February 5, 2017

Praying for a Super Bowl Win

2009 Atlanta Falcons
By Chris J. Nelson, via Wikimedia Commons
When I was a young child, I used to think that the professional wrestling I saw on TV was real in the sense that I did not think it was any more choreographed and scripted than any other sport. This belief did not last long. For some reason, nobody seemed to find it particularly cute or "sacred," and I was disabused of it quickly. This probably had something to do with growing up around sports fans who did not consider professional wrestling to be a sport in any meaningful sense. Afterward, I found that my enjoyment of professional wrestling decreased substantially. With the outcome predetermined, there seemed to be less point in watching it.

As one of the most important holidays of American civil religion (i.e., Super Bowl Sunday) nears, I can't help wondering whether many Christians feel this way about American football. Given how many of them think that their preferred god cares so much about football that it bothers to determine the outcome of games, it would seem to take some of the fun out of it. If the Falcons win, their preferred god must have favored them. If the Patriots win, their preferred god must have favored them. I have to think that might take at least some of the fun out of it.

Then again, I suppose the belief that their preferred god intervenes based on their prayers might make watching the Super Bowl even more enjoyable. If the will of their preferred god can be swayed by their prayers, then it is almost as if they are shaping the game's outcome through prayer. Why, its almost as if they were part of their favorite team! The talent of the players might be fun to watch, but it is really their prayers that determine who wins and who loses.

It is precisely this sort of Christian - the one who believes that his or her prayers make a difference in who wins the Super Bowl - that I love to hear from about how arrogant and self-centered we atheists are. This is also the sort of Christian who I want lecturing me on the immorality of atheists because he is she is clearly using prayer to meet some essential human needs. But I must also admit that having a few of these Christians around makes me feel just a bit better about my thinking that professional wrestling was real all those years ago.
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