During a Jury trial, we only have one opportunity to talk directly to the jurors. When picking a jury, we are allowed to ask them questions, to determine whether they can sit as fair and impartial jurors on this particular matter. Due to circumstances in each person’s life, while they may be quite impartial to in one situation; they would be unable to fairly balance the evidence in another matter.
A woman who had been raped may not be able to fairly listen to evidence in a criminal rape trial and thus should be excused. Yet that same woman could easily sit in a contract case or a drunk driving case without her pervious experience having any impact whatsoever.
However, this is partly a ruse. See, as lawyer representing my client, what I really desire is an unfair and partial jury—just one that is unfair and partially predisposed to my position. *grin* (Unfortunately, so does my opponent. The system figures between the two of us wrangling, we will end up with a jury somewhere in the middle.)
We also attempt to explain what our position will be in a trial. One of my law school professors said, “A jury should hear a case four times: once in jury selection, once in opening statements, once in the case itself and once in closing arguments.” So we subtlety ask questions in order to grease the wheels toward our position.
I had a case in which my client offered a better price than the opposing side. I thought this significant and felt jurors who were price-conscious would be more pre-disposed to my position. One of the questions I asked was, “Who has purchased items on the internet?” After most of the panel raised their hands, I followed up with one particular juror, with this question, “What was the primary reason for purchasing on-line?” Now, because of my own predisposition of price-comparison shopping, and where my mind was focused—I was expecting the answer, “Better price.” I was surprised:
Juror one: For the convenience.
Me: Juror two, you raised your hand—why did you purchase on-line?
Juror two: Convenience.
Me: Juror three—why did you purchase on-line?
Juror three: Convenience.
(If you ever want to study the relationship of leaders with followers, and the effect a strong leader can have on a group of people—study juries. Very informative.) Right down the line, every person said, “Convenience.”
I immediately shifted my focus from the price my client offered, as compared to the convenience it offered. Why? Because the group I was trying to convince was not persuaded by the same things which persuade me. They were not like me. Yet this was the group I was trying to convince to go my way. I would have been completely ineffectual to insist to this jury “price” was more important than “convenience” simply because I said so.
It often amazes lawyers to talk to jurors after a trial. What we thought was extremely significant, focusing hours and hours in preparation and presentation can have been dismissed with a shrug and “we didn’t think that important.” Or, conversely, we are asked why we didn’t bring this witness, or address this issue and the other attorney and I roll our eyes at each other since neither of us even remotely thought of that possibility; we never suspected it was important to this jury.
I had a case where my client claimed he swerved his automobile to miss a dog which ran in to the road (but was never found.) The other side claimed my client was simply not paying attention. After the trial, the jurors immediately pounced on us: “Why didn’t you ask what color the dog was?”
The other lawyer and I just stared at each other. He—because his position there was no dog—black, white, red or blue. Me—because if the jury thought there was a dog, its color was irrelevant. Neither of us even remotely thought to ask the question!
I guess this is a long way of saying—we are all convinced and persuaded for different reasons. As humans we vary in what is extremely important and significant to one, and irrelevant and insignificant to another. Try automobile shopping with your spouse. That’ll prove the point nicely.
Very often even we do not know what is important to us. Because of our superhuman ability to delude ourselves, we can convince ourselves we are persuaded because of one reason—yet it is not at the very core of our person.
Four years ago I believed there was a God. If questioned, I would have informed you this was at the very center of my person. It was grounded in everything I believed, everything I did, everything I said. It would have been as difficult to remove the mitochondria from each of my cells, or the letter “e” from my alphabet as to remove God from my being. It was not something “in addition to me” or extraneous, but interwoven and inseparable as copper and tin within bronze.
I began to discuss with skeptics and non-believers; interacting with their arguments presented by the actual skeptic—not some strawperson statement made by a fellow theistic believer. And I immersed myself in studying: Is there a god?
In retrospect, I now realize my God-belief was NOT at the core of my being. It was NOT the very center. What was more important to me was the answer to the question: What actually is? If it was the Christian God; good. If it was some other God: not-so-good, but doable. If it was no God; bad, but if that is what actually is then there is no use crying about it. As key as God-belief was, there was something even deeper—something that could trump that God-belief to the point of no longer believing in a God—the desire for what is actual reality.
(By the way, it is for that reason, arguments such as “Isn’t absolute morality a ‘better’ system?” or Pascal’s Wager are unpersuasive to me. I am looking for what “is;” not what people wish things to be, or prefer them to be.)
Eventually I have come to face the prospect as much as I want to say God-belief was the center, it must not have been. Since I was willing to forego that belief for something even closer to the center—what is.
This is why “evangelistic atheism” fails. People believe in a God for different reasons. To lose that belief, we would need to address the core underneath, which is difficult to do. My wife has the maternal instincts of two and ½ mothers. It is the nucleus of her being. To her, the greatest fear is harm to our children. A loss of god-belief necessarily entails damnation to hell for our kids. Therefore god-belief will forever be maintained. Just as I could not hold on to god-belief, because of the inner search for actual, she could not let go of God, because of the inner fear of harm.
I could provide irrefutable proof there is no god, and it would not make a bit of difference to her. “Proof” is not what convinces her.
Of course, it is also possible there is something even deeper than “actuality” which drives me. Maybe it is some intense desire to sin. I can only (in keeping with the holiday season) rely upon the saying, “the proof is in the pudding.” It is with hindsight I look back and see “what is” was deeper than “god-belief.” That something was more important to me than even believing in god. With equal hindsight—I see no sin. I see no desire to jaywalk erratically, or rob banks. Perhaps some day I will blog how there is something deeper than “actual” which I now recognize. But not today…
What does this mean? It means, when discussing theism, I suggest we start talking like lawyers to jurors. Start talking to the other person as to what convinces them; not what you demand they must be persuaded by. Ask what they believe is important; don’t mandate what is important or not.
I tire of the lame excuse (there is no other word) often made of “You are predisposed to not believe in miracles; so that is why you don’t believe the New Testament account.” Or, “you come from a naturalistic predisposition, so you only view the world as natural.” Please.
Is this really a surprise? Guess what—being an atheist and having studied a little, I am firmly convinced the Bible is a human creation. Solely human. To tell me I think that it is…not very informative. I am persuaded there is no God. To tell me I think in terms of naturalism…is that stunning? Stop begging off because it is hard work. Stop proclaiming the other person is believing wrongly, or is persuaded by the wrong evidence.
Start interacting with the person on their level; with their beliefs. Ask “why” do they believe it? What is convincing to them? What types of things are they looking to be persuaded? Start asking; start listening; start responding to them--not your perception of what they should say.