I'm feeling a bit lazy this morning. In other words, same as always.
Still, I think I'll let Ratzinger do most of the heavy lifting today, beginning with the following somewhat lengthy passage that addresses the question of whether an atheist is just someone who likes to boast about an absence of vertical talent, i.e., who doesn't know the difference between a gift and a deficiency:
The phenomenology of religion demonstrates -- and we can test this for ourselves -- that there are, or at least appear to be, in religion, as in all other realms of the human spirit, various degrees of endowment.
Although he qualifies the statement with appear to be, this is because one of the ubiquitous characteristics of the spiritually endowed is humility: know them by their fruits, the most pleasant to the eyes but toxic to the soul being pride.
You're not going to hear the exPope brag about a preternatural ability to discern the Real from the illusory or Permanent from impermanent, even though this is precisely one of the supernatural abilities of the gifted (with specific reference to jnanic and not bhaktic temperaments, the latter of whose gift will have a different emphasis, i.e., love, faith, devotion, etc. Not every spiritual athlete plays the same sport, nor in the same way).
One reason those responding to a verticalling won't brag on themselves is because they know better than anyone that the ability isn't their own, but rather, comes from anOther -- or cooperation with this Other, to be exact. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Ratzinger continues:
Just as in the field of music we find the creative, the receptive, and finally those who are completely unmusical, so it seems to be in religion....
Here, too, one meets people who are religiously "talented" and others who are "untalented"; here, too, those capable of direct religious experience and thus of something like religious creativity through a living awareness of the religious world are few and far between.
This raises several important points, first that religious experience -- like any other experience -- is of a world, and that this world is -- self-evidently -- prior to its experience. If experience is prior, then we are vaulted into a simulated world even more absurd than that of the Kantian rationalist -- or of any other shrunken metaphysic that puts the subject prior to the object.
Over against these few, for whom the divine thus becomes undisguised certainty, stand the many whose religious gift is limited to receptivity [o], who are denied the direct experience of the holy yet are not so deaf to it as to be unable to appreciate an encounter with it through the medium of the man granted such an experience.
In postmodern parlance we shouldn't call the atheist's ethos "spiritually retarded," rather, the preferred nomenclature is vertically challenged or spiritual hesitancy; old-fashioned words such as "imbecile" and "moron" are now considered offensive.
At any rate, should we be triggered by the fact that some people are more spiritually capable than others?
No, because first of all, where would we be without them? Analogously, where would music be if everyone were as talented as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift? Music would thereby lose its reason for being, which is to render audible the light of the transcendent object.
Second, -- sticking with the music analogy -- I can't play a note of jazz, but I wouldn't want to live without it. I suppose I might enjoy it even more if I could play it, but not necessarily.
For me it's more than enough to simply be receptive to it -- in other words, to be aesthetically open to the more musically gifted.
I was going to say it's a full time job, which it is, so long as we specify that this means vertical openness to everything, and on every plane: truth, love, beauty, et al. I will never be retired from that, since it is more than enough to fill one's day and especially one's life.