God is everywhere in sports. The Lord’s thanked after a win, His name’s hucked around in exclamations after shocking moves, and the Man Upstairs gets a whole lot of prayers from every team down in the third period, fourth quarter or ninth inning. So when there’s suddenly a separation of church and play, there’s bound to be some disbelief—which Arian Foster proved big time when he came out as an atheist.

In ESPN’s recent and fascinating piece, “The Confession of Arian Foster,” the Houston Texans running back opens up about his atheism, how he explored his belief system for years, how it’s affected life in the locker room and what he plans to do next now that he’s teamed up with the nonprofit Openly Secular for a national awareness campaign to embolden others and encourage secular acceptance.

It’s been a long road to this point, though. His coming out publicly as an atheist has been more than a decade in the making. Over the years, Foster has paid attention to how people like Bill Maher and Penn and Teller have eloquently discussed their atheism, and it motivated him to be open about his, rather than offering up vague answers, dry hints or passing jokes when faith would land in a conversation.

And religion has definitely weaved its way through conversations pretty much his whole life. The 28-year-old star was raised Muslim with a father that “knows the Bible front and back.” Yet, while one might assume his father Carl would be a harsh critic, as Foster tells it, his dad just nodded and said, “Go find your truth.”

As Carl puts it, “It was a proud day. We raised our kids to be free thinkers. We wanted them to be their own people.”

Foster would make a good mouthpiece for the secular. Throughout the article, he drops one charming open-minded and thoughtful quote after another.

On to each their own…

“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.”

Read the whole thing here.