Phil Oliver:

But the real problem is not an absence of good will in search of demonstrable objectivity, by conscientious religionists, humanists, naturalists, theists, and atheists. They can search all they want without finding that.

No, the real problem is a failure of empathy and an appreciation for the subjectivity of those who experience the world differently. It’s James’s perennial blindness in human beings who insist on treating the spectrum of belief and nonbelief as a catalogue of others’ errors… except, of course, for one’s own privileged experiences and inerrant beliefs.

Spirituality. The word itself heralds a creeping rhetorical fog that permeates everything it touches, doesn’t it? I mean, what exactly does one have to do to display empathy and appreciation? Isn’t it a fool’s game to allow other people to sit in judgment of whether you’re being demonstratively warm and openminded enough? How quietly must one sit, how long must one listen, and how carefully does one have to couch objections in the softest language possible before they’re allowed to simply say, “I’m sorry, but there’s no reason to think that’s true,” with the nonnegotiable implication being that we should all care about what’s true?

There are many, many areas of human experience where I’m thrilled to discover people who think and feel differently than me because of the chance to broaden my own horizons, art being perhaps the most obvious. And even when it comes to the big questions, I still understand the natural human tendency to want to fit experience into a self-flattering narrative, to find external meaning and purpose to their lives. But it doesn’t mean I want to coo soothingly and nod along as they tell me about the divine message behind a happenstance occurrence, or their conviction that cows communicate psychically if you know how to listen. People who are insecure about believing silly shit are always going to think anything less than wholehearted assent is being unfair.