Religion and Sports

One of my more interesting classes to teach is Religion & Sports.  In the past five years I have taught it perhaps as much as I have taught my own subject area of ancient Judaism and Christianity.  I am trying to build a page here for resources for anyone who is interested in studying the various intersections, entanglements, and oppositions one can find between religious commitment and athletic competition.

The relationship between athletic competition and religious worship is as old as the Olympics in ancient Greece.  Why do some religions encourage athletic competition, while others see playing or even watching sports as incompatible with religious life?  How do specific religious commitments conflict with athletic competition?  How and why do some religions borrow athletic imagery to describe the religious life?  How do sports borrow religious imagery?

I plan to explore  the role of sports in several religions from antiquity to the present, from ancient Greece to contemporary America.  I will focus mostly on Jews, Christians, and Muslims – because I know more about those religions – examining the relationship between their religious commitments and athletics.  Finally, I will think about how athletics and religion often take on each other’s qualities to the point that sports can – sometimes – be analyzed as a form of religion.


Here is a list of films that I often use and think about in terms of the varied interconnections of religion and sports.  If there are films that are “missing” – that may be important to include but are missing here, please let me know in a comment on that page.  I am trying to keep to commercial feature films that would have appeared in theaters.  As time permits, I will start featuring blog posts on each film and link them there.

%d bloggers like this: