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. Mark

    Lets see God plays a role in sporting events rewarding he who prays harder. He forsakes kids being slaughtered by sick people who have rifles that blow their precious heads off. Interesting concept.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • keplerfan


      January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  2. Loathstheright

    Then 27% are so over the top ignorant that I believe I am an alien, I cannot be related to any of these primitive sub apes.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  3. charles darwin

    The report forgot to mention anything about the I.Q. of the sports God people.
    I think we all know where it is.
    I don't doubt that they are serious about their belief.
    Simply amazing in this day and age. Also pitiful.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  4. bhellings

    Was Ray Lewis praying to 'god' after he got done stabbing two people?

    January 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Mark


      January 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  5. james

    It is down from 47%. This is a big improvement.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  6. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  7. If I were God

    I would help a team like the Ravens win against amazing odds and then hand them a stunning defeat so that everyone would know that I am God.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  8. L'Carpetron Williums

    Religious people are a black eye on the human race.

    January 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • URgod not there


      January 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • charles darwin

      I think you meant 2 black eyes.

      January 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  9. If my calculations are correct

    then Charlie Sheen is the Anti-Christ ("winning!")

    January 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  10. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  11. Rational Libertarian

    I look at the same poll and just see that a quarter of Americans are deranged. If there is a god (unlikely), she/he/it doesn't give a c.rap about sports. If she/he/it does influence sports, it just proves how much of an ass-hole she/he/it is, seeing as how she/he/it can take the time to influence a football game yet can't stop giving AIDS to babies.

    Anyway, B-More for the win.

    January 29, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      If I pray really, really hard could both teams lose?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  12. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


    That's the funniest survey I've seen in a while. Nice one PRRI!

    "more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

    I don't like to use generalizations like 'believers are stupid" but this time it is tempting.

    On the other hand there are people like Rev. Lillian Daniels.

    In an interview on PBS Religion and Ethics News Weekly she said:

    DANIEL: "About a year ago, perhaps you remember this from the news, a man who was alleged to be Tim Tebow’s pastor announced to the world that he knew why the Denver Broncos were seven-to-one since installing Tebow as quarterback. He said it’s not luck. Luck is not winning six games in a row. It’s favor, God’s favor. Sorry, but that pastor seems to have skipped his theology class. Because saying that all those touchdowns were a sign of God’s favor is what I like to call touchdown theology, and in my book it gets a grade of F."

    She has some fun things to say about "spiritual but not religious" too!


    January 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Rev. Daniel also makes the following observation:

      "But I also could not help but notice the glee with which the media glommed onto this touchdown theology. Remember that? They were writing about it right and left. It was something to mock in the Christian family, another reason to see Christians as stupid and simpleminded.

      If the shoe fits, Reverend, if the shoe fits.

      January 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  13. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  14. history speaks volumes

    Well Mr. Lewis,

    You are right about one thing- God really hasnt made any mistakes..... a delusion cannot in and of its self, do ANYTHING.
    the person suffering the delusion can, however do anything humanly possible.

    A person convinced of devine assistance can outperform his buddies in the same way a cop who is told his new bulletproof vest will stop a 44 mag. will act more confidently in a shootout...but in reality it made of cardboard.... Both Ray and the cop can perform well, but they both are just as susceptible to injury (if not more so due to taking/ignoring risks).

    January 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  15. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  16. Bob

    God hates flags!

    January 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  17. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  18. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  19. lionlylamb


    January 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      January 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  20. Odin

    Bah! I care not for your puny sporting events.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:47 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.