Openness, objectivity, and us

Most, perhaps all of us have tried getting through to someone who did not want to hear something. On this forum, theists will often come here trying to convert us. They want us to listen to what they have to say but are not open to what we have to say. Sometimes people use the phrase “it’s like talking to a brick wall.” Most of us have had the experience of having an evangelist come to our door with pamphlets and try to begin a conversion dialogue. If you ask them tough questions, they won’t answer them. And if you ask them to tell you what you said, most often, they can’t. Usually, they’re not doing it deliberately. The information you gave them was never processed through the brain’s reasoning centers in the cortex, so quite literally, it’s as though you never said it - just as though you were talking to a brick wall.
Do we ever do the same thing? Sadly, yes. Though most humanists have a better grasp on scientific method than the average theist, we can also block things through the same process of avoidance and denial as the theists do. This comes up often when sensitive subjects are raised, especially subjects that touch on theistic religion. Words like “faith,” “belief,” “spiritual” and “religion” elicit an emotional response in many humanists. Sadly, I’ve seen our members react to these words and their related ideas to such an extent that they block whatever they do not wish to hear. In a recent discussion, two of our members accused me of bringing up something they had said themselves; in one case, the person had been discussing the subject with me for two days, back and forth, before she charged that I had just brought it up anew. Another person engaged in a respectful dialogue but when I asked the central question, twice, there was no response. In each case, it was as though none of it had ever been communicated, even though it had.
Instead of letting this provoke a reaction, please just keep in mind that some of those theists you try to talk to are intelligent people. I have colleagues in my law practice with whom I have tried to discuss some of these subjects. (I have never initiated them.) They are highly intelligent, and scrupulously reasoned in other areas, but when it comes to religious questions, they block what they do not wish to hear. Let’s all be aware that as humans, we are prone to this, too. If you feel yourself shutting out what the other person is saying or writing, make a conscious effort to dig in deep to what is being said. If you feel yourself becoming upset or agitated, be aware of it and recognize that you - we, me, any of us - may be in the process of blocking something. If you’ve accepted an engagement in a dialogue and you’re asked a question, make sure you answer it; or, if you don’t think it merits an answer, make sure that’s what is going on. Don’t do it for the other party. Do it for yourself and the greater causes of humanism. We are all needed: our fellow Humanists need each of us to live the commitment to rationality and reason we all espouse.

There is a widely discussed phenomena that states those who are better at formulating arguments are more prone to this type of behavior. In other words it’s not always a lack of intelligence or a lack of listening, it’s a tendency to formulate a response based on prior experience. That is, if you’ve heard something similar, and your argument worked to counter that before, you use that. The smarter you are, the more knowledge you have on the subject, the more likely you are to do that.
You do that Paul. Lois and I responded to a lot of what you said. You ignored a lot of what we said. How about less accusations and more cooperation. Thoughtful conversation speaks louder than statements of intention.