“My mother suggested couples counseling,” she said to her husband. “I told her you wouldn’t consider it, that you don’t believe in it. And she started that thing again about how we don’t believe in anything, if we went to church then we’d have a community to help us in times of need, blah blah blah. I ended up asking her if she thinks that praying to a God we don’t think exists — lying, basically — is really the best basis on which to rebuild a broken relationship. She said there’s empirical evidence that prayer works. I said there’s empirical evidence that placebos work, but that doesn’t mean that we can just take a sugar pill, knowing it’s a sugar pill, and still get a cure out of it. You have to believe in something first, I told her, and then maybe it can do some good. But you can’t just force the belief. I asked her how she would feel if we told her there was empirical evidence that voodoo worked and that we should all be doing ritual animal sacrifice to make things better.
“And she said, sometimes the ritual is more important than the faith of those who enact them. She said you don’t need to believe in prayer, or laughter, or kindness, for it to make a difference in the world. That tradition and these practices exist for a reason, because they give us strength and hope even when we’re weak. That sometimes the act has to come before the leap of faith.”
“And that,” her husband asked, “is why there’s a goat carcass on a makeshift altar in our yard?”
“I think we can make this marriage work,” she replied.