Classifying sport as spiritual in postmodern times

21 Jan Classifying sport as spiritual in postmodern times

This paper will look at the problem of if sport can be classed as a religion? It’ll then go on to discuss the implications this may have on religious beliefs and societies beliefs, searching especially at the sporting function of football. Where in fact the paper speaks of faith it will refer to the Christian religions that are widely practiced in britain (UK), unless usually stated.

The paper will check out various definitions of faith, from a traditional and postmodern perspective together with briefly examining the term postmodern. After this arguments both for and against the idea above and any similarities in the values, rituals, beliefs and practices that football and classic Christian religions in the united kingdom hold will be explored. It is important to pull comparisons between religious life and that of a supporter of footballs life to fully understand if soccer is religious. I shall endeavour to examine such notions as does classing football as a religion take away the sacredness of religion or is it positive and progressive that persons can choose their private religions rather than just being lead, or following traditions passed on from generation to era.

There are various definitions of religious. In fact within Sociology it is popular that sociologists cannot agree on a single complete explanation. For the benefit for this paper the definitions quoted here shall come from sociological or religious organisations. Below you can think about various definitions of religion, even if it is only to get a sense of how vast and different the interpretations could be.

Emile Durkheim defined religion as "a unified program of beliefs and methods relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral network called a Church those who stick to them." This statement could possibly be linked to traditional belief devices and religions also to sporting events, especially football mainly because will be explored later on in this paper.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary postmodernism is normally described as "a past due 20th -century style and notion in the arts, architecture, and criticism, which symbolizes a departure from modernism and is usually seen as a the self-conscious usage of earlier types and conventions, a blending of different artistic styles and media , and a general distrust of theories." In sociology the term postmodern has been defined as "argues against the idea of objective truth" So, kind this it may be argued that if postmodernism can be against the thought of a truth, then religious beliefs, as we’ve known it, can enjoy no component in a post modern society. Religion would, at least be individualistic and would offer customers of society the possibility to interpret ‘religion’ as a personal belief system and way of life.

Postmodern views on religion are far taken off a few of the more ‘traditional’ opinions within the UK. Before you can understand ant definition of religion via postmodern terms one must look to outline postmodernism. Again, this is hard to pin down as a result of many variations. The post modern era, is for most the time frame post world war two (WW2). Postmodernists would state that contemporary society is in a continuous state of change, it is ever evolving. As a result there are no absolute truths, only relative ones. Basically every individual shall choose their private set of beliefs, ideals and understandings that shall change ‘religion’ since it has been known. One could explain it as a ‘pick and mix’ where a person takes from each traditional religion what they like, figure out or believe and, in effect, create an individual religion that they and they alone are in one with. Where traditional religions would mean the coming jointly of communities in post modern times if the people are’ ‘picking and mixing’ then there is absolutely no formal meeting place for them to worship as they usually do not fit into one set religion.

According to Furlong & Cartmel (sociology introductory readings 2001) "postmodernists such as for example Lyotard and Baudrilland argue that latest social changes have already been so far-reaching that it’s no longer possible to predict individual life chances or patterns of behaviour. Therefore they reject the validity of social science and key ideas such as class and race" Religious beliefs can be applied to this idea, as religion is definitely a key concept in the way one lives their lives, the groups they belong to and the moral and spiritual beliefs that they hold.

Parry (2007) argued that, spirituality came about in force during the 20th century. Spirituality was originally connected with a formal religion, but came up postmodernism, and along with it many people developed their own opinions of religion, which is currently more often described as spirituality. Spirituality in sport differs for each and every individual involved, from the sensation of exhilaration and exhaustion triggered pushing the body to its limits, right through to a masses of supporters who’ve returned with their own ‘church’ to support their own religion.

Janet Leaver ( Sport customs and society, 2006) claims that "Athletics is one institution that holds along the people of a metropolis and heightens their attachment to a locale……The pomp and pageantry of sport spectacles develop pleasure and arouse fervour, performing for the people of the metropolis what spiritual ceremonies do for individuals in communal societies"

The sociologist Karl Marx once explained, ""Religion may be the sigh of the oppressed creature, the center of heartless circumstances, the soul of a soulless globe. It is the opiate of the persons." However,as the community evolved and persons realised that they had a choice. Subsequently, Illya McLellan explained in the article known as ‘The Cult Of Football: A Religious beliefs for the Twentieth Hundred years and Beyond(September 2008)’ "But as the environment moved on from this time there arose a fresh opiate of the persons and, in its own way, a new religion. A religion that would in a few ways inspire more devotion and fervour than its tired counterparts which were still mired in the doctrines of yesteryear."

Briefly moving away from to UK to feel on our neighbours in the usa of America (USA) Harry Edwards (1973) argued that the universal "popular" faith of the united states is, actually sports. To be considered a religious beliefs, sport must hold many characteristics that are likewise common within religious beliefs. Edwards states that there are thirteen factors that sport shares with faith. This paper will right now continue to examine some of these thirteen characteristics, along with other characteristics that paper holds in large regard when comparing the two subjects, and ultimately show how sport can, at least show startling similarities between the two .

The research that has been conducted as a way to compile this paper possesses seen many, many similarities between soccer and religion. Below one can look at what you can argue are the perceived key concerns and similarities between the religion and sport – specifically football. As one can easily see the info provided below is fairly compelling in answering section of the paper subject ‘In postmodern occasions can sport be classed as spiritual?’

Coming collectively as a community

Within traditional Church adjustments the Church community has always held superb importance; this extends to such organisations as the neighborhood Church fates, women’s church groups and youth clubs that center on their shared beliefs and faith. Within a soccer environment these past moments have been replaced by the ‘drink up down the pub’ ahead of a match, the appointment to organise the away events and such like. The community is centred on their follower’s beliefs and faith.

Places of worship and pilgrimages

Within the Church network it is anticipated that the worshippers have a place they can call their religious house, somewhere they are able to reflect after their religion and travel to regularly to hear the term of God. Within soccer this Church could be substituted for the ‘residence ground’ the soccer stadium of the followers team where they are able to attend to worship their crew and call up their spiritual home. It could be argued that football even has its own Cathedrals in the guise of locations such as for example Wembley stadium, and possibly for some this may be considered a pilgrimage

Belief Systems.

Within soccer belief is a crucial part of football faith and tradition. Every Saturday as the group in top job of the Premier Group undertake the relegation favourites there will be thousands of people inclined and believing that, against all chances their team should come through. They maintain faith and belief that their workforce are the ideal, that their faith will see them through. The ambiance comprises of the chanting and singing and several other rituals that will, ideally turn their beliefs into a reality after ninety a few minutes. Much in the manner that a traditional religious person will believe that each goes to Church to end up being close to God, therefore the football fan believes

that by attending week in week out their group will have support and the faith to go on and win the three factors each staff supporter believes they should have. Edwards (1973), claims that both religion and sport have got a formal set of beliefs that its attendees must adhere to. Fans are told to have faith in their group in testing times, simply just as Church attendees are expected to turn to their faith in instances of need.

Gods and Saints v managers and players

Religions pray to, and have confidence in their God and Saints, within football the fans idolise, and on occasion, chant and sing tunes of praise about their players or managers. This could be regarded as a distinct difference between traditional religions and football. However you can argue that fans of classic faiths can, did, and do in some cases change their beliefs. Illustrations that spring to mind happen to be when Christianity split between Rome and Constantinople therefore formed the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Another case in point could possibly be when Martin Luther split to create the Protestant Church as a revolt against Catholic Doctrine. However, it should be said that within soccer splits, changes and thoughts do change much quicker compared to the traditional religious good examples cited here.

Symbols. The Cross and chain v the look-alike kit

Within traditional religious communities it is common to look at Church-goers adorning a cross on a chain and several attendees is seen to clutch Rosary Beads. Some cross and chain wearers will, at times, be observed to kiss their cross as a symbol of faith, or for direction and re-assurance. Within the religious beliefs of football the cross can be exchanged for the staff colours in the form of scarves, badges, flags and look-alike shirts….and football supporters can often be viewed to kiss the crest of their club that appears on the scarves and t shirts they wear.

Rituals and Hymns v rituals and chants

When a football fan enters their house ground they’ll be welcomed with the familiar chants of their chosen team. A lot of such chants will focus on club history, wonderful victories, golf club saints and heroes, the well-known pilgrimage to Wembley – not forgetting the chants they save specifically to rejoice when their team scores that important aim. Within the Church community these chants and music are replaced by hymns that rejoice in the name of Jesus and God.

Football offers a ritualistic weekend gathering for the devoted, as does indeed Church and for the additional lax followers they are able to catch up on match of the day, some may say it’s the football followers Tunes of Praise. This extremely statement implies that football could be practiced between the masses, or more in private – like night time prayers for the considerably more traditional religious believers.


According to Stephen Tompkins in his document ‘Matches made in Heaven’ he claims that "September can be football’s Christmas, a joyful special event of fresh birth after a time of year of expectant waiting…… The close of season brings Easter’s mix of grief and (when you are lucky) triumph, accompanied by the long Lenten amount of summer. As one can see out of this citation the similarities between spiritual festivals and sports are evident.

Celtic v Glasgow Rangers religious beliefs and soccer can unite and divide

It has been said that religion has been the reason for wars throughout the world, due to diverse people’s ideologies and beliefs. The same could be said for soccer if we seem at what’s the most famous rivalry in the united kingdom Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. Rangers Football club is definitely portrayed as a ‘Catholic’ soccer team and Celtic will always be portrayed as a Protestant soccer team. If one was to look at the BBC News website ( they would see that there is articles named "A rivalry tied up in religion". This content goes on to state that is certainly such deeply rooted in supporters that "The mutual animosity was outlined four years back when some Celtic supporters started flying Palestinian flags and some Rangers supporters responded by fluttering Israeli flags. " Lever comments a Celtic fan "may look his Catholicism most strongly" when he faces a Rangers fan. It is important that paper highlighted the actual fact that religion and football are already walking (or battling) together within the united kingdom.

Obviously there are organizations that will argue what features been divulged up to now within this paper is not religion, but an organization of people who how to write a summary paper: there’s nothing simpler‘ve a feeling of belonging within a community, but that will not make the activity religious in its right. The Church would be the initial to argue that soccer is not religious as it will not worship God or Jesus.

Michael Novak argues "a good sport is not a religion just as that Methodism, Presbyterianism, or Catholicism is a religion…these are not the only kinds of religion. There happen to be secular religions, civil religions" (Novak 18). Sports can easily fulfil the position that faith plays in world if the people seeking that spiritual affect enable it.

One might even go as considerably to assess footballs rites of passage to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Specific things like baptism could possibly be substituted for the initial meet, confirmation for the attendance your first match independently of your father and mother. Confession could be substituted for the after match research, where you admit your crew could perform better and that you feel you begin to question your very own faith. Indeed, some people are actually indoctrinated into soccer and the following of a particular team from a young age. Followers could also, in extreme instances face fear in the idea of informing their father and mother that they no more desire to follow ‘their’ group and wish to follow another, much just as some Catholics may experience fear in desperate to transform to the Protestant faith or vice versa.

"It really is clear that the even more closely we analyze the mystique of activities, psychologically and functionally, the considerably more we have a tendency to use religious language to describe it. And no wonder: from its beginning athletics was regarded as a religious cult…"-Cornish Rodgers, The Christian Century

As this paper offers shown football is indeed a religion to numerous people around the UK and many similarities could be drawn between sport and religious beliefs. They meet within their thousands weekly at the 92 soccer league grounds around the UK to profess their faith and beliefs with their fellow believers . I feel that, the notion that football could be classed as religion is true for all the reasons explored above.

Of course there will be people who disagree with my results, but these people is going to be of a Church community. In the 21st Century, sport does certainly fulfil the most typical definition of religious beliefs as a system of beliefs and methods where a group of folks struggles with the best problems of human life. "Religion doesn’t have clear-cut physical homes, nor are its people readily ascertained and agreed upon" (McGuire 1987, Religion: The social context)

Now, what does indeed this mean for religious beliefs and beliefs in culture? No doubt that it means that the original norms and ideals of society possess shifted, congregating in Church to pray to God has, for a few, been replaced with assembly on the terraces to cheer on their local football teams. Undoubtedly, if sport is certainly a religion it’ll, for some get rid of the sacredness that religions have previously held. But, can be that because of the fact that religion, as the UK has traditionally known it, is certainly redundant and has shifted to give way to spirituality. The city of religion is comparable to that of sport

For many, the get worried lies in the actual fact that footballs moral teachings aren’t in line with what contemporary society needs for direction and reassurance. It is imperative that people do consider some moral instruction from the teachings of the Church and the Ten Commandments; nonetheless it could be argued that the law within the UK can draw immediate comparisons to the Commandments themselves. By making the decision to not follow the law the average person faces the risk to be held in custody. Therefore, maybe the moral underpinning that the Church teaches could be sought and trained by various other mediums?

It should be said that although soccer is, for many, classed as a religious beliefs I can see no data that sport answers a number of the age old inquiries of what happens to us after death and the likes…but maybe the post-modern culture that we now stay in produces such ponderings redundant so therefore there is no longer the need answers to such concerns? Finally, if I experienced to categorise sport I would ideally prefer to say that football is extra spiritual than religious, but as we have explored that religion does not really fit in with a post society. It is up to the given individual to find what is for them, a spiritual trip.


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