Religion ... politics ... sports.

Express yourself on any of those topics, and you risk riling lots of folks.

Mix all three into a triple-threat debate, and brace for especially ornery reactions.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., stirred up such a holy hassle on April 11 by sending a complaint to Clemson, expressing "serious constitutional concerns about how the public university's football program is entangled with religion."

Among the cited concerns: Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney "personally invited James Trapp to become team chaplain" and "schedules team devotionals."

OK, so as venerable Post and Courier sportswriter Gene "Mean Machine" Sapakoff pointed out in his Easter Sunday column, Swinney "is left open to criticism" by the presence of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes office inside the football building - and by the 2012 practice-field baptism of DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins.

Yet Sapakoff also rightly wrote: "Otherwise, most of the concerns" the FFRF raised "are ridiculous."

Swinney issued a Wednesday statement with this winning defense: "Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character."

And all many of us Clemson fans require of Swinney is that he restore our faith in his ability to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks. Guided by the insufferably smug Steve Spurrier, USC has now won five in a row over Swinney and his Tigers - all by double digits.

Despite - or is it because of? - that recent domination, the in-state feud seems as intense as ever.

So is the archrivalry between the loudly religious and the loudly anti-religious - within and beyond S.C. borders.

When those competing sides condemn each other to hellfire eternity or for religious gullibility, resentments inevitably fester.

One way or another?

As John 14:6 puts it in the King James Version: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

As the late Christopher Hitchens puts it in his 2007 book "god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything": "Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the 'meaning' of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by their religions or denounced by them."

Before denouncing non-believers, though, you had better believe that a growing number of young Americans share at least some of Hitchens' disdain for religion. That makes pandering to the religious right the wrong strategy for conservative candidates.

Yet some of our state lawmakers haven't evolved past the primitive stage of micromanaging high-school science classes - or bullying the College of Charleston over student-reading and theatrical-attraction choices.

And former - and possibly future - Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee cast ugly doubt on President Barack Obama's faith on the April 11 edition of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor." Citing Obama's previous opposition to gay marriage, Huckabee, who was once a Baptist preacher, then governor of Arkansas and now has a radio show, told guest host Laura Ingraham:

"He said [his opposition] was because of his Christian convictions. Does he have them or does he not? If one has them, they don't change depending on what the culture does. You don't take an opinion poll to come up with a new point of view."

But you don't need a poll to know that lots of Christians - and non-Christians - have switched from being against to being for gay marriage.

You don't need a theology degree to know that even severely sanctimonious Christians are turn-the-other-cheek meek compared to radical Muslims who deem drawing what they consider an unflattering cartoon of Muhammad a killing offense.

And you don't need a political-junkie habit to know that the religious left increasingly reminds us that Jesus was a champion of the poor - as if bankrupting the government in the name of "social justice" helps the poor or anyone else.

Thanks, but no thanks

A week ago today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi washed the feet of two children in a San Francisco church to "honor the dignity and work of immigrants," according to her office.

Pelosi wasn't the only big shot following in Jesus' foot-washing footsteps (he did it for his disciples at the Last Supper) during Holy Week. Pope Francis washed the feet of "12 disabled people of different ages, ethnicities and religious confessions," according to the Vatican.

Gross. Would you want to wash somebody else's feet - or for somebody else to wash yours?

Oh well, to each his own in our ongoing quests for enlightenment, serenity and cleaner feet.

And to Dabo:

Beat the Gamecocks.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.