Bleacher Report’s 25 Most Religious Athletes December 3, 2011

Bleacher Report’s 25 Most Religious Athletes

As long as there have been superstar athletes, there have been fans who confuse being really good at a sport with being a really good person. We all want to believe that the men and women we watch on TV go home from a day of shooting three-pointers to buy their kids ice cream and adopt several puppies. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Time and again, the religious – even those who aren’t hardcore practitioners themselves – ascribe moral virtue on the basis of public piety.

Tim Tebow is trying to push this equation as far as it can go. Despite being kind of awful at football, his pro athlete, pro-Jesus status is drawing plenty of admiration. Take, for example, this starry-eyed letter from a retired professional water skier:

His life reminds me that champion’s [sic] aren’t people who never fail or never fall, rather, they are individuals who get up, get back in the game, and fight to the end. Champion’s [sic] are people who don’t let the odds defeat them, the nay-sayers discourage them, or the clock of life cause them to panic. Lastly, the life of Tim Tebow reminds me that with God, nothing is impossible!

Clearly, the co-incidence of sports skill and piety creates paragons of moral virtue, which explains why Tim Tebow starred in an anti-choice Focus on the Family ad. Fortunately, we can test our hypothesis further, thanks to Bleacher Report’s list of the 25 Most Religious Athletes.

To be fair, many of the athletes on that list give back admirably to their communities. Retired NBA player Dikembe Mutombo does humanitarian work in his native Congo. Former NFL star Deion Sanders mentors kids through Boys & Girls Club of America.

Others, like retired basketball player A.C. Green, have their own charities that do charming things like advocate abstinence-only sex education. Former MLB slugger Jeff Kent donates to political causes near and dear to his heart, like the passing of Proposition 8. And then there’s Carl Everett:

During his career Everett had numerous nasty altercations with umpires and had said of the possibility of having an openly gay teammate that he would “set him straight” because “Gays being gay is wrong” and that he “doesn’t believe in being gay.”


It actually feels kind of wrong to call Everett “religious” after all that; more like intolerant psychopathic behavior masquerading as “religion.”

I don’t know if that qualifies as “masquerading.” I mean, that stuff is in the rulebook. So is his not-believing-in-dinosaurs schtick, although holding a gun to his wife’s head would probably have been enough to earn him a reprimand.

Just goes to show, yet again, that pass-throwing and verse-reciting skills don’t correlate to moral virtue. Compassion and rationality, however, do.

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  • Revyloution

    As I mentioned over at Unreasonable Faith,  no internet atheist should mention Tebow without tipping the hat to Tilman.

  • InsideTheSkull

    Great man. Have you ever read “Where Men Win Glory” by Jon Krakauer? Gives a lot of interesting details about Tillman’s life.

  • InsideTheSkull

    What Tebow fanboys don’t seem to realize is that nobody would be ripping on him if he were actually any good. Kurt Warner is just as devoutly and I suppose you could say obnoxiously Christian as Tebow, but no one says anything about him because HE WAS AWESOME AT FOOTBALL.

  • With God, nothing is impossible, except a grown person knowing how to use apostrophes correctly… seriously, who has a column on a newspaper’s site and doesn’t even know how to form a standard English plural? 
    (The Law of Grammar Nitpicking states that I will have made a very serious grammar error in this post as divine retribution for wasting everyone’s time complaining, but me can’t see it.)

  • Note that Everett also doesn’t believe in dinosaurs among other things.  He thinks they were faked by dinosaurs. 

  • Kevin S.

    Picked that up in the airport on a whim because I needed something to read on the beach and I’ve been a fan of Krakauer’s previous work.  This may be the best one his written yet.  Incredibly powerful.

  • I’m looking forward to the Denver/ Bears game next week.

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t give a fart what Tim Tebow believes or not. I’m simply certain that an athlete, especially a football player, that was as outspoken about his atheism as Tebow is about his faith would most likely be placing his career in jeopardy.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that is great. Let’s all send it to Tim.

  • Brian-sama

    I dunno.  It’s funny to see Tebow “honor God” precisely because he’s not all that great of a QB, but it’s just as obnoxious to see someone who actually has remarkable talent give all credit for said talent to somebody else.

  • ed-words

    I could only make it through the first four. It’s so depressing.

    ( Were any rasslers on the list?)

  • Drew M.

    You guys just chose my next Kindle download!

  • Anton

    I shall remember forever the ridiculous sight of Tebow crying on the sidelines when, in spite of his bible quotations,  his team lost. We should be thankful he lost, otherwise we might have been witnessing the “second coming”!

  • Ktg

    I’d just like to mention that, as a Niner fan, I follow quite a few Niners on Twitter. I noticed the other day that Anthony Davis, OT, number 76, was following Neil Degrasse Tyson. Then Bill Nye. Then he retweeted someone with the out campaign “A” as their profile picture. I hope that someday we can have a list of openly secular or atheist pro athletes.

  • Thanks for that bit of fact. I didn’t know this.

  • Netflix has “The Tilman Story”   —good movie.

  • Mike Williams

    If I remember correctly, there was a lot of blaming teammates and coaches; nary a mention of Jesus during that interview.  At least Colt McCoy was able to thank god and his “plan” after a loss.

    FYI that Tebow moment was after Florida lost to Alabama in the SEC champio0nship game two years ago.

  • walkamungus

    Well, it’s mostly “the most religious pro athletes that show up regularly on the sports page.” Except for the lone golfer (god doesn’t care about golf, maybe?), it’s football/basketball/baseball ad nauseum. No “minor” sports, jockeys, auto racers, or rodeo cowboys (the first group I thought of when I read the headline). 

    A couple of years back, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee wrote that he really hated seeing athletes pointing at the sky, as if god had anything to do with their success — but he figured that after a bull rider successfully got off a two-thousand-pound animal without getting hurt, thanking god was probably appropriate.  😉

  • Steven

    I have to say, Tebow may not be as good a QB in terms of your standard quarterbacking skills. But whether you like it or not, the guy is what… 5 and 1, 6 and 1 as the Broncos QB? The team has flourished around him and his playmaking ability. You can argue whatever you want, but you can’t argue his record as a starting QB.

  • good and godless

    If god was really real – praying for your team would be classified as cheating and illegal. Asking your “Cousin Vinny” to make sure the other team loses, even in the planning stage is illegal.  Tolerance by society of sporting prayer is testimony any result is accepted as impossible. There are more Atheists than admit it. 

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