"As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans -- as many as 70 million Americans -- believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome," Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones said in a statement. "Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game." Football fans were the most likely to pray for their own teams to win, with 33 percent saying they ask God to intervene in games, compared to 21 percent of fans of other sports. They were also more likely to think their teams were cursed (31 percent compared to 18 percent) and to take part in rituals before or during games (25 percent to compared to 18 percent).
A national survey was recently released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that roughly half of Americans who watch sports believe supernatural forces help guide games' outcomes -- either through the efficacy of prayer, curses, or rituals -- and football fans believe this in greater numbers than fans of other sports (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
Also note, the same survey found that a plurality of Americans (48%) believe religious athletes will be rewarded with divine success and health by virtue of their religiosity.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced a congressional resolution this week that proposes the designation of Feb. 12 as "Darwin Day" and criticizes religious opposition to modern biology and climate science. The measure is H.Res. 467 and it's unlikely to get a vote in the House anytime soon.
* An unsettling story out of Sabine Parish, La.: "A Louisiana teacher who taught her sixth grade class that evolution is 'impossible' and that the bible is '100 percent true' ridiculed a Buddhist student during class and announced that those who don't believe in god are 'stupid,' according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana."
* Another Catholic diocese is seeking Chapter 11 protection, this time in Montana: "The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Mont., filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday to pave the way for a $15 million settlement of lawsuits alleging clergy members sexually abused 362 children over five decades, according to a diocese spokesman."
* And in Italy, a piece of cloth stained with the blood of the late Pope John Paul was stolen this week, though as NBC News reported yesterday, the police recovered it soon after, finding the fragment in the garage of two men who were detained for having stolen the reliquary last week.