Since the emergence of religious studies as a discipline in the latter half of the 20th century, the relationship between religion and sports has proven to be a complex subject ripe for inquiry. Whether experiencing the ritual of attending a baseball game, viewing an athlete attribute her prowess to a higher power, or evaluating the social dependence of sporting and religious institutions on one another, the cultural arena of athletic life has emerged as a rich deposit of devotional significance and popular practice.

Despite this richness, however, many of the field's foundational matters remain unsettled; critics even continue to debate the meanings of the words “religion” and “sports.” Even with this and other ongoing definitional debates, two general patterns of assessment have emerged in the last ...

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