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. Realist

    Scary stuff. To think, in this day and age, people still believe in fairytales. So sad.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Carl

      I know, it's crazy. How do these fools not know that God is too occupied with The Price is Right to be bothered by football?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  2. Thomas Jefferson

    Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  3. Thomas Paine

    Each of these churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say that their word of God, the Koran, was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of these churches accuses the others of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  4. Thomas Paine

    Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.

    No man ought to make a living by religion. It is dishonest so to do.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  5. Ryan

    I am brainwashed because I have studied the quran and the religion of the Islams? Muhammed is a prophet, not a god. He is a false religion of people who believe it is okay to abuse women, F*** little boys, and whoever does not believe in Islam is an infidel and should be beheaded. How many of you people are on obamacare?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Observer


      Obamacare has NOTHING to do with this. Just another logic failure.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Matthew

      You know, Ryan, I can accept your bad grammar and poor spelling. But, for a man who has "found the Lord," you sure do have a lot of foul language in your posts.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  6. Ben Franklin

    Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Mobius077

      Noun 1. deist – a person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it

      See also:
      nonreligious person – a person who does not manifest devotion to a deity

      January 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  7. Mobius077

    Poll: Quarter of Americans say God influences sporting events

    It's not surprising, since in a recent survey over 50% of Americans said that god created the Earth between 6,000 – 10,000 years ago.

    Pretty amazing, huh?

    January 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd be skeptical of those surveys. From my experience, most non-evangelical Christians I know acknowledge that evolution happened over millions of years and many even know the age of the earth. I know my testimony isn't empirical, but survey and statistical analysis can be easily skewed in the surveyor/statistician's favor.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Mobius077

      Since 1982, between 40% and 50% of adults in the United States say they hold the creationist view that "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years" when Gallup asked for their views on the origin and development of human beings.

      "Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design". Gallup. May 2012.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  8. Thomas Jefferson

    [If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  9. Thomas Jefferson

    The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  10. Milton Platt

    The author of the story forgot to mention which god he was referencing

    January 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I think it's obvious he was referring to Loki, the Norse trickster god.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Carl

      It was Loki.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Carl

      OMG, I swear I thought of that before I saw your post.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  11. Thomas Jefferson

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  12. jma58

    That is a high percentage of ignorance.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  13. aussie

    Americans – not just fat, but stupid!

    January 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Carl

      How's that water dowsing business going down there?

      January 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  14. John Adams

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    (letter to Thomas Jefferson)

    January 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  15. Jonboy

    Just proves that 25% of American population are complete idiots. What does God care about a football game? Go back to your snakes.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  16. bobness22@gmail.com

    God hates the Chicago Cubs.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Akira

      Yes, he does, I think.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      January 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  17. GATORpride

    You know what you internet atheists and priests have in common? You're all angry pseudo intellectuals that no one in reality outside of the web cares about.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • bobness22@gmail.com

      But internet atheists aren't molesting altar boys.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Looks like another pseudo intellectual has joined in.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • aussie

      It's funny how theists tend to be the nastiest, most spiteful, most hateful people, whereas it is the atheists I know who tend to be full of the greatest love of humanity. HMMM!

      January 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Carl

      We atheists may be rude, but we can still fall back on not lying to Africans about AIDS and not telling children that their friends will burn in hell.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  18. James Madison

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights)

    January 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  19. TJW

    Last I checked... Ray Lewis was an acquitted murderer who has multiple children with multiple women. Not sure God is on his side....

    January 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There's no such thing as an acquitted murderer, unless someone who committed a murder is acquitted of a subsequent murder. He was acquitted of murder, there's a gargantuan difference. Using an acquitted charge to negatively judge somebody's character is completely unAmerican.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  20. elgeevz

    This story confirms my apprehension - the nation is doomed.

    January 29, 2013 at 8:36 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.