America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
An Atheist’s Lament
By William Craig Rice
Why do I marvel when the faithless stray,
when friends whom I supposed completely safe
against belief go falling for a god?
If memory serves, their doubt was no façade,
not some timid catechismal phase.
It was emancipation underway!
Was it business drove them to the churches
in finery and numbers? Or in-laws
demanding they observe those ancient rites—
burial, birth, and marriage? Did avoiding fights
become the thing? Plus, why dwell on flaws
of faith? What’s so wrong with spiritual searches?
Our skepticism triumphed to a fault, perhaps,
as laughter, apostasy, and reason
grew cold and tight in their alliance.
A fearsome thing, self-reliance!
Yet these seemed stalwarts every season:
What caused their sturdy minds to lapse?
What was missing in our merry heresies,
our poking at believers for their folly?
Just think, we had all Sunday free, a prize
we claimed in full so as to energize
mind and body, and make the Sabbath jolly:
we pagan revelers amidst the Pharisees.
I’m out of answers. The question still remains.
I marvel, as I say, and never would begrudge
the clueless any creed. Still, it does hurt
my small reserve of pride that an inert
and slavish faith could for a moment budge
the friends I surely thought had guts and brains.
4 July 2014
William Craig Rice has worked as a schoolteacher, auto mechanic, college teacher and president, and federal official. He lives in Washington, DC.