The number of people who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is growing in America; however, attitudes about atheism seem decidedly, well, ambivalent. On one hand, mega churches for unbelievers are popping up around the country and organizations like The Clergy Project are on the rise. On the other, atheists are viewed unfavorably by a wide swathe of the American public. For instance, the “New Atheists” (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) have faced considerable backlash, and former Rep. Barney Frank announced he was gay long before (1987) he admitted to being an atheist, which he did safely from retirement in 2013.
One seemingly unlikely battlefield on which the debate between the religiously affiliated and unaffiliated plays out is the Super Bowl. To wit, the organization American Atheists has placed a billboard ad across from MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, NJ, where Super Bowl XLVIII will take place this Sunday between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Aimed at sports fans who see the supernatural at play on the field, the ad claims, “A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football.” David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said the ad was at least in part a reaction to PRRI’s recent survey that found half of Americans reporting a belief that the supernatural was at play in sporting events.
Some players, including Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, attribute their success to their relationship with God. This idea is embraced by roughly half (48 percent) of the public who believe that God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success. Perhaps the 47 percent of Americans who disagree that God rewards athletes who have faith are more apt to agree with Silverman, who says that relying on God for a win is superstitious and doesn’t give credit to the athletes who train long and hard for the competition.
What do you think? Who are you rooting—or praying—for this weekend? Let us know in the comments.