If their team doesn't win the Super Bowl, some sports fans won't blame deflated footballs — they'll blame God.
A recent survey of a random sample of 1,012 Americans, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, suggests that one in four Americans believe that "God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event." Seventy-one percent of Americans, however, disagree with them.
The 26 percent number is broken up into two categories: those who "completely agree" that God plays a role in determining sporting outcomes, and those who only "mostly agree." The chart below shows the precise breakdown.
The number also varies according to religious affiliation. Non-whiteProtestants (42 percent) are most likely to believe God to be involved in game outcomes, with Catholics (31 percent), white evangelicals (32 percent), and white mainline Protestants (19 percent) less likely to believe it. Of the religiously unaffiliated 9 percent think God decides who wins a game.
Although just 25 percent of respondents think God has a hand in game outcomes, more than twice that number (53 percent) believe "God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success," according to the PRRI survey.
This study provides sociologists with a lot to think about, specifically regarding the overlap of American sport and religion. What hath football to do with Christianity? Is there something about American religion that helps sports fans feel at home, or vice versa? The PRRI study doesn't even begin to address these questions, but it does remind us that sport and religion, for better or worse, sometimes occupy the same spaces within the American imagination.
The clearest takeaway, though, from the study is this: In spite of all the rumors about Americans moving away from their faith, there still appears to be a sizable population in this country that believes God not only takes an interest, but participates, in the daily activities of human life.