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Sporting Some Reality

Okay this is about Sportspeople of a religious persuasion, those whom kiss a cross, or raise an eye in prayer to a lofty god figure.
And before you say, "Oh come on; leave the sportspeople alone", let me just say two words. Role Model.
We are all up in their faces and handing out lifetime bans for drug taking, is promoting superstitious thinking a suitable trait for a role model? I mean, we all know they believe their lucky pants, rabbit’s foot or divine hand etc. give them “the Power of Greyskull” but are these things magical?

Watch almost any penalty shoot out at any World Cup Football match and almost every player ‘prays for his god to change the universal procession’ so he can score his penalty. Then after, the one's who scored thank their god but the one's who missed don't shake a fist skywards, rush home and tear up their Bibles, Qur'an's etc. No, instead they collapse into self inflicted hatred and, often, an embarrassed foetal mess.

And the team that finally wins the shootout? Do we assume they won because their gods were best?

So, what if we say there is a god, (I know, I know but just say) and only one ‘right’ religion. Would we not find a correlation between athletes of a particular religion and scoring more frequently, jumping higher, running faster; generally outperforming those who worship lesser or incorrect gods?
I presume the religions that promote healthier diets would be of benefit to, at the very least, the formation of a healthy young body but I couldn't find any data on which religion is best suited to sporting performance overall. Perhaps this is “due to the embryonic nature of this area of study”. Nick J. Watson's and Daniel R. Czech's paper, The Use of Prayer in Sport: Implications for Sport Psychology Consulting, goes way further than suggesting a clear beneficial effect, for the religious sportsperson, of prayer and belief. It goes as far as to more than hint that athletes should be encouraged to follow a religious brand!! If this apparently well researched 2005 and peer reviewed paper is the boffins’ current understanding of the situation, I doubt it can it be shown empirically that prayer’s 'effect' is psychological placebo or the equivalent of meditation and not actually invoking some divine influence or mystical force to power the body!

I mean, could praying be considered “Soul doping”?

If anybody knows of some data, I’d love to see it/add it here.

If there is no correlation between sporting achievement and the athlete’s religion then this is could be perceived as evidence that none of the religious pleadings by sportspersons are doing any good.

If, on the other hand, a correlation is shown then perhaps all sports people would consider converting to whichever religion turned out to be the 'sportiest', to better level the playing field in the pursuit of fairness.

I think that's the thing we hold most high about sport; yeah, it's exciting, both physically and statistically, and there's drama and sympathy but above all, it's about fairness.
Every human who appears at the Olympics is supposed to turn up clean and healthy, having used no methods or substances in preparation which the rest of humanity would consider cheating. The stadia are purpose built to be arenas conducive with fair & honest play, and fair & honest competition is seen to be held by the rest of humanity, watching live around the world.
I’m pretty sure we all feel it's sporting endeavour is valueless if it's not a level playing field.
Cheats are vilified in the press and banned from their sport sometimes for life. Some people may say ‘Oh it's only a sport’ but it's not, it's fairness, our temple of equality, the real world embodiment of collective childhood wish for the way things ‘should’ be. I am sure we can all remember at least one occasion where we whinged. "It's not fair!"
The Olympics is the one place where it is supposed to be.
If a sportsperson is invoking actual supernatural powers or paranormal forces via prayer, kissing a cross etc. can they really claim to have won on human abilities alone?

So, to the sportsmen and women, all that hard work, early nights, missed parties, all the endless, lonely hours of arduous, rigorous training, all those chilly dark mornings, self discipline and courage through injury. Then they get to the podium and share the glory, the product of all that self determination, with their birth tribe’s imaginary friend! Are they really suggesting that they did not do it themselves; that it was all their god’s doing? Is that not also conversely saying "None of those last twenty years of training were down to me and none of the people who sacrificed time, resources, love and support for me to stand here, had any effect whatsoever; I'm only here because of my imaginary friend."?
Isn’t that tantamount to suggesting they could have stayed on the couch until it was event time and their god would still have powered their victory? If one thanks a god for any part of one’s success then surely one must concede that the god may be responsible for all of one’s success; how can one determine the dividing line between where the ‘divine’ assistance ends and the human abilities begin? For the religious sportsperson, should we not be assuming it’s not the sportsperson who is competing in the event but the sportsperson’s god or rather, at least, that the sportsperson’s body is being animated by the power of their ‘lord’ (or lucky underpants). Can it be said to be fair to enter a body ‘powered by god’ in events which are supposed to be for purely human athletes?
I'd suggest not and I'd further be forced to contemplate the comparison with drug cheats; their body is powered to victory by an external influence, and a religious athlete claims the same for his god/underpants, so why are the sporting councils not testing for “The Power of Greyskull”?
What does it matter whether a cheat’s boost is founded in the pharmaceutical or the paranormal, surely it’s still cheating?
How do they square away the dishonesty? I mean, most religions hold high a general ‘be honest’ principle and the world’s top class sporting events make it quite clear that their events are for ‘pure’ humans. How can religious athletes, who are happy to display their genuine belief that some magically force has had a hand in there performance, not notice that this admission means they are not performing as unassisted ‘pure’ humans?
Come to that, how have the doping authorities not noticed?
This may be seen I think as evidence of the all pervasive ethos of magical thinking to which we atheists are subjected on a daily basis.

An atheist sportsperson knows for sure the win/success is ALL down to the sportsperson/support staff, every trial the athlete has surpassed or overcome, is the sportsperson's own will power and determination. The atheist sportsperson (and support staff) shares the glory with none. The atheist sportsperson, therefore, could be said to be more worthy of the podium place, and is of more value to the ideal of 'pure' human excellence; a more genuine example of what a human can achieve without assistance of any kind, whether that assistance is conceived in a human or divine mind.

I realise this post has a somewhat tongue in cheek flavour, an air of ‘Oh, don’t be so silly”, but either this god/magic stuff is real, in which case those availing themselves of these mystical ‘powers’ or ‘forces’ should not be considered examples of ‘natural’, ‘assistance-free’ humans and should be tested. Or the ‘Magics’ are not real, in which case the various world sports councils are allowing, if not condoning, the promotion of complete nonsense, gibberish via the world forum their sporting meetings offer.

In an attempt to level the playing field for all people, differing religious denominations and the non-religious alike, perhaps some sort of handicapping system could be devised. Maybe, after testing to assess the level of metaphysical assistance the athlete has gained, copies of the athlete’s holy book could be hung off him or her, to counteract the god-boost?

Congratulations to every human who makes it in sport.
As there really is no 'god', ALL your achievements are down to your personal drive and dedication.
You have my respect.

If you’d like to get the voodoo out of our temples of human excellence and you're on Twitter, a click on any of the following statements, tweets it :)
It doesn’t just automatically send it, you get the opportunity to edit.
Add the #Hashtag of your favourite sport etc. :)

This is one of the Too Many Questions

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