Tuesday, July 16, 2013

God and Behavior

If you decided one day that you did not believe in God, would your every day behavior become any different than it had been when you were a believer?

I remember that Bob Cousy used to cross himself before he took a foul shot. I still see players say prayers or make the sign of the cross before an at-bat or important kick.  I recall being on a very very bumpy flight in late April and feeling a sense that it was time to get religion.  The best whodunnit novel of all time in my opinion is, Presumed Innocent.  At one point, the lead suspect and first person narrator of the novel, is reeling from the sense that there was no way out of his crisis. He leaves an office building and is faced with the steamy weather of a hot Chicago day. Dazed from the accusations and the situation, he says (and I paraphrase) God, who I do not believe in, please help me.

In sports the praying to God, and the expressions of gratitude to God when a team is successful is troubling to me.  No matter what religion you believe in, I can't imagine that religion supports the idea that God will help you win.  If God were to do so--help you win--it would mean, of course, that God was helping someone else to lose.  God could not help one team at the expense of another  (though the success of the 1969 Mets is a counterargument).  But despite what seems to me at least to be incontrovertible logic, people do pray to God to help them win.

And I wonder if the consideration when they do so is this:  "if I don't pray to God and acknowledge God before the game, then She or He will take offense and then I will be at a disadvantage when I compete."

So, I go back to the original question. If you became a non-believer one day, would your behavior change subsequently and consequently?


  1. Hi Zeke. I don't know if anyone suddenly becomes a non-believer. It took me some painful months back in the fifth grade. If you haven't already, check out Feinsteins Season on the Brink. During some important game at half time Bobby Knight saw one of his stars praying in the corner of the locker room. If I recall correctly, he grabbed the fellow and yelled "don't you know God doesn't care if Indiana wins or not" I imagine athletes engaged in the "cross" business are hoping to do their best.

  2. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to post comments. I did read A Season on the Brink, though I did not remember that section. Loved the book. I also read a book by Steve Alford called Playing for Knight in which he wrote that every single word in the Feinstein book was true. His only quibble was that the prior season was more of a season on the brink than the one Feinstein had written about.