The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #117

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- FEBRUARY 2013 


David Schwartzman’s Siberian husky, Lycisca* (shown above) is wearing a Brights cloth patch.

*Why would David name his pet after a Roman goddess when he gives no credence to deities?  
“I like the name. And, at least she is real.

Start a Conversation

Sewn into the right places, a Brights’ logo patch is a helpful conversation starter!  Perhaps the best place is on a pet’s garment, but there are many alternatives (e.g., a backpack, hat, book bag, tote).

Cloth patches (2ј”x3”) are offered year-round as a $3 purchase via PayPal on the website merchandise page. But, if you’d like to use a patch to start your own conversations, you can acquire it now for FREE.

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FREE Logo Patch
(February Only)

If located in the USA, send a self-addressed, stamped (46ў) envelope to Brights Central (P O Box 163418, Sacramento CA 95816). With 1 oz. postage, we can send you a brochure and bookmark, too! We are able to mail patches domestically only via SASE envelopes, so please do not email your request.

If outside the USA, email to the-brights@the-brights.net with “PATCH” in your subject line. Be sure to provide a very complete postal address.

Note to American Brights: If you’d like to help someone else acquire the free patch, would you simply enclose at least a dollar in your SASE envelope?  We are relying on American Brights to defray the necessary international postage per envelope ($1.10). Thanks in advance for a tidbit of generosity to help us provide a cloth patch by postal mail to each Bright outside the USA who would like to acquire one.

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One Life, That’s It!

In last month’s postings on the BloggingBrights.net site, A Rational Woman’s “10 Bright Ways to Think about Death” acquired the most readers of any topic. No surprise that death is of interest to many Brights. What is somewhat startling, though, is the fact that so few readers left comments on her blog post.

Could it be that, on a subject to which Brights typically have given much prior thought, she covered all the bases?

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Scouts Consultation Concludes (UK)

Some of you may recall that back in November 2011 UK Brights launched a petition calling for Girlguiding UK to remove from the Guiding Promise any reference to God. Since then that organisation and the Scouts in the UK have launched consultations to determine whether there was support for such a move.

The Scouts consultation, which took the form a survey in their magazine and an online questionnaire just closed on 31st January.  The process was couched in terms of a revision to the Fundamentals of Scouting and whether, with this being updated to reflect modern times, the wording of their Promise and Law and their policies and procedures might have to change.

Whilst open to non-Scout Association members, the exercise would have been most heavily exposed to the existing membership.  The majority of them would evidently be "with faith" and consequently aligned to the status quo.  We can only hope that the survey results are normalised so as to remove this inbuilt bias!

And it's not too late for you express your opinion to Girlguiding UK for Guides, Brownies, and Rainbows.

Our hope, in all these cases, is that each takes an embrightened view, makes the change and ensures that nowhere do their policies discriminate on grounds of faith, sexuality or ethnicity.

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International Brights’ Forum Report

In one case, a CNN "iReporter," a kind of citizen journalist going by the pseudonym TXBlue08, reported on her experiences as a nontheistic mother, in her piece "Why I Raise My Children Without God."  The piece is devoid of hate speech, personal attacks, or any of the kinds of conduct usually deemed "inappropriate" for publication, yet so many CNN readers reported the piece as inappropriate that CNN's content moderation system was triggered, and it was temporarily pulled from CNN's website.  A direct answer to the piece, entitled "Why I Raise My Children With God", was not so treated.  Questions: Does this exchange accurately reflect the kinds of things that go on in today's internet, and does that motivate you to act in defense of fairness in the exchange of ideas?

In a case exemplifying the interface between naturalistic and unnaturalistic viewpoints in the civics arena, implementation of a Texas (USA) law allowing for biblical instruction in public schools has resulted in some controversy.  When bible-related course materials were examined by a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, they were found to be lacking both academic rigor and legal defensibility, and to be instructing pupils in specific theological findings and beliefs.  The use of religious material extended to providing "evidence" of biblical miracles in a scientific context.  Would you want your children taught in a school using those materials under that law?  What would you do about it?

To participate in the Forums, you much register, but it's quick and easy.  See you there!

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More Insights from Brights

Last month Ken, who writes as Umwelt Utahpia, revealed some of his

In other recent blog posts, A Rational Woman offers her firm opinions on these topics:

All BloggingBrights postings are easily shared in social media, so pass along any favorites to your friends.

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The Place of Religion
(Dawkins and Dennett)

Does religion have a place in the 21st century?
Enthusiastic Bright Richard Dawkins took the negative in a recent Cambridge union debating society encounter with the former Archbishop of Canterbury: “It peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered, false explanations that get in the way of the enterprise of discovering real explanations.'' Although his “religion is a cop-out” argument failed to convince, it made for an interesting exchange.

What would replace it? Enthusiastic Bright Daniel Dennett expects religion to stick around and hopes it will evolve over time to become more benign.  Seeing both a role for religious organizations and a challenge for secular organizations, he posits a wiser and more practical goal may be to encourage organizations in their role of creating infrastructure for human morality.  

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Secular Leaders Meet (USA)

To address common challenges of nontheistic citizens and groups, heads of major organizations have met annually since 2005. Each U.S.-based body is working in its own ways to create community and increase influence. The Brights’ Net has provided representation every year since the inaugural summit, and the 2013 meeting in Atlanta on January 26 was no exception (Kelly and Mynga from Brights Central attended).

As one might expect, there is varied perspective across the various groups on goals and tactics. Nonetheless, the annual meeting has over time led to increased cooperation, with recent joint efforts to draw more and more “nones” (not religiously-affiliated citizens) into activism to take up the interests of the nontheistic citizenry. (Most notable among the shared endeavor is last year’s organizing of the Reason Rally in Washington, DC.)

The approach of the Brights is unique in that it departs somewhat from the customary religion frame to ground its educational efforts in a civic rather than (non)belief footing. Brights (however they self-identify) can participate and help to further civic representation. By developing an online constituency of individuals who comprehend the merits of the naturalistic worldview with regard to civic actions, we can urge building influence of brights (relative to supers) through constructive engagement of more brights in education, policy, etc.

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ALB Subscribers in Action

The “A Little Brightness” newsletter has acquired a growing following among prisoners. It has generated some “inside activity” as well:

I am subscribed to many different scientific journals.  Whenever I finish reading one, I place it on top of the collection of books that we have in our unit.  It makes me feel good about myself to know that I am spreading knowledge in an environment devoid of erudition.

Tonight I placed my January 2013 issue of Smithsonian Magazine in the books collection.  So right now someone else is reading about how astronomers recently detected molecules of glycolaldehyde—a biochemical building block—in gasses surrounding a star 400 light-years distant.  It doesn't get any “Brighter” than that!

From Joel:  “Indeed!  Great idea, Jeremiah! Last month I responded to Cory's question about whether or not Brights do anything to specifically promote science.  Jeremiah's science magazine contribution is a perfect example of an individual Bright doing just that.”
(Note: Joel is the volunteer Bright who monthly edits ALB as a spin-off of the Brights’ Bulletin.)

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Show Your Spark / Make a Mark

“Be a Bright”

Shine your light
Light the dark
Make your mark...
Lift the darkness of night
Simply by being a “Bright”

(Excerpt) from “Be a Bright” by Jerry Phillips, the Humanist Hymnal Guy

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What It Means “To Be” a Bright

Being a Bright means that you have a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural/mystical elements. (It probably also means you personally take your naturalistic worldview seriously.)

Being a Bright connotes support of a civic equality vision and the aims of the Brights movement as stated on the site’s home page. (It probably also means you’d personally like to act in ways that will advance those civic aims.)

Whether or not you apply the term to yourself (“I am a Bright”), you act helpfully as a Bright whenever you constructively address the civic concerns (e.g., social acceptance, civic equality and participation) of brights of all stripes.

As a participant in the constituency of Brights you will see opportunities (and build personal capacity) to illuminate your naturalistic worldview and engage others in such concerns..

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Framing Brights Actions

To advance civic participation for those who have a naturalistic worldview requires giving consideration to existing cultural confines. What actions will best advance the goals of the Brights movement?

The Brights’ Net points out two different realms of action (see circles in diagram) and urges you to consider the merits of breaking free of customary framing (Religion) to engage more frequently and neutrally in the Civics Arena.

It is a fact that the religion realm does not always lend itself to constructive civic dialogue. The “us” vs. “them” lines between citizens that are so readily drawn in this arena can firm up oppositional stances and overshadow civic concerns. Then, too, they often lead to verbal skirmishes that calcify opinion and make matters worse. Beliefs about supernatural agency or entity are particularly conducive to discord and detrimental to the broad civic aims of equality fo persons who have a supernatural-free perspective.

Select the above image to enlarge

Stepping into a different “frame” entirely (right circle) can be helpful to advancing the egalitarian civic aims that underpin the Brights initiative. It is usually easier (especially with practice) to engage in civil ways with others and to stand strong for equality over privilege when one is starting from a focus on common humanity and the shared civic ideals that are often part of the civic fabric in democratic societies.

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Brights Free Agency

As regards religion and beliefs (left circle), Brights do take different stances. Despite having a naturalistic outlook, some do identify culturally by a religion. But they aren’t supers, they are brights.

A great many more Brights, of course, self-identify (by their conclusion regarding deity) as atheists. Others declare an agnostic stance.

Whichever of these is your own, note that all these identities are part of a culturally fixed religious frame. Even in identifying as “non-religious” or “nontheistic” or “nonbeliever” you are positioning yourself within an identity frame staked out by religion.

And in some ways, all the positions are continually reinforcing that frame.

Whatever your position in the religion frame, the option to center identity and actions in a civics frame is yours to take if you wish. It may mean stepping aside from reinforcing the religion framework and learning a new way of engaging. For more on this topic (and a closer look at the two-frames shown above), see the segment on the website, “Engaging in Action as Brights.”

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The Brights' Bulletin



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