This poem came out of the March 20, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman, who raised the interesting point of atheists in a world with active, present deities. (Some ideas for different interpretations of "atheist" in a deity-rich setting also come from Bard Bloom's World Tree.) A recent poll decided to sponsor this poem out of general funds. It belongs to the series Path of the Paladins and you can find its other poems through the Serial Poetry page.
Courtesy of mdlbear, I'd like to recommend the song "The Atheist's Anthem" by catsittingstill. While not composed specifically in relation to the Path of the Paladins series, it does touch on the same theme as this particular poem.
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."