Stop. You don’t know that.

Matthew Parris points out that skeptics can and sometimes should be impassioned about it; for instance, when confronted by nonskeptics who are impassioned about that.

It is the worst who are full of passionate intensity. Look at the evangelical movement in America, and to some extent, now, here. Look at the Religious Right in Israel. Look at fundamentalist Islam. What they share, what drives them, the tiger in their tanks, is an absolute, unshakeable belief in an ever-present divinity, with plans for nations that He communicates to the leaders, or would-be leaders, of nations. They are the very devil, these people, they could wreck our world, and their central belief in God’s plan has to be confronted. Confronted with passion. Confronted because, and on the ground that, it is not true.

Along with the wrecking our world part – very much along with that. It’s seriously irritating to have one’s world wrecked by people who are passionately and immovably convinced of childish bullshit. If you’re going to wreck our world at least do it for a better reason than that!

Disbelief can be passionate. Sometimes it should be. Agnosticism can be passionate. A sense that we lack certitude, lack evidence, lack the external command of any luminous guiding truth, may not always lead to lassitude, complaisance or a modest silence. Sometimes it should provoke a great shout: “Stop. You don’t know that. You have no right.”

Eg-zactly. I’ve been thinking about that lately; writing a few notes about it. That’s because there’s this Center for Inquiry ‘Beyond Belief’ shindig in July, at which I’m supposed to say some words, so I’ve been thinking about what kind of words to say; I’m planning to say words along those lines. I like those lines. ‘Stop. You don’t know that. You have no right.’

Many people of course think they do have the right; many of those people think that it is the unbelievers who have no right. Many people just know – what they don’t and can’t know, but that doesn’t stop them. Many people just know what they don’t and can’t know, and consider people who say ‘You don’t know that’ arrogant and dogmatic. That’s why we need some passion and energy in order to go on explaining that that’s not how it should go.

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