Not about the WORLD CHAMPION NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS!!!11!!!!1!!
Not about the Red Sox. . . .
Not about Sorry to Make You Cry . . . but . . . SOON.
I tell Abdul why I'm here and he says, "My brother -- the anti-Tebow," with a comic eye roll.
Arian Foster, 28, has spent his entire public football career -- in college at Tennessee, in the NFL with the Texans -- in the Bible Belt. Playing in the sport that most closely aligns itself with religion, in which God and country are both industry and packaging, in which the pregame flyover blends with the postgame prayer, Foster does not believe in God.
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Moved by the testimonials of celebrity atheists like comedian Bill Maher and magicians Penn and Teller, Foster has joined a national campaign by the nonprofit group Openly Secular, which plans to use his story to increase awareness and acceptance of nonbelievers, especially in sports.
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"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?' Notice they do not capitalize "devil" but capitalize the preceding indefinite noun. 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."
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Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who describes himself as "cheerfully agnostic," says, "It's an implied social construct that of course you're going to say the Lord's Prayer before the game with your team -- why wouldn't you? And of course there's going to be a military flyover -- why wouldn't there be? These aren't requirements, but they're assumed requirements. Religion plays a big role in the NFL, but I think it's a structural role. It's like white-male privilege; it's hard to see the role it plays if your entire life has been lived within that structure. If you're a religious guy in the NFL, you don't see the problem. You're the one in it. You have chapel or Mass on Sunday before the game. You have Bible study during the week. It's built into the structure."
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But if God is helping you win, Foster wonders, isn't he by definition ensuring that the other guy loses? As is the case with Foster's street, the water must choose a side. "If there is a God and he's But they do not capitalize the masculine pronoun. . . . watching football, there are so many other things he could be doing," he says. "There are hungry children and diseases and famine and so much important stuff going on in the world, and he's really blessed your team? It's just weird to me." But it is not weird to recognize the Power behind Pete Carroll's decision to throw the ball. Wait . . . maybe that would be more the realm of השטן or even שטן! [Get on with it!--Ed.] Right! Sorry! Go Pats!
Coaches, led by head coach Phil Fulmer, scheduled trips to Sunday church services as team-building exercises. Foster asked to be excused. He was denied. (The school confirmed that these team-building exercises to churches took place.) Word spread: Foster was arrogant, selfish, difficult to coach. "They just thought I was being a rebel and didn't want to participate in the team activities," Foster says.
"I was like, 'No, that's not it. Church doesn't do anything for me. I'm not a Christian.' I said, 'We can do other team-bonding activities and I'll gladly go, but this doesn't do anything for me.' Take a zero for the day!
And this is awesome:
"So I went, probably five times. I don't want to bring race into it, but we never went to any predominantly black churches. We went to a lot of those upper-middle-class white churches, which I always found interesting because the majority of the team was black, so I thought the majority of the team would relate to a black church. I would rather go to a black church, honestly, because the music is better to me. If the majority of your team is black, why wouldn't they try to make them as comfortable as possible? But I guess when you're dealing with religion, color shouldn't matter."
--J. SOOOON! D.