Superstar NFL Running Back Arian Foster has made waves by discussing his atheism. In a sport dominated by prayer circles, the 2010 NFL Rushing leader is a breath of fresh air. Arian Foster dons a "Coexist" tattoo on his right forearm, and unlike other NFL stars has no belief that god's guiding his team to victory. In an interview with ESPN he explained in depth why he doesn't believe, and how education informed his position. He has helped lead his mother away from religion (now agnostic), and proudly defends and argues the atheistic viewpoint with anyone who engages him on the topic of religion. The ESPN article explains that Arian Foster was moved by "testimonials of celebrity atheists like comedian Bill Maher and magicians Penn Jillette and Teller."
Arian was raised Muslim and has studied the Bible, both in an attempt to find evidence for god, or a reason worth believing. Arian felt as if praying was one sided, and that he was living a lie whenever he prayed. He didn't understand why God would allow evil or damn people to hell for eternity. Arian came out as atheist to his Muslim father when he was a Junior in High School. His father took it well, and was proud to think of himself as a free thinker and raise Arian to be one as well.
"Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith. 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." - Arian Foster
Arian explains to ESPN that while it was generally known in the locker room, his atheism wasn't public due to the risks associated with coming out. "You don't want to ruin endorsements, People might say, 'I don't want an atheist representing my team.' Now, though, I'm established in this league, and as I'm digging deeper into myself and my truth, just being me is more important than being sexy to Pepsi or whoever. After a while, what's an extra dollar compared to the freedom of being you? That's the choice I made."
In his college years at Tennessee, Arian believes he was the only non-believer on the team. He would frequently have philosophical bouts with his teammates on the subject of religion, in which he often said that he "believed in nothing, not Allah or God or the divinity of Christ." Some of his religious counterparts have accused him of worshipping the devil, which makes no sense to him as he fires back "No, bro, I don't believe there's a God, why would I believe there's a devil?" Arian says, "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."
Arian expressed praise of his daughter who recognized on her own that Greek Mythology is no different than current day theistic belief. He says, "Every once in a while she'll mention Jesus or God, One time she likened God and Jesus to Zeus and Hercules. She did it on her own. She said something along the lines of, 'They're the same. They're both stories.' I thought it was brilliant on her part to be able to distinguish it."
Justin Forsett, a frequent philosophical adversary of Arian has said that "Arian is going to voice his thoughts whether you want them or not, or whether you ask for them or not, He'll make a statement. You can choose to respond or you can let him speak. He's very smart, very witty. If you're not confident in what you believe, and if you don't know what you believe, you'll get caught up and probably look silly. Most guys want to let Arian be Arian. They might get embarrassed, and that's why they don't engage. Arian pushes me to be a better man and a better man of faith. He's going to ask questions, tough questions, and I take that as a challenge. I have to be prepared to give a response at any given moment. If I don't have a response, he's going to push me to go get it." Forsett often ends his conversations with Foster by saying "I'll pray for you," Foster fires back with an oft used Brian Sapient line, "I'll think for you."
While Arian is technically an atheist, he avoids the term. He is open minded to the idea that there could be a god and like virtually all other atheists, would believe in a god were he to be given enough reason to do so. Arian told ESPN, "If I tell you I'm a Republican, your mind immediately starts telling you all the things I must believe, Same with the word 'atheist,' and I don't like people making assumptions about me. Neil deGrasse Tyson said any time you attach yourself to a group or an '-ist,' you get all the stereotypical baggage with it. I'm not going to picket the White House lawn to get atheists a voice in Congress. But I have questions and concerns on our origins as human beings, and the best way to go about that is through science. There's no dogma in science itself. Scientists? Yeah, any human can have an ego, but if you take the human beings out of it, there's no ego in science itself. It's built on 'prove me wrong.' But religion can be like, 'We're right, and if you're not in the boat, you're going to hell.'"
Arian has read Richard Dawkins and rejects what he calls the militant approach, he says "The more empathy you have toward people and their belief system, the more productive the relationship will be. I get it. I understand why people believe."
"I used to try to argue people down and show them the fallacies in their own religion, that used to be a big deal to me, but now that doesn't serve my ethos at all."
"If a loving, kind Christian, Muslim or Jewish person can't accept a different vantage point, there's just nothing I can do about it, I have no ill will toward religion or religious people. I have no quarrels. Believe what you want to believe." - Arian Foster
Very special hat tip to Tim Keown of ESPN for his reporting of this story. Most of the information for this page was attained from his article of 8-6-2015.