If you saw the amazing triple overtime football game yesterday between Arizona State and Oregon, you may have noticed the ASU players wearing throwback uniforms with the number 42 in honor of Pat Tillman, an ASU grad and NFL star who gave it all up to serve in the military. Tillman died by “friendly fire” in 2004 during the War in Afghanistan.
What a lot of the media coverage won’t mention is that Tillman was an atheist — one of the most famous “atheists in a foxhole.”
An avowed atheist, he studied the writings of Noam Chomsky and opposed the war in Iraq after serving a tour of duty there. Yet when the government and the N.F.L. secretly arranged for him to return to football without having to fulfill his commitment, he refused the deal, believing it was his duty to serve the three years for which he had signed up. His next stop was Afghanistan.
At his funeral, his brother Richard was vocal about how much he didn’t appreciate the religious platitudes offered by others during their eulogies:
“He’s not with God, he’s fucking dead,” asserted Mr Tillman. “Thanks for your thoughts but he’s fucking dead.” Mr Tillman, who has a low tolerance for lies was clearly offended by the sentiments, stating that his deceased brother “was not religious.”
None of this is to say ASU was promoting atheism last night. They honored a true hero who happened to be one of their own.
Don’t forget, though: Tillman was also one of us.
(Image via @adidasFballUS. Thanks to Justin for the link. I originally used the wrong name for Tillman’s brother. It’s corrected now.)