Authored by: Jeffrey Scholes

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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Sport occupies a vast expanse in today’s popular culture landscape. Four of the top five most-watched programs in the history of American television are sporting events (Eames 2012). The scandals of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong lead the national nightly news. Yet rarely do people link sport and religion. But from the ancient Olympic games to the recent prayer-filled rituals of football player Tim Tebow, a relationship between the two most certainly exists. The intersection of religion and sport, though, is a strange one—what could athletic activity possibly have to do with spiritual matters? One might argue that sport has been thoroughly secularized; religion still deals with sacred things. It is therefore not surprising that statements about a relationship between religion and sport generate more questions than they do answers: “Are Sports Good for the Soul?”; “Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?” 1 But another set of questions emerges: How does religion relate to sport, if at all? Is sport a religion, or does the one have nothing to do with the other? And if there is a connection, what might it tell us about how they intersect as an expression of popular culture?

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