Religious leaders pray next to Olympic Flag by Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Religious leaders pray next to Olympic Flag by Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

I am regularly despondent because of the evil perpetrated by religious people. Religions make such lofty claims – and the result is so often the opposite: disunity, acrimony, not listening to each other, violence, abuse,… – the list goes on, In Real Life, and in the Digital World. Online groups of self-proclaimed “Bible Believing” Christians spend most of their energy arguing with each other – clearly the Bible is not as clear as each of them declares. And there surely is no encouragement for a nonChristian to be attracted to a faith that is so fragmented – each declaring they hold the one truth. Then there was the recent attack I received online from about 8,000 people (Christians calling for my crucifixion, beheading, naming me as apostate and the antiChrist) because I dared to suggest in one tweet that we pray for Muslims as they began Ramadan. The fallout for me from that, two-and-a-half months later still continues.

So, as the Olympics is underway, I look to sport and see celebration of diversity, enjoyment of being human, concern for the environment (declared in the Opening Ceremony), nations at enmity meeting in friendship,…

I have written about sport being religion-like: with rituals, forming community, gathered around a symbol, giving meaning,… (see, for example, here, here, and here).

Now I see the results of sport as doing what religion appears not to be able to do…

But, perhaps I am naive.

I’m aware of cheating, of scandals, of financial issues in sport…

And then I come across an article such as Why I won’t be watching the Olympics by Ian Paul. And he highlights how the Games cost a fortune and often cripple the host city, that they create endemic corruption, promote unhealthy eating and drinking, don’t deliver a legacy, have a huge environmental impact, displace the poor, can encourage sex trafficking, and promote the narrative of competition.

From this, I return to a model that regularly helps me: powerful things are like a lever, magnifying good and bad. Money, sex, and power (for example) can be used for good or ill – great good, great evil. The internet is like that. Religion is like that. And, it seems, sport is like that.

What do you think?

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