“Best Spiritual Writing 2012”

Spent some time yesterday with the latest annual installment of the alleged Best Spiritual Writing. The series  editor Philip Zaleski is a convert to Catholicism but usually fair-minded and ecumenical. Last year’s edition was introduced and selected by lapsed Catholic Billy Collins. This year it’s Philip Yancey, who casually tosses off this grating aside in his introduction: “The New Atheists do not strive for objectivity.”

Some do, some don’t. Same goes for many new theists.

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.

Zaleski again has issued a volume focused provocatively on “original thought, fluent expression, and vivid personal experiences” that bring light to many subjective corners. For that I can tolerate his and his guest editors’ occasional grating asides, and maybe even begin to understand something of the sensibilities behind them.



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