Bible Belt football star is an atheist
One of America’s highest earning athletes, Arian Foster, above, has come out as an atheist.
According to this report, the running back for the Houston Texans has spent nearly his entire football career performing in the Bible belt.
Despite this and his therefore close relationships with many, many people of faith, Foster has decided to become something of a poster boy for the non-religious by joining forces with the non-profit group Openly Secular.
In an interview with the magazine ESPN, Foster said:
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.
According to ESPN senior writer, Tim Keown:
A lot of it has to do with the way that Arian was brought up.
He was raised Muslim and has spent time learning from both the Koran and the Bible. But Foster credits his father, Carl Foster – “a free thinker” – with encouraging him to question conventions despite the fact that Carl was once a deeply religious man.
Todd Stiefel, chair of Openly Secular, commented:
This is unprecedented. He is the first active professional athlete, let alone star, to ever stand up in support of gaining respect for secular Americans.
Foster makes clear in the piece that he understands the sensitivity of the topic, especially considering he plays in Houston, which is home to deeply rooted Christian communities. But in the end, he feels he needs to be true to himself.
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.
Foster says he simply wants to be free to believe what he believes.
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.
A video (plus transcript) made by Foster for Openly Secular can be seen here.
He is the fourth secularist blogger to have been killed this year by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh.
Imran H Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, told the BBC that Neel had been an anti-extremist voice of reason.
He was the voice against fundamentalism and extremism and was even a voice for minority rights – especially women’s rights and the rights of indigenous people.
BBC World Service South Asia editor Charles Haviland says that, like previous victims, Neel was not only secular but atheist and, like two of the others, he was from a Hindu, not a Muslim, background.
Blogger Avijit Roy was murdered in February and in March, another blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death in Dhaka. Then in May, secular blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed by masked men with machetes in Sylhet after he received death threats from Islamist extremists.
All four men killed were on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.
It was originally submitted to the government with the aim of having the bloggers arrested and tried for blasphemy.
The BBC’s Akbar Hossain in Dhaka says Neel had filed a police report expressing fear for his life, but his complaints had not been not followed up.
Police said about six attackers had tricked their way into Mr Neel’s home by saying they were looking to rent a flat.
Deputy police commissioner Muntashirul Islam said:
Two of them then took him to a room and then slaughtered him there. His wife was in the flat but she was confined to another room.