First up from the God Machine this week is a look at, of all things, Super Bowl Sunday.
Tomorrow, San Francisco and Baltimore will take the field, and it's likely that many of the folks on the team, as well as their fans, will be turning to a higher power in the hopes of influencing the outcome. This week, however, the Public Religion Research Institute hoped to get a better sense of just how many Americans believe divine intervention is possible in a football game. (The image might be tough to read; click on it for a larger version.)
It turns out, more than one-in-four Americans (27%) believes that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, though it's not clear what might influence His decision. If both teams' supporters prayed for victory, and God hears everyone's prayers and helps dictate outcomes, wouldn't every game be a tie?
What's more, according to the survey, about twice as many Americans (53%) believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.
More specifically, those most likely to believe God helps determine which teams win are Protestants. There are also significant regional differences -- 36% of Southerners believe God plays a role in determining which teams win, far more than any other part of the country.
Finally, the PRRI report concluded, "Americans say religion is significantly more important to their lives than their fan affiliation, but they are about as likely to watch sports each week as they are to attend religious services."
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Fundraising trouble for ProtectMarriage.com: "Foes of same-sex marriage are laboring to pay the tab for an epic legal case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, as the movement suffers from fundraising shortfalls that could sap its strength in future battles" (thanks to R.M. for the tip).
* Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandal: "In a move unprecedented in the American Catholic Church, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that he had relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, of all public duties over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children decades ago.... The announcement came as the church posted on its website tens of thousands of pages of previously secret personnel files for 122 priests accused of molesting children."
* Proponents of public funds for private religious schools: "'National School Choice Week' is winding down, and we've been treated to an avalanche of propaganda for vouchers, neo-vouchers and other expressions of so-called 'educational choice.'"
* A lawsuit worth watching: "A lawsuit by a Southern California Christian school against two former teachers who refused to provide proof of their faith could pose one of the first court tests of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom. A legal expert said last year's ruling that religious workers can't sue for job discrimination never specified whether that includes teachers at religious schools" (thanks to R.P. for the tip).
* And the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, a prominent leader in the religious right movement, pushed back this week against Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) argument that Republicans need to stop being the "stupid party." Fischer insisted that the far-right is actually "wise," and as proof, the AFA spokesperson pointed to ... Todd Akin.