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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith posting in [community profile] poetree
With my diversity of religious interests, obviously I'm not an atheist. However, I do believe that it's a valid path. If I didn't have experience with deities, I probably wouldn't believe in them either; and I certainly don't worship any of the ones I consider to be obnoxious. I also understand that people can be virtuous in their own right without needing divine directives to do it.

This poem belongs to my series Path of the Paladins, which is all about faith and devotion. Except it happens to be in a world that is really, really messed up and the gods are substantially responsible for that. So what's it like for someone to turn his back on the very active gods in that setting, and manage his own morality?


Ari and the Atheist
by Elizabeth Barrette


In the village square there stood a bread-cart.
It was the sort of thing that some priests provided
to feed those who might otherwise go hungry,
so the food was always cheap,
or free if you couldn't afford anything.

Ari headed for it at once, hoping to get
a pair of rolls for her and Shahana.
Yet the fading paint on the cart was plain,
no god-sign marked anywhere that she could see.
"Who do I have to thank for this bounty?"
she asked as she selected her bread.

"Just me," said the man with a gap-toothed grin.
"I'm an atheist, girl.
You won't find any god-sign on my cart."

"But how can you not believe in the gods
when they move through the world so much?"
Ari asked. "It's obvious that they exist."

"Oh, I know they're real enough,"
the atheist said. "I ain't blind.
I just happen to think they're all a bunch of dumbasses
and I refuse to worship any of them.
I mean, look at the mess they've made of this world."

"Well," Ari said faintly,
"I suppose it's hard to argue with that."

"Anyhow, I figure if I want to have
a world worth living in, I'd best fix it myself,"
the atheist said.

So Ari gave him a coin for the two rolls
and said, "Thank you for this bounty,"
and if it was decidedly odd to say that
to a mortal man instead of a deity,
Ari kept that part to herself.

When Ari returned with their lunch,
Shahana asked who was to thank for it,
and the girl replied, "That man over there.
He's an atheist. But he makes very good bread,
and he's determined to fix the world himself."

"Well," the paladin said as she accepted her roll,
"he's doing better than some zealots I could name."

Date: 2012-05-21 05:07 am (UTC)
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookblather
Hah, that last line, word.

Date: 2012-05-21 11:04 pm (UTC)
syntaxofthings: A great shot of the Super Moon in March 2011 ([Planetary] Moon)
From: [personal profile] syntaxofthings
That's a good representation about how I feel about gods most of the time. I don't have much experience with them, but I do have a lot of gratitude for those people who do good things for other people without feeling forced into it.

Date: 2012-05-27 02:35 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
*snerks at the last line*

More seriously, you've got a really interesting and very powerful juxtaposition in this poem, even though we see comparatively little of Ari (and presumably Shahana)'s own beliefs in her/their god(s). There's a lot to think about in this little piece for all its brevity. ^-^

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