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Religion With Sports and Politics

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"Politics has come to be considered not only inappropriate in the arena of sports, but actually antithetical to it," Zirin says

"We want so much to see sports solely as an arena of play, not seriousness. But here's the thing, this can cheapen not only the greatness and relevance of sports to us as a society, but also the courage of the athletes" (The Nation). The pursuit of fame, wealth and status can blind the human conscious, which is why it is important for us to encourage athletes to speak their minds. As a nation, we should not silence the athletes, because it is the truly courageous athletes who have the audacity to stand up when it’s not popular.

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Political participation refers to voting, lobbying, convincing others to vote and other related activities. In most cases, the most dominant measure of political participation is the number of people who turn out on voting day. A number of reasons have been postulated to explain why participation in political activity is high in certain groups and low in others. Factors such as lack of awareness, community beliefs and values, cultural factors, and missing fundamentals in a political system have been put forward to explain political participation. In this paper focus will more on religious influence on political participation rather than on all the other factors. Of all these, the cultural and religious factors stand out as the most influential. On a more definite scale, religion is the most outstanding factor as it forms the basis for most belief systems. This paper attempts an assessment of various denominations such as Roman Catholic, Muslim, Protestant and other minor religious groups. While there has been a lot of research on the influence of socioeconomic and education on political participation and especially turnout, there has been little research focused on the effect of religion. Given the growing relevance of religion in the world, it is necessary for sociologists to study religion in relation to political participation. Discussion on the topic is typically divided into two main strands. One school of thought postulates that religion, especially the major mainstream churches decreases the probability of participation due to theological issues. Secondly religion restricts women participation in politics by assigning gender roles and duties. The other school of thought postulates that participation depends on religious affiliation, tradition or denomination in question. The United States is a highly religious society as compared to its counterparts in other developed countries

For instance, a visitor from Europe once asserted that religion seemed to be hugely influential in American public life as he saw religious messages nearly everywhere. For instance, he saw a sign of on a bumper of a delivery truck informing pedestrians of Jesus. Later he observed a notice on a lawn requesting passers by to call a toll free number if they were in need of prayers.

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Sport, religion, and spirituality intersect in diverse ways. Scholarship exploring the intersections of sport, spirituality and religion has been growing at a fast pace in recent years (Watson and Parker 2013). This growth may be partly explained by a move away from organized religion towards secularism. Not all countries are seeing a decline of organized religion but such a decline is becoming increasingly evident in parts of the United States and the United Kingdom, the contexts for most of the essays in this Special Issue of Religions. As the body of interdisciplinary scholarly work addressing these intersections increases, more questions and insights are being generated, as evidenced in this collection. The scholars who have contributed articles to this Special Issue include experts in: sports studies; health, human performance and recreation; religion; Christian theology; philosophy; Judaism; rehabilitation therapy; and history

While most of the essays in this issue employ theoretical approaches, Robert Ellis, Terry Shoemaker, Andrew Parker and Mark Oliver also use social scientific research methods. The authors’ diverse expertise and research methods yield fascinating new questions and postulations that expand this field of inquiry.Eric Bain-Selbo and Gregory Sapp do an excellent job, in their 2016 book Understanding Sport as a Religious Phenomenon—An Introduction, establishing that sports have the capacity to achieve ends similar to those achieved by organized religions (Bain-Selbo and Sapp 2016).

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Finally, isolating the direct influence of religion on politics is particularly challenging and not without limitations. But these types of causality-oriented analyses are important because they help confirm and challenge scholars’ understanding of where religion fits into the mix of factors that shape political attitudes and behaviors. I believe that the empirical results derived from the methodological design presented here provide a good starting point. The results imply that, at times, Americans’ religion plays a small role in the development of their politics. But, according to the data and design used here, religion has a far weaker effect on politics than many cross-sectional studies find.

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Bain-Selbo, Eric, and Gregory D. Sapp. 2016. Understanding Sport as a Religious Phenomenon—An Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Trothen, Tracy J. 2018. Spirituality, Sport, and Doping: More Than Just a Game. Springer Briefs Sport and Religion Series; Basel: Springer International Publishing.

Watson, Nick J., and Andrew Parker. 2013. Sports and Christianity: Mapping the Field. In Sports and Christianity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Edited by Nick J. Watson and Andrew Parker. New York: Routledge, pp. 9–88.

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