The Need To Be Seen -
Public Piety In Sports
by Ron Barrier
American Atheists, Inc.
The role of religion in sports has become an increasingly visible social
phenomena. Pro players have taken to a variety of gyrations, contortions, and
incantations in order to demonstrate to the viewing public that they (the
athletes) have the unflagging support of some invisible sports nut sitting in
a divine skybox.
This has been manifested in what I call an instant seance - that brief
moment after the game-winning hit, crucial pass, last-second basket, or
overtime goal, when the triumphant athlete attempts to contact beings from
another dimension and assess them of the current situation. This also
insinuates that there was some prior collusion and that these same non-human,
invisible beings had a vested interest in the outcome of the contest, or at
least, the welfare of the particular athlete. Apparently, they had no vested
interest in the vanquished foe.
I find it curious that the losers are rarely to be found bouncing, kneeling,
or convulsing over their specific deity. Except for a scant few, no one in
the losers locker room is attempting any such conjuring. Never is he (or
she, or it) thanked for receiving a trouncing, but rather they are thanked for
providing someone else to trounce.
What is it that these athletes are doing? What messages do they think they
are sending beyond Earth? What messages do they think they are sending to the
fans. What messages are they really sending?
The motivation for such public displays of attempted spirit appeasement is
power. It is designed to show just who is the boss and who is in control. It
is a display of testosterone-driven faith - Jesus on steroids. Jesus didnt
carry his cross to Calvary - he pumped it up!
I conclude this based on the observation that Christians, and only
Christians, are compelled to demonstrate their self-centered importance to the
rest of us poor, basic, human beings.
Never do we see a Jewish athlete participate with a mezuzah attached to his
equipment. Santerian baseball players do not bite the heads off chickens
after a defensive gem in the field.
Snake-handlers do not cruise the dugouts during late-inning rallies.
Most religious people are content to practice their respective faiths within
the context where they perceive it does the most good - at home, in their
temple or synagogue - among those of similar supernatural leanings.
But not so the militant Christian.
Christian athletes do these things to demonstrate superiority. They are
saying, My god is bigger than your god, or, My god wants us to win, not
you. (More than likely they are thanking whatever they are thanking for the
fat paycheck plus bonuses they are about to receive.)
When the Christian athlete falls on his knees he is, unconsciously more than
My religion is better than your religion.
There is a deeper, more sinister meaning to these Christ-centered mini-ads.
Christianity is convinced that is must conquer the world. It must, by any
means possible, be the major, dominating faith. Therefore every moment, every
opportunity, every event, must be exploited to the fullest in demonstrating
the overbearing, irrational and narcissistic aspects of Christianity on as
many people as possible with the most economy.
My religion says, if you dont agree with what Im doing, then something
terrible is going to happen to you and your family.
My religion says, if you dont have sex with the type of humans I have sex
with, something terrible is going to happen to you.
I have surrendered my intellectual freedom to an invisible being. You
should, too, or else something terrible is going to happen to you.
I am incapable of doing anything on my own. All of my achievements are
because of this invisible being, not me. If I didnt do this, something
terrible might happen to me.
Read the bible and agree with the stuff in it I agree with. The rest you
can ignore. If you dont agree with me, something terrible is going to happen
Everything I like, you should like, because the bible tells me to like it.
Everything the bible tells me to hate, I hate. Why? Because the bible tells
me so. If not, something terrible will happen to both of us.
I am a mental submissive to the will of non-human, invisible lifeform. I
have a personal relationship with that lifeform. However, I cant introduce
you to that lifeform. You see, it really doesnt have a physical form like
everything else. Youll have to read this bible, and recite these chants,
until you convince yourself that you have a personal relationship with this
lifeform also. This lifeform loves you and me. If you dont do these things,
something terrible is going to happen to you.
Christianity must inject itself into every aspect of life. Its parasitic
tendencies are not hard to detect, but they are difficult to cure. The more
unwilling or uninterested the observers, the more likely a display of
submission and call to conformity will be forthcoming from the evangelical
Evangelical Christianity is the only religion that measures its religious
freedom only in direct ratio to the number of observers, whether those
observers are participants or not.
As H.L. Mencken once said, Inside the heart of every evangelical lies the
wreck of a confidence man.
The need to be seen is more important than the need for sincerity.
The need to be seen far outweighs the need to respect.
One final thought:
Are such displays protected by the First Amendment? In certain
instances, yes, in others, no. We must remember that many times such displays
are more of a marketing tool for religion than an expression of true
devotion. Should religion be given free advertising time during sporting
events, while secular businesses develop hefty advertising budgets just to buy
30-seconds of ad time during a major sports telecast?
At what point does so-called religious expression cross the line into
marketing and advertising? Since religion is big business, should it be
treated any differently? That is another issue for another discussion.
But, on the other side of the coin, free speech is free speech, even
when one is demonstrating willful intellectual submission or supernaturally
dependent tendencies. Although it is embarassing, it is protected.
What should not be protected is the unspoken threat of Christianity.
The threat to punish for nonconformity. Such evil and viciousness should
never be protected, but yet, in this country, it is more than protected. It
is ignorantly considered desireable, even highly-prized and advocated by both
clergyman and elected official.
© 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.