TEXAS FAITH 124: Is it crazy to pray for your team to win the Super Bowl?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Two things Americans take seriously are religion and football. With the Super Bowl set for Sunday, here’s a question: Why do so many people pray for their favorite sports team to win? Is it just a ritual? An act of faith? Or a hedge, just in case?

A new survey finds that half of American sports fans say they believe God or a supernatural force is at play in the games they watch. That includes Americans who pray for God to help their team (26 percent), think their team has been cursed (25 percent) or more generally believe God is involved in determining who wins on the court or in the field (19 percent).

So is God the 12th man on the field at kickoff when the Broncos and Seahawks meet in the big game this weekend? The Great Odds Maker in the Sky?

The Public Religion Research Institute finds that football fans are the most likely to pray for their own teams to win. About one-third say they ask God to intervene in games. When it comes to whether God rewards religious athletes with health and success, about half of Americans say yes, about half say no. The belief that God will help religious athletes was most prominent among white evangelicals (62 percent) and non-white Protestants (65 percent). When it comes to the religiously unaffiliated, only about 20 percent feel that way.

So why do so many Americans pray for God to help their team? Or believe that God rewards religious athletes?

Do they really think God works this way? Or like Pascal’s wager, do people figure — hey, I’ve got doubts, but what if it works, what if it’s true? Why not be on the winning side?

We put that question to our Texas Faith Panel and the result was a funny, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining set of answers from some of the smartest people on matters of religion and faith in Texas. It’s not so easy as you might think. Some of the answers might surprise you.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

The Supreme Lord is not an order supplier waiting to commanded at a whim.  This survey illustrates that many in the world are very ignorant in regards to the position of God.  We are His servants and He also loves to serve us.  How does God like to serve us?  He helps those who are seeking Him get closer.

"To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me." Bhagavad Gītā As It Is 10.10.   Because of illusion, people misidentify the body as the self and become absorbed in the gains and failures that are related to this body.  Thus one falsely thinks himself to be related to a particular group or nation.

In bodily consciousness one thinks himself to be Black, White, heterosexual, homosexual, Republican, Democrat, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or being related to a particular team that they identify with.  In this illusion one imagines that the gains and failures of those different groups are in relation to themselves.  However the self is actually spiritual, eternal, and unaffiliated with the things of this world.

The ephemeral gains for our vehicle, the body, do nothing to bring satisfaction to the self, the soul.  Thus God has no interest in fueling one's illusion but happily reciprocates with those who try to connect with Him beyond the Matrix.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.