Thursday, August 20, 2015
Not long ago. I encountered an article about Houston Texans running back Arian Foster's decision to join the organization, Openly Secular:
He has tossed out sly hints in the past, just enough to give himself wink-and-a-nod deniability, but he recently decided to become a public face of the nonreligious. 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. The organization initially approached ESPN about Foster's willingness to share his story, but ESPN subsequently dealt directly with Foster...I think Foster's heart is in the right place, but am dubious about most attempts to champion non-belief as such. For starters, what one is against (or at least dubious about) says nothing about why, or what one stands for. To be fair, this is the first time I've ever heard of this organization, and it's certainly possible to, say, make a stand for reason with fellow non-believers absent agreement on many other things.
I am also dubious about the common practice of holding sports figures out as role models for children, although I acknowledge that it does occur. That said, I am glad to see Foster and other celebrities speak openly about being nonreligious. Perhaps their efforts will make it a little bit easier for some young people to see that there are others like them. Lord knows, the snapshot of how football teams are run in the South reminds me that there could be a need for such encouragement.
P.S. A couple of personal notes: (1) The article caused me to realize that I have been an atheist for nearly thirty years. I was an agnostic briefly before that. (2) Foster's account of his father's reaction to being told of his non-belief reminded me of when I first told my father about my incipient doubts about religion. Dad stole my thunder by revealing that he was himself an atheist!