The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #175

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JANUARY 2018 


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What the World Needs Now Is…

Minds wide awake?  The fresh New Year offers Brights an opportune time to review the vision statement of this online constituency, with its diverse participants sprinkled across the globe.

“The Vision” (in brief): Persons who have a naturalistic worldview should be accepted as fellow citizens and full participants in the cultural and political landscape of their society, not stifled or civically marginalized because of its pervasive supernaturalism.

Action on the Brights’ vision requires that we individuals who hold a naturalistic worldview make evident our existence within society. In some nations, where safety is a factor in visibility, there will need to be caution combined with ingenuity. In most democracies, just the ingenuity will do, and actions can follow.

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Ponder – Then Chart Your Action!

What will you be doing in 2018 to further the aims of the Brights?

People who have a naturalistic worldview need to engage with fellow citizens. We each must start from where we are and within whatever circumstances we live. That is what the Brights is about. That’s why we exist on the internet as an amenable worldwide umbrella for a broad diversity of citizens in a huge variety of social circumstances.

Despite it being 2018, far too much credence is given to nonsensical ideas.  Also, we constantly encounter more weight being given to anecdotes offered by friends than to substantive guidance from carefully controlled scientific studies. Most Brights care when we see absurdities given priority over reasonable real world facts.

Maybe you can do something about it. There are so many available action options.  Might you personally help diminish some aspect of society’s reliance on supernatural hokum? Might you somehow reduce the privileging in society of persons who tout groundless beliefs? In keeping with the idea that Brights will act in constructive ways with fellow citizens, actions deserve some thought. So, set your priorities, and get on with it!

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Why Not Show Your Stuff?

Whether your New Year is presenting as a frigid “up north” or a sweltering “down under,” the Brights Kiosk on Zazzle.com may have something for the weather. Check out the apparel bearing the Brights logo.

Some items (see example) have the QR code with the four action concepts for illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview. You may not be a celebrity, but you might rouse some curiosity with the code and find your backside being snapped when you are spotted wearing a Tee or a hoodie bearing it.

A few items of apparel will display “Living life on the Bright side” as a concept, so simply by living that life you can draw attention that leads others to The Brights’ Net website, as well as to the concepts they will find presented there. Guiding others to “the Brights” is how we grow, as others join in to support our educational activities to illuminate the naturalistic outlook!

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What? - A Bright Is Writing about Heaven(s)?

Noted Skeptic Michael Shermer has just come out with a book that will interest a good many Brights: Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and UtopiaIt concerns the quest for existence beyond death.

Dr. Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, has produced quite an array of books already. Some are along similar lines, such as Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.

Dr. Shermer is also a Bright, so it should be of no surprise that he has been looking into what science says about “the why and how” of humans’ choosing to believe that there is going to be some sort of existence beyond the corporal finality that so clearly lies ahead for each person. Although each body manifestly perishes, doesn’t a soul, or something of the person, go on? What did this well-known skeptic learn in his explorations?

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A Successful Atheist Politician, Oh Really? (USA)

Once upon a time there was indeed such a figure.  Back in the days of the New Deal, it must have been possible for a resolute atheist to be elected to an important public office in the United States. We know that because… it happened! And the feat is recorded in The Honorable Culbert Levy Olson.

Whereas current politicians who openly voice their secular bent are as rare as hens’ teeth, Culbert Olson made no bones about his atheism. He was elected and served as Governor of California.

This book’s fascinating story from those times is co-authored by Dr. Craig Wilkinson and Debra Deanne Olson. Yes, Olson. Debra is an Enthusiastic Bright and also the former governor’s granddaughter. The book (available in paperback, Kindle, ePub) will likely be of some interest to Californians, and to most any history buff who wants to make comparisons to today’s political climate.

And as far as giving opportunity for an atheist to be elected today? First, the individual must run for office. Perhaps there’s a Bright who will weigh the possibilities and “go for it”?

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The “Nones” and the “Christmas Story” (USA)

A Pew Research Center report released in December reveals in 16 pages of charts that many of the religious aspects of Christmas are declining in public life.

While the entire survey will be of cultural interest to many Brights, of chief import will likely be the extent to which “the biblical Nativity story” is, in 2017, being viewed as a historical event, which was one aspect of Christmas studied in the survey. Pew examined four assertions: “Jesus was born to a virgin,” “Baby Jesus was laid in a manger,” “Wise men, guided by star, brought Jesus gifts,” and “Angel announced birth of Jesus to shepherds.” Belief in each appears to be declining somewhat.

The Pew research compares Christians with the religiously unaffiliated.  Intriguingly, it reports that in 2017 11% of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe in the historical authenticity of all four story elements! Eleven percent of the “Nones” believe the full set.

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Secular Views of Religion & Government (UK)

The National Secular Society, an active organization of secularists in the United Kingdom, is pressing to make British government more representative of the changing landscape of religion and belief.

Taking another step in its century-long efforts, this month the NSS is distributing to all members of Parliament a copy of its report, “Separating Church and State: The Case for Disestablishment.” The 14-page document (PDF link) argues the NSS case for disestablishment.

The time may be riper for arguments for disestablishment. The latest British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the proportion of people in Britain who describe themselves as having no religion is at its highest ever level. A recent YouGov survey for The Times indicated that a majority of British citizens want religion kept out of politics. And now they also voice a desire that bishops lose their automatic right to sit as Lords in the Parliament.

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Perspectives on Religion & Government (USA)

A variety of American organizations actively promote separating religion from public governance. Many are of decisively secular character and composition, but not all.

We’d like to mention one of those, having just recently learned that many American Brights who care deeply about religion/government separation are not familiar with it, despite the tenacious organization’s single-mindedness about the topic (so single-minded that it incorporates the concept into its name).

Such American Brights should know about American’s United because it is dedicated specifically to advancing that ONE constitutional principle of religion-government separation, and because it is inclusive of religious as well as nonreligious participation. For AU, personal beliefs about deities just do not matter; they welcome humanists and atheists as well as deeply religious persons who also view state-church separation as the only way to ensure freedom of religion for all Americans.

As a nonpartisan educational and advocacy organization giving full-throated support to liberty of conscience (the right to believe or not believe), AU envisions an America where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another. 

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Self-Medication by Orangutans

This latest wee story of nature examines the actions of orangutans, possibly to alleviate discomfort.

When they take leaves from a plant and use them much as nearby indigenous people do (rubbing on like sunscreen to reduce inflammation or infection), could the orangutans be using it for a similar purpose–for external medication?  If yes, then who learned from whom?

The “Hotline Story” from a Danish Bright (available in both Danish and English languages).

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Appreciating Supporters of All Stripes

To “Remarkable Recurrents”: As we forge into a New Year, we want all you monthly donors to know just how important you are - more important than you realize, we’d bet!  The Brights is a constituency of individuals, and so it is the regularity of these small donations of $5 or $6 or $10 you provide that helps to sustain the educational activities we pursue. The more, the merrier, so join this great group for 2018.

To “Splendid Seasonals”: Special appreciation goes out to those of you who closed out calendar year 2017 by sending a bit of extra seasonal support to the Brights endeavor! 

To “Purchasers Plus”: Furthermore, great gratitude goes to folks who have been remembering when purchases earn a small commission for the Brights. Whether you have bought something through Zazzle, or CafePress, or Amazon, or iGive – Thank you! By the way, not just Brights, but everyone can do this!  Your friends and relatives can find relevant links on the home page.

To “Partnering Pals”:  Lastly, we prize those who don’t forget they are working for a company that matches their donations to nonprofits. If you haven’t yet signed up to strengthen the Brights endeavor this way, please do give it some thought. (You can ask your HR department for forms.)  Taking action, you will definitely make the year “brighter”!

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New Bright? Explore the Site

If you have recently registered into the Brights, you may not yet have studied the portion of the website known as the “Morality Portal.” It’s an educational section that offers succinct “Morality 101” information on the topic of human morality.

(It is not to be missed by any Bright, so do take time to educate yourself about this important issue, if you aren’t already “up” on it.)

The assembled information in the web portal grew out of a “Morality Project” in which numerous volunteers, under the leadership of Ruban Bala, drew together what science says about how human morality came to be. These volunteer Brights worked with Brights Central to garner involvement from notable science researchers in the field, and also to obtain professional graphic support.

In particular, they benefited from the valuable assistance of a volunteer graphic artist (also a Bright) to yield an infographic that you can both study and share with others. Brights can be active in sharing the infographic across the globe. (It, along with supplementary information explaining it, is available in 15 different languages.)

The morality infographic is but one product resulting from the project. The endeavor overall produced a rather large set of information worthy of exploration not only by Brights, but by anyone who wants to learn about this topic. There is a bibliography of readings suggested by the morality researchers themselves as being “for the public.”

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