Arian Foster went to college in Tennessee and now plays for the Houston Texans. He's surrounded by the bible belt. And yet, the running back has decided to come forward and admit to the world that he doesn't believe in god, making him the first active professional athlete in the U.S. to fight for secular Americans like him.
"Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith," he told ESPN The Magazine. "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."
In ESPN The Magazine's August 18 issue, Foster discusses how he came to his decision:
He says his contrarian side sought out religious arguments with fundamentalist teammates, who would often attempt to dismiss the discussion by insisting, "Well, you must believe in something." He pressed, telling them no, he believed in nothing, not Allah or God or the divinity of Christ. He wielded his defiance like a sword, reveling in the discomfort it generated. If he alienated teammates with his willingness to be different, all the better. His verbal ferocity was all rawness and sharp edges, and it allowed people to project upon him their worst fears.
"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."
The running back was raised Muslim in Albuquerque, New Mexico, praying "five times a day," he said. His father, a religious "free thinker," pushed him to question everything around him, including his faith.
Foster had discussed religion in the locker room before with the Houston Chronicle.
“I used to believe in a single god and things like that,” Foster said. “As I started to grow into my own being, I just kind of felt, my big thing is I don’t know. Nobody does.”
Learn more about Foster's interview over at ESPN.