After several minutes of sitting quietly with someone at work yesterday, he commented that he didn't say much because he was shy and would rather listen that talk. He said "My father told me I wouldn't learn anything new if I talked more than I listened."
It wasn't until this afternoon that I realized that I really wasn't shy, I just have no tolerance for useless information. But the trick is deciding what information is useless. I often find myself listening to long detailed stories about how someone almost hit a deer on the highway, or how a storm tossed around the plastic furniture on their back patio. I cannot imagine what expression those people saw crawling over my face. I'm sure if they knew how I felt, they would probably never speak to me again.
I must remind myself why they are telling me their stories. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand and everything to do with sharing the emotional experience. An exchange is taking place in the expression and feedback that culminates in an pseudo-shared experience that creates a feeling of affiliation and validation.
These are some of the key tools of bonding that take place in groups. If main-stream religion mastered this we would all be worshiping something, but it's no different than regularly repeating ritual Initiations in fraternities, sororities, gangs, clubs, religions, or other group types. The compulsion toward worship is rewarded by feeling a little less lonely for a while. The brilliance of religion is that they mask this emotional outcome under the guise of "feeling the spirit of the Lord."
Very lonely people tend to tell very boring stories. I'm very lonely here in the Midwest where there are very few atheists, and there are very few people here who want to talk about real, serious issues. They are content to create drama among their tiny social circles, all the while being robbed and enslaved by those at the top.