Atheism and Religion at the Ol’ Ballgame
By Eric Jayne
The Minnesota Twins will be holding their first ever “Faith Night” at Target Field on Aug. 29. That’s exactly three weeks after the minor league St. Paul Saints hold “Atheist Night” at CHS Field. I’m certain that both games will be fun but since I’m from the expanding group of religiously unaffiliated (aka “nones”) I am most excited about the unbelievable brand of fun with the St. Paul Saints this Saturday. They are the only professional sports team in the country to hold such an event, but I’ve been wondering if the Twins and other sports teams will someday take advantage of the opportunities received by appealing to their own nonbelieving fans.
As in the previous three years, the St. Paul Saints will be secularized to the Mr. Paul Aints and the rebranded player jerseys will be auctioned off during the game from which proceeds will benefit Foundation Beyond Belief. Since a shoe drive was added to this year’s atheist-themed game (promoted as “Leave Your Soles at the Gate”) fans are asked to bring a pair of gently used shoes for donation to Soles4Souls, whose mission is to fight the devastating impact of poverty around the globe. As president of Minnesota Atheists I was excited to purchase tickets in the Infield Section (aka “Infidel” section) which sold out two weeks ago.
To be sure, I don’t resent the decision from the Twins to dedicate a night to the faithfully religious. I’m actually surprised that it took this long for it to happen since several other teams have done a similar event for years. Moreover, “God Bless America” has been performed with plenty of fanfare during the 7th inning stretch at every Sunday Twins home game for over a decade, so religious faith has been a part of Twins games since as far back as my kids can remember. I have never avoided Target Field due to this relatively new ecclesiastical display, and I don’t plan to avoid games in the future, but I would be grateful if the all-inclusive “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was the only hymn performed. Otherwise, if the religious elements remain it seems like a day designated to nonbelief would be a good step toward achieving evenhanded treatment.
Not only would that be fair, but with the rising number of Americans identifying as “religiously unaffiliated” (mostly from the coveted millennial demographic), it might be good for business as well. I wouldn’t expect the Twins to be as bold as their riskier minor league counterparts across the river by holding “Atheist Night,” but how about “Freethought Night”? Perhaps “Humanism Day” or “Science Night” would be more acceptable.
The St. Paul Saints have proven that a day dedicated to something reflective of secularism can be fun, respectful, relevant, and even philanthropic. The staff and players on the Saints baseball team have been outstanding partners in creating this playfully irreverent celebration, and it has helped Minnesota Atheists demonstrate positive atheism in a mainstream forum known as our national pastime.
Only time will reveal who will be the next professional sports team to go boldly where no team has gone before by celebrating the perspective of their nonbelieving fans, so until then the beautiful new CHS Field in St. Paul is the Mecca for atheist baseball fans.