The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #105
January 31, 2012

(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- FEBRUARY 2012 


Distinguished Bright Wins Erasmus Prize

[Netherlands] The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to someone who is making an extremely important contribution to culture, society or a social science field. The theme of this year’s €150,000 award is the cultural significance of the natural sciences, and the 2012 Prize is being awarded to American philosopher Daniel C. Dennett. Dr. Dennett is being honored for his ability to translate the cultural importance of science and technology to a wide audience.
Details (in Dutch)
Press release (in English, Canada)

In its choice of laureates, the Erasmus board emphasizes tolerance, cultural diversity, and non-dogmatic and critical thinking. Participants in the Brights movement are aware that Professor Dennett has been a vocal supporter of the Brights. You can read Dennett’s bio on the Brights’ site.

Building "Buzz" for the Reason Rally

Reason Rally logoThe jamboree on the mall in Washington DC next month is touted in several places as “the largest secular gathering in history.” On the program, there will be writers/bloggers, musicians, artists, comedians, magicians, activists and scientists, and in the audience will be all those who come to see and hear them! Thus, the Rally can really live up to that characterization -- if enough people come.

Having “buzz” turn into actual “attendance” might set the stage for meaningful social change for secular Americans. But a large turnout is crucial. Achieving the societal and political benefits that this event promises necessitates a crowd of impressive size. So, whether or not you can attend on March 24, please play a part. You can help to excite others about the Rally.

Make use of any of the following names that “carry weight” with your friends and acquaintances to urge attendance: Jessica Ahlquist, Dan Barker, Jamila Bey, Greta Christina, Richard Dawkins, Greg Graffin, Victor Harris, Jamie Kilstein, Lawrence Kraus, PZ Meyers, Tim Minchin, Taslima Nasrin, Paul Provenza, James Randi, Adam Savage, Indra Zuno. But that’s not all!  More are coming. You can keep up at the Reason Rally web site.

Not So Easy Being Atheist

[UK,USA] British philosopher Julian Baggini (editor-in-chief of The Philosopher’s Magazine) recently turned his eyes across the pond toward the United States. In a current FT Magazine (Financial Times) article (3 February, 2012), he looks at the taboo of “being atheist” in the Bible Belt of the US and offers a somewhat sympathetic perspective.

Acknowledging Diversity of Circumstance

As the FT Magazine article in the previous item notes, a high religiosity environs can create a strong sense of alienation and effective second class citizenship for “nonbelievers”. In some nations, the stance is downright dangerous.

But in many nations, one’s personal conclusion about the existence of God/gods is no big deal. It just doesn’t affect attitudes of family, friendships with peers, or position in society.

In some places, the situation is clearly mixed. Even in the parts of Europe where some Brights have assured BC that “no one pays attention to whether a citizen is agnostic or atheistic on the god-question, others in the same nation will say it matters very much in their circumstances."

For an international constituency like the Brights, it's hard to generalize. Circumstances vary so. Individuals must decide their actions. Some positions and actions may be more beneficial than others.

Brights’ Net Co-Hosts Activist Leaders

In January, The Brights’ Net and Camp Quest shared hosting and programming of a summit meeting in Los Angeles. The meeting brought together leaders of twenty different organizations for networking and general strategy sharing.

Although the organizations have their various missions, all generally fit the agreed-upon label (for pragmatic purposes) of “nontheistic organization”. The summit advances cooperation, effectiveness, and networking across the organizations.

This year’s meeting, the 8th annual, was a congenial and collaborative one-day gathering. Highlighting the presentations and discussions during the meeting in L.A. was a panel focused on “Relations and Recognition Outside the Freethought Community.”

New Books by Brights

Book coverReflections of a Logical Mind; A Slim Volume of Common Sense; Reason Applied to the Supernatural
By Harve Damschen
A pithy collection of perceptive observations by the author as well as others who logically question the existence of the supernatural.

Inventing Jesus: The New Testament Narrative as Fiction
By Paul Gabel
Those who self-identify as Christian (over 2 billion) know almost nothing about how their faith began; this book shows what came about in the first five centuries of the religion.

The Atheist’s Guide to Reality
By Alex Rosenberg
A sanguine and upbeat perspective regarding the persistent questions about meaning of life and nature of reality.

Brights’ International Forums Report

Some participants in the Brights’ discussion forums are working on a letter of thanks to Rhode Island Council of Churches members who condemned hateful speech directed at Jessica Ahlquist, whose lawsuit recently brought about the removal of a prayer banner that had been displayed at Cranston High School West, a public school.  If you might care to endorse a gesture of support for those leaders who called for tolerance and civil discourse, please follow the development of the draft text and either make yourself known in the Forums (registration required) or email brightsforumliaison@clearwire.net indicating how you would like your endorsement to appear in the letter.

A number of Forum participants have also expressed interest in several legislative items favoring the introduction of creationist material into public school science curricula.  Brights who have standing in the districts of sponsoring legislators might have particular interest in following the proposed bills, or locals may have an informative perspective about the situations in the affected States.

If these items interest you, or you'd simply like to engage with a community where the naturalistic worldview is celebrated, why not register at the Forums and introduce yourself?

Easier to Back the Brights Movement (French and Francophone)

Now Brights who shop at Amazon from France or French-speaking countries can support the Brights by bookmarking and using a new link on The Brights’ Net site. This month BC completed arrangements for Amazon to provide a small commission from purchases of books, appliances, anything purchased at the “.fr” site! If your friends shop there already, tell them about it, too!

Since the Brights’ Network has no membership dues and depends solely on generous Brights, Amazon links are a handy way to let Brights who use English French and German to help support the international infrastructure.

All who purchase from Amazon (.com, .uk, .de, or .fr) will be able to add their support to the Brights movement and do it at no cost to themselves. The important thing to remember is that the shopping session must begin on the main Brights’ website. If you interrupt the shopping and return later, it breaks the connection. Just start again at The Brights’ net site.

Volunteer at the Brights’ Rally Booth

Reason Rally buttonAre you going to be attending the Reason Rally in Washington DC on March 24?

Volunteer to “work” a 2-hour shift at the Brights’ table on the day of event. Sabunim5Dan, a member of the Brights Forum, is coordinating. You’ll have opportunity to meet with other Brights beforehand and be “in on” the planning as well (if you wish).

Email to BC ( the-brights@the-brights.net ) and put RRVOLUNTEER in upper case in your subject line so you can be notified by email and put in touch with the team. Event planning begins mid-month.

More “Brightness” in Prison

A prison subscriber (describing a severe lockdown situation extending for weeks) says: "...I did want to let you know that I really appreciate the monthly newsletter and that it does indeed bring 'A Little Brightness' to an otherwise rather dismal environment. From all of us here in the belly of the beast, I give you our heartfelt thanks."

A chaplain at a prison in Texas is the latest addition to the growing distribution list. Exchanges with an incarcerated Bright apparently led to his December decision that he would welcome making the newletter available to any interested prisoners.

It Really Works!

PinSo reports José (Spain), who ordered 10 pins to supply members of his Brights Community Cluster: “I always wear it on my jacket. It really works. It´s a perfect hook to start a "bright" conversation.”


NEWS

NEW BRIGHTS VIDEO CHANNEL

Reason Rally video stillYouTube channels that use the term “Brights” have in the past been set up by motivated individuals. Some muddling of the message happens when their personal playlist choices conflict with the civic aims and principles of the overall Brights movement. So now, Brights Central (BC) has launched an “official” video channel to present a more coherent message. 

This channel will maintain an educational focus. BC will add not only video that has been produced by The Brights’ Net to explain the movement, but also videos that align well with the overall aims (advancing civic understanding of a naturalistic worldview and promoting the civic acceptance and involvement of those who hold it).

MORE VIDEOS COMING

To enable easier YouTube sharing of existing Brights’ Net videos (a set of interviews now residing on the Brights’ site), BC plans to provide these on the new thebrightsnet video channel.

At this point, the channel is featuring The Brights’ Net Reason Rally promotion. 

The new channel also makes available two videos about The Brights’ Net that have not previously been posted on the Brights’ Net site. In these, co-founders have set out their intentions with respect to how “The Brights Network” would work as a constituency of individuals while being sustained by a nonprofit organization.

Paul discusses “Is there a dogma?” and Mynga points out a few “Basics” for others’ consideration.


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