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Will God Decide Who Wins the Super Bowl? Are Athletes Rewarded for Their Faith? Here's What Americans Think

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The majority of Americans (66 percent) are planning to watch the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers face-off in Super Bowl XLVII, according to poll results from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Of course, this is no surprise, considering that the annual football game is an immensely-popular U.S. tradition. What is, perhaps, more interesting, though, are the proportions of Americans who believe that God plays a role in Super Bowl outcomes and in rewarding athletes.

Nearly 3-in-10 Americans believe that God is involved in selecting which team wins a sporting event (27 percent, to be exact). While this is the case, a majority (53 percent) believe that the Lord rewards faithful athletes with good health and success (42 percent disagree).

Digging beneath these numbers, though, is essential. To begin, there are major differences between specific faith groups when it comes to belief in God's intervention in the sports sphere. While Christians are the most likely to believe that God plays a role in game-play, unaffiliated Americans (not surprisingly) are the least. Similar patterns exist when it comes to whether God rewards faithful athletes. PRRI has more:

Roughly 4-in-10 minority Christians (40%) and white evangelical Protestants (38%) agree that God does play a role in the outcome of a sporting event, compared to less than 3-in-10 (29%) Catholics, less than 1-in-5 (19%) white mainline Protestants, and approximately 1-in-10 (12%) religiously unaffiliated Americans. [...]

More than 7-in-10 (72%) minority Christians and two-thirds (67%) of white evangelical Protestants agree that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success, as do a majority (56%) of Catholics. White mainline Protestants are divided (49% agree, 48% disagree). More than 6-in-10 (62%) religiously unaffiliated Americans disagree, saying that God does not reward athletes who have faith with good health and success. However, more than one-third (34%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans agree that God rewards religious athletes.

You can see the breakdowns in the below graphic:

Photo Credit: Public Religion Research Institute

Some players, like Tim Tebow, have been both criticized -- and praised -- for overtly showing their faith on the field. PRRI decided to dive into this dynamic as well, asking respondents if they approve or disapprove of public displays of athletes' faith. Exactly half of those who responded said that they approve of athletes "expressing their faith publicly by thanking God during or after a sporting event."

Interestingly, only 4 percent disapprove of public displays, with an additional 45 percent stating that they do not care either way. So, it seems Tebow's famed pose (i.e. "Tebowing") likely didn't offend or annoy the vast majority of Americans. And talk of God is overwhelmingly, based on the results, an accepted action.

Read PRRI's full results here, as there are a number of other intriguing indicators, including Sunday church attendance versus football viewing and the percentage of Americans who support public-school sponsored prayer before football games (more than three-quarters of Americans agree that this should be permissible).

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