Why Arian Foster confessing his disbelief in God is significant to NFL

Aug 16, 2015

G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News

By Tim Cowlishaw

I saw the headline a few days ago, and my first response was: “Is that really even a headline?” The confession is a shocking one only because it’s so close to the mainstream and so far removed from anything we normally associate with confession material.

It’s an ESPN The Magazine article on Houston’s Arian Foster, who has been more than occasionally controversial during an unexpectedly successful career (he was undrafted out of Tennessee), and his confession is this: “I don’t believe in God.”

Now while it’s only a small percentage of people who consider themselves atheist in this country, more than 20 percent say they don’t have an affiliation with any church or religion. It shouldn’t really register as shocking for someone to declare that modern science and the books written by Stephen Hawking and so many others tell us more about our true origins and who we are than what they read years ago in Sunday school (or in Foster’s case, the Koran, since he was raised in a free-thinking Muslim family).

But giving it more thought, I realized this was, indeed, a significant confession, given that Foster’s home is an NFL locker room — not exactly the province of against-the-grain thinking. In addition, football, probably due to its violent nature, is more closely associated with pregame prayer than other team sports. Although athletes of all sorts might choose to give glory to God in their postgame remarks, it’s a safe guess that the percentage is higher in football than all others.

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