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The Supernatural Bowl
Which Team Are You Praying For?

When the Denver Broncos square off against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII today, the all-important “12th Man” may not be the fans, but an altogether higher power. According to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), half of American sports fans “see some aspect of the supernatural at play in sports.”

About a quarter of fans report having prayed for God to help their team or believe that their team has been cursed at some point in time. Roughly one in five believe that God plays a role in determining the outcomes of sporting events or perform a ritual before or while watching their favorite team. Half of all respondents fall within at least one of these categories, and football fans are more likely than those of other sports to express a belief in supernatural forces.

“America’s football fans stand out from other fans in their belief in the supernatural, which may not be surprising after last year’s Blackout Bowl,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s Research Director. A press release issued by the Institute also notes that these differences may reflect the fact that football fans are concentrated most heavily in the Midwest and South, regions that also include large religious populations.

Thirty-eight percent of white Evangelicals say they have prayed for their team while fans in the Midwest are especially prone to believing that their team has been cursed (38%). Meanwhile, 62% of white evangelical Protestants and 65% of minority Protestants believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.

Americans are not only more religious than most of their European counterparts as measured in church attendance, they also believe in a more active God who responds to prayer and directs everyday events. As one theologian, William Lane Craig, mused in response to the survey’s findings:

God’s providence rules all of life, even down to the smallest details. Nothing happens without either God’s direct will or at least his permission of that event. That includes every fumble, every catch, every run. All of these things are in the providence of God, and therefore, we should not think that these things are a matter of indifference. These are of importance to God as well even though they seem trivial.

For all those preparing to put on your lucky pair of socks, do that ritual dance of yours in front of the television screen, and say a little prayer for your team we do have one little question: what team did Job play for?

Faith involves accepting God’s will; superstition is about trying to trick or coerce God into complying with yours. Christians especially should understand this; Jesus of Nazareth got the cross, not a Superbowl ring.

God doesn’t hate sports and he doesn’t hate contests. He isn’t a blue-nosed puritan who gets bent out of shape when people have fun. But cheap and silly attempts to cajole the maker of the universe into favoring your special team are not the kinds of spiritual exertion that God wants.

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  • Andrew Allison

    46% of Americans believe in Creationism (

    Any comments about the cheap and silly attempts to deny the facts of evolution? The credulity of Americans?

    • Corlyss

      Pardon me, but what exactly does a belief in evolution have to do with the price of beans? I suspect that an even larger number of Americans didn’t believe in evolution when the nation was kicking butts in the 19th and 20th century, when it fought in and prevailed in two world wars, and when it emerged the economic savior of the West at the end of WW2. If you don’t work in science, and particularly in evolutionary biology, belief in evolution don’t amount to a relevant fact. Indeed, it’s only modern popular usage has been to beat people of faith over the head about how stupid and primitive they are in comparison to the really smart folk. As if that had any meaning in daily life. I bet you never think about it unless you get a chance to take a swipe like the one above. I mean, really, does knowledge of evolution help you be a better husband, write a coherent sentence, express yourself clearly and cogently as we all know you do? Does it help you make correct change, improve your driving, get a better job, run a marathon? Just what does it get the average modern man? I rant about Americans’ scientific illiteracy a lot, but knowledge of evolution is the least of my concerns. Conan Doyle made the point more humorously than I can when he had Sherlock Holmes both ignorant of and indifferent to the knowledge that the earth revolved around the sun. That knowledge was useless to anything Holmes did or thought in his daily life. Ditto evolution.

      • Andrew Allison

        Corlyss, I apoligise if I offended you, but think we may be cross-purposes again. My comment in response to WRM’s suggestion that, “Faith involves accepting God’s will; superstition is about trying to trick or coerce God into complying with yours.” was intended to suggest that, for most people faith is, in fact, superstition. I chose, as a specific example, the superstition that the World was created sometime during the past 10,000 years.
        In answer to your question, yes, the fact that (most of the time) I base my thinking on evidence rather than belief helps me be a better husband, and write a coherent sentence. Sadly, it apparently doesn’t do much for expressing myself clearly and cogently. ;<)}

        • TommyTwo

          “the fact that (most of the time) I base my thinking on evidence rather than belief helps me be a better husband”

          My insistence on evidence-based thinking did not seem to be of much help in my five marriages to date. To the contrary. 🙂

          (The above should not be considered evidence as to TommyTwo’s marital status.)

          • Andrew Allison

            Might I respectfully suggest that the wrong brain might have been doing the thinking :<0}

          • TommyTwo

            The above line is exactly what I once said when wife number three offered up her thoughts.

            (Since one can never be too clear, I’ll state explicitly that I have never divorced. I’ve used arsenic instead.

            Sorry, what I meant to say is that I’ve left my previous wives behind and surreptitiously married new ones.

            Sorry, what I meant to say is that I’ve been married to at most one woman in my life. Lesson learned

            Sorry, what I meant to say will only be known once I’ve proven to someone’s satisfaction that I can once again be trusted with a keyboard.)

          • Andrew Allison

            Tell me something I didn’t guess. Or did you mean you’ve been married to at most one woman at a time? I struck gold the second time around.

          • TommyTwo

            I’m sorry, but TommyTwo is not permitted to play with his friends until he has carefully thought about his recent behavior. And to think he was such a respectful and respectable man before he fell in with you lot…

            – TommyTwo’s hypothetical wife

          • Andrew Allison

            Dear Hypo-wife,
            Whilst I obviously have no idea what’s been going on Chez Nous (although your post suggest serious misbehavior which I trust has been suitably dealt with), rest assured that TT’s interaction with the outside world has been not merely blameless, but enlivening.
            Respectfully, An admirer.

          • TommyTwo

            Hi everyone, I’m back!
            Extremely pleased by this.
            Learned my lesson, I have.
            Perfect behavior from now on.

            Medical attention definitely not necessary.
            Everything just hunky-dory.


            OK, enough with this Tom-foolery; back to regular programming. (And thank you, AA, for your repeated compliments. A pleasure doing discourse with you.)

            I guess the Seattle god is more powerful than the Denver god, or maybe is simply on better terms with the New York god. Or less facetiously, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

          • Corlyss

            I would have been happy regardless of who won because I back the Broncos when they aren’t playing the ‘Hawks and I back the ‘Hawks against everyone, ever since that game last year against Green Bay, you know, the one that spelled the end of the Replacement Refs.

          • Corlyss

            You guys crack me up.

          • Corlyss


        • Corlyss

          You didn’t offend me. My post is the result of having fit this fite often on other boards.
          I don’t agree that faith is a superstition. One can believe in God and metaphor at the same time. Tis the height of folly IMO to mistake religious sacred writings for science, esp. given the age of most of them. But interestingly the authors described what they saw the best they could according to their limited understanding. Science still works that way; we just have better tools and more systematic and disciplined ways of recording knowledge. Besides, scriptures make dam*n fine poetry.

          • Andrew Allison

            Corlyss, can we at least agree that the suggestion that life on Earth was created 6000 years ago is nonsensical? As to faith, it’s a belief system to which anybody is entitled to subscribe. What’s interested me for a long time is the fact that there appears to be something in the human brain which has trouble with the concept of death. To the best of my knowledge, every tribe on earth has developed a religion of one sort or another. Please note that I acknowledge that we have absolutely no idea about what created the Universe in which we find ourselves. I’m perfectly prepared to accept the fact that there’s something going on that we can’t grasp, but I simply can’t accept the Abrahamic guesses. This may be just another thing upon which, despite our largely common philosophical bents we can agree to differ.

  • Corlyss

    It’s only a game . . .

    • TommyTwo

      “Relax, enjoy yourself, it’s only a glorious game.”

    • Andrew Allison

      Football, or religion? Sorry, couldn’t resist ;<)

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