Why religion and organised sports are essentially the same thingToday, I was going through hand me down bags in my youngest's closet, and found a few things that had missed the first round of hand me down cuts. Most of these were sports oriented, and like most sports related things, go to the clothing bank unworn by my kids. I couple of times the people handing stuff down to us express surprise at this. Aside from the fact that nothing screams "POOR" like putting your kid in a shirt for a school or sports team they have no connection to, my kids are as likely to wear a soccer shirt and the kids of my militant atheist friends are to sport crucifixes, and for pretty much the same reasons.
Why? It's simple. It's become clear to me over the years that in more ways than not, organised religion and sports fill the same niche in our society. I'm sure to upset people by saying this, but let's look at the similarities:
Both have a regular meeting time. Sunday morning? Monday night? If it's your things, you block out that time slot.
Allegiance to a particular group: Many religious groups stay with the same denomination or congregation all their lives. Sports fans have similar loyalties, often remaining fans of a team after they move across the country
Willing to demonize "the others" : How many times have you heard members of one denomination refer to those with different beliefs as "heretics", or say they're going to Hell or worse? And what about sports fans? I once heard a Husky's fan say he'd like to nuke Eastern Washington just to get rid of the Cougars.
At their best, they provide camaraderie, something to look forward to, and inspire people to make the world a better place. If you're volunteering or giving to charity, does it matter if you do it for reasons related to what your church or sports organization is doing? No.
At their worst, they can hide the most egregious abuses. The Catholic and Penn State sex abuse tragedies were entirely the same: organizations that let children be abused in an attempt to shield the greater organization.
The takeaway? Humans all have certain needs, and we will meet them: camaraderie, purpose, short term events to look forward to, and a unifying purpose. We will meet then in a variety of ways: sports, religion, fraternal organizations, comic book conventions, (or some combination thereof!) and unless someone tries to push their own on us (a football team jacket we once had to forcibly refuse comes to mind), we should pretty mush leave others alone to enjoy their thing.