• The Olympics, Boxing, God, The US and the Russians

    Recently, at DC, I posted this:

    I’m loving the Olympics, I really am. I have even been to see some women’s volleyball and it was great. It has all been so well organised (and in so being, it’s great to put one up Mitt Romney for his silly comments). However, the good ole sporting problem raises its theological head. Who does God support?

    I was watching a boxing match which tied. This means that the judges’ individual scores were tied so it goes down to who the judges selected in their intuitive press of a button. This then meant that the two boxers were standing there in the middle of the ring with the referee for some minutes.

    What I particularly loved about the sight was when one boxer made the sign of the cross and looked to the heavens and then, perhaps on seeing the first boxer, the second boxer made the sign of the cross and looked to the heavens. They were both pleading for God’s favour to guide them to a win. What a dilemma for God! In the end, the British boxer Anthony Ogogo beat Ievgen Khytrov on a majority vote. What does this tell us?

    Well, clearly God prefers Britain to Ukraine.

    What I’d like to add to this also involved public displays of religiosity. There are two things which spring to mind. First, this quote from a USA athlete:

    “It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me,” says Gabby Douglas, 16 year-old Olympic gold medalist.


    Which invoked a torrent of comments on the Huff Post Religion facebook page for this quote and photo that amounted to a tirade of trite shite from people who are clearly incapable of using their rational brains. E.g.:

    That girl is just precious!!. Yes, she knows she is using her God given gifts to the fullest.


    Yuck. My tuppence worth amounted to:

    It’s just such bullshit. Does she thank God for the millions of people with terminal cancer? Does she thank God for all the starving children? She reminds me of the plane crash survivor, the one out of two hundred, who thanks God for their survival without recognising that God allowed another 199 to die.


    And that pretty much sums that up. Just stupid. Do the other athletes thank God for losing to this person?

    And this brings me on to the second issue. The Russians. For a nation who have been brought up on a century of institutionalised atheism, they don’t half show a lot of religious piety and symbolism in their international athletes. They seem to have reacted to their own heritage like unruly and rebellious teenagers. The number of crosses on show around the necks of the Russian athletes beggared belief. From diving to running, there were genuine displays of religious adherence. They clearly had the cross per capita gold medal sown up.

    Atheism in Russia seems like a complex beast. As wiki says:

    There is a complex situation with atheism in Russia. According to a surveys of Levada Center, 22% of those surveyed self-described as non-religious, agnostic or atheist. Although there are 69% of Orthodox believers (and 5% Muslims) in Russia, just 10% regularly (at least once a month) attend the service.[24]


    Either way, it is interesting to see such religiosity which amounts to the idea that “God favours me and mine over everybody else”.

    Category: Demographics of religion


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce