Religious Sports At first impression it would normally be assumed there is little, if any, relationship between religion and sports. Sports are a competitive, dynamic, and to a great degree, group activity. Religion, on the other hand, is a non-competitive process based more on self-experience, It is hard to associate saying one's prayers in churches or temples with cheering for football teams in the World Cup. However, let us look at how sports came into being.
At the time when producing forces were so low that struggle for survival was all life meant, primitive people could not have sports only for fun. Athletic activities began as religious rites. Its roots were in man's desire to gain victory over foes seen and unseen, to influence the force of nature, and to promote fertility among his crops and cattle. Some original inhabitants in America and Africa still play games that they believe would bring rain and thus enable their crops to grow. From the day of its birth, sports was closely related to religion, In addition, in the ancient time, the most important athletic meetings of the Greeks were parts of religious festivals: the Olympic Games that were held in the honor of Zeus, king of the Greek gods. Ironically, the end of the ancient Olympic Games was a result of the religious convictions of the Roman emperor who had invaded Greece; he was a Catholic.
Proofs of the inter-influence between religion and sports in history were countless. However, as to modern sports, its relationship with religion is no more the same. It is concluded that it is not so much the forms of religion but the values of it that has been carried over into modern sports. A sport is not a religion in the same way that Christianity, Islam or Buddhism is a religion. However, these are not the only kinds of religion.
There are secular religions. civil religions. While it may be too superficial to suggest that sport has many of the characteristics of religion, such as gods, rituals, shrines, it is necessary and useful to list some of the elements of religion and see how they are imitated in the world of sports. According to J. Milton Yinger, a leading scholar in the sociology of religion, religion is "a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggle with those ultimate problems of human life. It is the refusal to capitulate to death, to give up in the face of frustration to allow hostility to tear apart one's human association". Thus, it is understood that basically religion makes life easier. Sports, too, helps people forget the painful reality.
The spirit of man, in sports and religion, is an exercise of personal venture into the scientifically unknown. Entering the sports arenas, people get and answer to the discontent they feel a response to the feeling that life is not all that it should be. From my own experience, students under great pressure of exams are easily subjected to such out of control of reality when exercising sports. None of the examine papers, parents' hope, teachers' urges remain important. Such is the so-called religious experience in sports. In the process, students usually are not aware of the concrete action they are taking because they are absorbed in something far greater than ordinary humanity.
Religions also direct the feeling most people have of danger, accident and chance-in a word, Fate. Human plans involve ironies. Our choices of the future are made with so little insight of nature that what we desire is often not the path to what we want. The decision we make with little attention turn out to be major turning points. Contrarily what we prepare for with great efforts never happens. Regions create powers greater than ourselves who magically invent something called "destiny" and make people reconcile to it.
Sports events are also full of uncertainties. It is true that as you sow, so will you reap. Nevertheless, the smallest incident may result in the complete change of the winners in the competition. To say "participating is most important" is another form of Fate, playing the role as the psyche's best defense against unpredictable disaster. Last, I would like to further clarify the cause of the religion element of sports. Sports flow outward into action from a deep natural impulse that is radically religious.
It is an impulse of freedom, a feeling of participation, and a respect for beauty, a longing for perfection. Sports are natural religions. Sports and religion, may be the two most long-lived human activities, really have a lot in common. What I analyze here mainly emphasizes on the spiritual level which is inclined to have the danger of being aloof from reality. However, as to China, things become subtler, for in the long history of China, there was never a religion that had dominated political or civil life. That has still much place for dispute.
It is only the religious aspect of sports has normally been ignored that I would like to raise it here. Still, further discussion is quite necessary. Branch, Rudolph, How Did Sports Begin New York: David Mc hey, 1990. Novak, Michael, The Joy of Sports. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1976. Yinger, J. Milton, Religion, Society and the Individual.
New York: Macmillan, 1957. S lusher, Howard, Man, Sport and Existence: A Critical Analysis. Lea&Feb iger, Malvern, Pennsylvania, 1967.