Arian Foster is the NFL star (a four-time Pro Bowler) who once wrote about how he plans to teach his daughter about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and often tweets things you wouldn’t expect from a religious individual. But he never came out and said he wasn’t religious. Until now.
While he’s sidelined for the early part of the season due to a groin injury, Foster was profiled by Tim Keown in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine and opened up about how he’s an atheist (even if he doesn’t use that word explicitly):
Arian Foster, 28, has spent his entire public football career — in college at Tennessee, in the NFL with the Texans — in the Bible Belt. Playing in the sport that most closely aligns itself with religion, in which God and country are both industry and packaging, in which the pregame flyover blends with the postgame prayer, Foster does not believe in God.
“Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith,” he says. “That’s my whole thing: Faith isn’t enough for me. For people who are struggling with that, they’re nervous about telling their families or afraid of the backlash … man, don’t be afraid to be you. I was, for years.”
“I get the devil-worship thing a lot. They’ll ask me, ‘You worship the devil?'” he says. “‘No, bro, I don’t believe there’s a God, why would I believe there’s a devil?’ There’s a lot of ignorance about nonbelief. I don’t mean a negative connotation of ignorance. I just mean a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge, lack of exposure to people like me.”
My name is Arian Foster, and I am openly secular.
I hope my… if my religious friends and fans see this video, I hope that they react with the same decency and kindness that their creator would. You know, I’ve studied religion like no other. Like, I’ve been in churches, I’ve been in mosques, I’ve prayed with people. I understand the Bible, I understand the Qur’an, and I understand a lot of the tenets of religion and their core message is peace and love.
You know, if you’re in the public eye, it’s affecting sales, it’s affecting business. People want to support their religion, so if they have the choice to buy this guy’s jersey or this guy’s jersey, they’re going to side with the guy that believes in Jesus. And it’s like, I understand that, I get that. And when you’re in the system and when you’re in collegiate system and you’re in professional early on, like, you take all that into account, so you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But I think I’m at the point in my career now where none of that really bothers me, and I understand who I am as a person, and I believe that means more to me than the extra dollar.
In a sport where there are often prayers before games, professional teams have their own chaplains, and Tim Tebow is better known for his faith than his athletic ability, Foster is arguably the highest-profile openly-non-religious athlete in the country. (In case you’re wondering, former NFL player Chris Kluwe wasn’t nearly as well-known when he began speaking out for LGBT rights and he wrote in his book that he was “cheerfully agnostic.”)
Let’s hope Foster starts a trend. It’s a courageous thing to come out as non-religious — especially when you play in Texas. But his star power and athletic prowess may overcome the sort of nasty pushback prominent atheists typically get.
(Image via Facebook)