This includes religion. I'm pretty sure Jesus cares more for the sick, for children, and for the lost than he does for the 49ers.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Science

      Check your god(S) at the cave enterance before entering.. Study begins now no god(S) required.

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 30, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  7. kenchandammit

    Further proof of how effectively the church has terrorized people into believing that they must give an answer in the affirmative any time they are asked about their belief in a god. To them, a negative answer is playing with fire. They don't truly believe such bs any more than an un-terrorized person... but why take the chance? Just answer 'yes' and in the off chance it's all true, maybe there will be a place for me in heaven.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:17 am |
  8. smartaz

    The only time God gets involved is to keep the Eagles from winning the Superbowl.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • tallulah13

      The Cigarette Smoking Man makes sure that the Buffalo Bills don't win.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • el-hombre

      God's only goal 🙂

      January 30, 2013 at 1:40 am |
  9. jdoe

    This does explain why God wins every sporting bet he makes.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • fsmgroupie

      satan must be p-ssed

      January 30, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  10. fsmgroupie

    the pecrent of believers seems to be diminishing every year-–it's a miracle--praise the lord!!

    January 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  11. Believer

    I consider myself to be Christian. I pray to God for a number of things, but I also believe that God has better things to do than worry about sporting events. Why would he want to do that? Let's face it, sports events have believers on both sides, as there are crooks and cheaters on both sides. Why would God want to interfere? If you are a believer, please use your prayers for important things rather than on show-business sports that involve doping and corruption.
    BTW, I am a sports fan.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Logic N LA

      Thank you for a sensible response to this article. "My" God really isn't concerned with how grown men and women play.
      The fact that athletes find it necessary to go out to compete agianst thier fellow man, often time injuring them instead of helping them and then need to show just how "spiritual" they are is laughable..

      January 30, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • ib42

      Is god a male? How do you know? Why?
      Perfect example of the brainwashing that is religion.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • el-hombre

      God is not a physical being, they say, so I guess no one knows whether God is male or female. Maybe God is neither male or female. Maybe God is as real as a fiction story.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • sam stone

      if god is not a physical being, it is not just that no one knows god's gender. it is that god has no gender

      January 30, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Science


      Check your god(S) at the cave enterance before entering.. Study begins now no god(S) required.

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 30, 2013 at 6:13 am |
  12. CoFl;yBoy

    Ya know... They attach God to everything they do, from playing football to waging war to scratching their rear-ends. It is in our Government, on our bumper stickers, on 20 different TV channels. It is everywhere: intruding into our lives, being pushed on us, hypo critic, and stagnating social progress.All these lunatics want ME to change MY life to suit THEIR belief system.We have just as many fanatic Christians as there are fanatic Islamists telling me how to live my life. It is just getting very old.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Steve Wilson, Canada

      Agreed... 100% !!!!

      Good luck trying to get any of the bible thumpers to use common sense though...

      January 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • zentanith

      Old as in "BC", before Christ?

      January 30, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  13. TeabowGotTeabaggedByDirtySanchez

    Of course gOd influences the outcome of the Superbowl. This is what's really important. God, Guns, Budweiser and Football. Poverty, Hunger And Oppresssion are not Gods concerns, the pretty boy jocks need him.

    January 30, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  14. ScienceSoma

    Americans are 4.5% of the world's population. A fraction of that watches and cares about American sports. This is entertainment. God must also influence the Grammys and Oscars by this logic. It is human arrogance at its finest to believe an omnipotent being has some stock in the outcome of the number of times a ball is on either side of a field. It is only important to those who watch, though it has absolutely no bearing on anything other than entertainment. 27% of American humans suffer from indefensible mental myopia.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:56 am |
  15. jaw4

    Oh please. this is truly one of the dumbest things I've heard. Note to the 27% of complete idiots out there – God doesn't give a hoot about our frivolous little games. I'm a major NFL fan but I in NO way think God cares one tiny iota about it. I don't blame him when my team loses anymore than I give him credit when they win! To do so is a sign of some serious psychological issues. Get a grip on reality people.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • CoFl;yBoy

      God just enjoys a good game of football. God is just, he wouldn't DARE influence the outcome of the game.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  16. Epidi

    Hahahaha! I'm not athiest but even I know this is BS. Sports are & always have been a test & proving ground for our own entertainment. I think Christians may hold this belief as a throwback from when they were thrown into the games arena with the lions & other beasts in Rome. If you lived – it was a miracle.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • sam stone

      i think it is that people see god as extensions of themselves. so, obviously, god will support the same team they do

      January 30, 2013 at 2:08 am |
    • Epidi

      Yes, that would certainly explain holy wars or violence in the name of deity. Jihad, Crusades, witch Burning Tines, etc.

      January 30, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  17. Bob W

    cnn sucks

    January 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  18. Ray_Lewis'_Suit

    I'm sure God was there when Ray also committed that murder.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  19. Democritus

    Does this mean that god is banned from the sportsbooks in Vegas? Sucks for him.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  20. logan5

    So god rewards pro athletes yet ignores the strife, hunger, poverty, and suffering and the prayers of all those people begging that it end. I love articles like this because they remind me of how GLAD I am to be an atheist.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Earthling

      god is too busy watching the super bowl to deal with that stuff.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Steve Wilson, Canada

      And, I am also glad that you are an atheist, Logan... I was starting to think I was the only one with some common sense these days.

      If I want to learn a few fairy tales, I guess I could just read the bible... or, correctly pronounced – "babble."

      January 30, 2013 at 1:15 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.