“When you sacrifice for God,” Ray Lewis cries – “AFC Champions” hat and t-shirt clinging to his impressive frame, “he will give you anything your heart desires.”
Even Ray Lewis should in theory admit if pressed I’m sure, that no matter how hard a mere mortal like me exercises and believes in God and watches film, I will never make an NFL team, let alone become a two time Super Bowl champion. Dominate rec league? Sure. Squeek onto the bench of a division 2 college football team? If you’re feeling particularly optimistic about my two left feet and work ethic maybe? The NFL? Not in a million years.
The operating word here is should. If pressed, I believe that many professional athletes would simply refuse to admit this.
I couldn’t find anything to back up the famous urban legend of “6 in 10 men think they could have gone pro” if not for (insert reason), but anonymous polling consistently shows a shockingly high amount of people who think they could have been a professional athlete if not for injury, bad coaching, bad luck, this reason or that.
Assuming that polling data is fairly representative of actual human belief, then it’s hardly, I think, that much of a stretch to assume the opposite is also somewhat true, that many professional athletes also think that hard work and dedication to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a bigger factor in success than natural talent.
When we think of the stereotypical bible thumping athlete, we tend to think of football players because of the very socially conservative culture around football in general, a sport that is still deeply offended by Colin Kaepernicks’ refusal to cooperate with paid advertisement by the U.S Department of Defense. I want to shift gears here and focus mostly on the NBA, which has largely been praised for its athletes engagement with community service and for the league’s socially progressive stances and forward thinking business decisions.
Steph Curry thinks the moon landing is fake.
Yeah. That’s a thing.
It was really weird when Kyrie Irving randomly professed that he thought the Earth was flat, but we all knew he was kind of a weirdo. Since then, NBA players and former players have come out of the wordwork to, profess on some level, that science is bullshit.
And that’s really scary.
For an influencial group of people that are supposed to be on the side of progressives and leftists, it is a type of thinking we would associate with the far right, whether it is Republicans in congress refusing to accept climate science because their oil executive donors don’t want to invest in clean energy initiatives, or the average Trump voter’s belief in ridiculous conspiracies like pizzagate. Denying the moon landing like Steph Curry is no different in thought process from denying that the Holocaust or U.S Slavery ever happened, two historically events that happened even longer ago with less documentation.
There’s something that most of the players I linked to above have in common, something a large majority of athletes have in common. Most athletes are very religious.
It’s not fair or accurate to state that religious people are stupid or scientifically illiterate, but it’s also not accurate to suggest their isn’t a strong correlation between Religion and scientific illiteracy. This has been true since Galileo Galilei was persecuted by the catholic church for correctly deducing that the sun was the center of the solar system rather than the Earth. Modern religious authority attacks evolution and vaccination because the layout of the solar system has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The reasoning is fairly basic: the bible depicts acts that are scientifically impossible. Jesus turns one loaf of bread into several. Einstein says mass cannot be created nor destroyed. Einstein says mass cannot be created from nothing. Either Einstein is wrong or the bible is.
The “loophole” is, to some degree, to believe in the bible as a “metaphor” or an “anecdote” rather than completely literally. Almost every religious person in America does this to a significant degree. Most Christians are not preaching against the use of mixed fabric clothing.
This sort of value system flexibility when combined with a base assumption that must by its very nature deny science to some degree is how dangerous ideologies based entirely outside the realm of facts and reality are formed.
Let us consider the day to day lives of the average professional athlete. We know that most of them are, as discussed before, varying levels of religious. We also know, through plentiful anecdotes, that most professional athletes tend to be very sexually promiscuous. If you are an NFL or NBA athlete, your career essentially prohibits you from being able to participate in Sunday service for a large portion of the year. If you are an NFL athlete, your job requires you to inflict violence on other people for money. These are all massive generalizations of course. Steph Curry is, as far as we know, a dedicated monogomous family man.
However, for the sake of discussion, let us assume these well known steroetypes and values are fairly common among professional athletes. Let’s call this nebulous, contradictory moral system Ur-Athletism – a sort of generic version of what many athletes believe about the world on some level. This Ur-Athletism and the more well known race driven ideology of Republicans and the Alt-right are driven by the same set of urges. They are both ideologies designed to assume the believers are 100% justified in every action and never need to make any life changes to improve themselves.
The value system of Ur-Athletism assumes that the professional athlete was able to succeed in their profession almost purely on their willpower, dedication, and faith in god. It largely ignores the inherent physical gifts bestowed upon them by pure, random genetic chance, as well as ignores the miraculous luck of avoiding career derailing injuries such as Achilles tears or severe concussions. (This luck is instead often contributed to god). Traditional Christianity preaches the importance of sexual abstinence until marriage. It preaches the importance of attending church regularly, of donating as much of your wealth to charity as reasonably possible, and of non-violence. Believers in Ur-Athletism typically ignore these teachings of traditional Christianity because to do otherwise would be to admit that they are flawed, and Ur-Athletism is inherently designed to assume its believers are flawless and don’t need to change their lifestyle in anyway.
Likewise, the value system of the average Trump supporter assumes that white males are economically superior in this country not because of systematic advantages, but because of genetic superiority. Further, the Trump value system assumes that any white male not succeeding is not due to any fault of his own, but rather various conspiracies enacted by the “undesirables’ (Women, Minorities, homosexuals etc.) to unfairly malign them even though they are clearly superior by deifnition of their white manlihood. This value system is also designed so that the believer is always 100% right and never needs to adjust their way of life.
I am not suggesting that Steph Curry is a neo-nazi. What I am suggesting is that Steph Curry came to the conclusion we did not land men on the moon using the same logic as neo-nazis do to assume black people are inferior.
The conclusion to all this is that if Steph Curry, someone who is much more successful at what he does than I can ever hope to be and who is probably a much more morally upstanding person than I am can come to scientific conclusions on neo-nazi logic, than it is incredibly important to apply a constant skepticism to our own values. It’s incredibly important to practice constant intellectual curiousity.
We can only break others out of a similar cycle of thinking if we do it to ourselves first.