Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When athletes praise God at the Super Bowl and other sports

Christian Science Monitor opinion "When athletes praise God at the Super Bowl and other sports" (February 9th, 2010) ignores possible utilitarian concerns in its invective against Drew Brees praise of god on national television.

'God is great.'

So said Drew Brees, the most valuable player in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, after leading the New Orleans Saints to an upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Such comments have become commonplace on American television, where athletes routinely thank God in postgame prayers and interviews.

Is this a problem? I think it is. And to see why, try to imagine if Brees had made a slightly different statement: 'Allah is great.'

It is worth noting that approximately 76% of the United States are Christians. Corrections imagines that among Super Bowl watchers, and American sports fans, it's likely higher (and more intense).

In a purely felicific calculus, average gain that individuals who watch may get from hearing a praise of their chosen deity multiplied by their number is likely greater than the average loss from individuals who watch and don't like hearing praise of god. The author's comparison would make the transition from somewhere between a 3-to-1 and 9-to-1 christian-to-other watcher, to a very small minority-to-a large majority, if an Islamic prayer were said.

The author's comparison is false, if we examined it on Benthamian felicific calculus, or any reasonable weighting to achieve a comparison between aggregate benefit and aggregate cost.

1 comment:

  1. America is still a free country and the pettiness of the invective in the Christian Science Monitor reflects more on the prejudice and shallowness of the author than on Drew Brees. If you don't like the speaker and are indifferent to the opportunity to hear from an accomplished person with different opinions from you then change the channel.

    Another aspect is that the athlete expressing an authentic thought may in fact be reflecting on a cause of their success. Decades of work in cognitive psychology has repeatedly demonstrated that positive "self-talk" as well as affirming beliefs contribute markedly to mood, self confidence, and ability/willingness to act in the world. Religious beliefs, regardless of whether factually true, factually untrue or where truth is untestable (as seems inherent from a Popperian view of religion) can have a positive or negative impact on ones self assessment, level of confidence or resilience which easily impacts on real world accomplishment. Belief that life is sacred and that an all-powerful being is on your side could pretty easily be seen to provide significant encouragement in trying circumstances. It is quite possible that ones Christian or existentialist or objectivist or other beliefs can be a factor in facilitating or even propelling great achievement. One is reminded of the comments of Solzhenitsyn in the "Gulag Archipelago" regarding the survival value of the Christian religion in that context or the comments of neurologist/psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl in his book on Logotherapy and note that challenges and vicissitudes are inherent in the human condition and that religious belief is often a support that makes the difference between survival and succumbing. It is obviously the case that one might have survived as well with different beliefs and affirmation is not unique to Christianity but in this case it happened to be a motive factor for Drew Brees and one need not be shy about making true factual statements in public (even at the risk of offending the politically correct). It could be that the comment of Drew Brees reflects a belief system that sustained him through his severe shoulder injury and other challenges to a moment of greatness. Or it could have been an authentic expression of his feelings at the moment. In either case the commenter from the Christian Science Monitor should either just get a life or change the channel.