The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #204

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JULY-AUGUST 2021 


 
 

On Being a Bright

Now and then we Brights should take a bit of time as Brights to reflect on what it means to say that we are.

Let’s engage here a brief refresher on the two-pronged notion of being a person who has a naturalistic outlook on the world (a bright) and also a Bright (a registered member of this constituency). The latter is simply a way of associating while each of us is being true to our own distinctive personal philosophy on how the world works.

A founding principle of The Brights’ Network found on the websites says: “We Brights have differing circumstances within which we function. We do not think alike on many action issues.”

The explanation goes further, assuring us that there is really no desire to press for conformity of thought or action across the constituency. We may identify with the label as accurately describing us, but there is no manifesto we share, no common political platform, no centralized agenda for the constituency of Brights.

Still, the very fact of our sharing worldviews wholly empty of supernatural or mystical elements does carry meaning. For one thing, it casts us Brights together as generally in sync with one another on many matters while positioning us separately from the countless persons who will behold those matters differently. So, while we who registered as Brights remain distinct as individual persons, we are decidedly cognizant of the civic status of brights near and far.

 

Brights (and Supers) in Society

Sharing a naturalistic worldview situates brights apart from supers. Supers are those folks who might embrace as real such phenomena as telepathy and psychokinesis, karma and clairvoyance, or a god or gods.

Our late friend Bob Carroll’s Skeptic’s Dictionary holds hundreds of entries under the title: “From Abracadabra to Zombies.” Many of the dictionary’s entries are entities or forces that brights would consider to exist more as words on a page or images on a screen than as some aspect or segment of reality. And despite the fact that some portion of humanity may proclaim these things to really exist, and even to be important, that’s just not the case with brights.

Of course, brights hold and carry supernatural/mystical elements within their thoughts. After all, lore and literature have filled our minds with elves, phantoms and spirits, fairies, and deities aplenty. There can exist within our thinking all sorts of entities and agencies that have shown no actual appearance in reality. Although we may picture them in our minds and they may appear in our dreams, we don’t expect to encounter them, ever.

What constituent Brights in The Brights’ Network want to do is challenge the marginalized status of brights and ultimately to “embrighten” the political and cultural landscape of their societies. The personal effort (summarized in our “illuminate and elevate” tagline) is generally aided by Brights being open and candid about their own freedom from sundry supernaturalism. It also calls for Brights to be as courageous as they personally can be in moving us toward those ends.

 

Living Life – Our Favorite Quotations

As mentioned in the prior bulletin, Brights Central has been considering adding a new segment to the website drawn from constituents themselves. That is, all the assembled content would come from your contributions.

BC has done this type of project before. Sections under the “Books by Brights” and the “Expressions and Illuminations” labels make for rather extensive site portions, although there are numerous shorter segments as well. The bumper-sticker style “Sound Bites” and the 22 different topics under the “Comments by Brights” index illustrate well the impressive diversity of this constituency.

All of these website portions let first-time visitors to the site hear “about the Brights” from Brights themselves. (Most newbies, having heard somehow about “the Brights”, probably arrive at the home page by way of Google or after reading the Wikipedia entry.)

BC put out a preliminary feeler to see what kind of items constituents might provide. It invited readers to share a tidbit of their own view on life. The three quotes reproduced here were among those tendered as personal favorites.

 “Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.”

Author, Anonymous (contributed by Frank, Canada)

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.”

By Hunter S. Thompson (contributed by Joao, Portugal)

“I can choose to not be part of the problem by my personal behavior.”

(Personal philosophy contributed by Barb, Arizona, USA)

All “Best Quote” nominations already received show varied interpretations and geography. (We can live with that.)  So, if interested, you can submit your own “Best Quote” for consideration. Read further for instructions.

 

Your “Best Quote” Nominations

As the Monty Python song has it, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

Brights actually live on a bright (naturalistic worldview) side of life. They see and carry on entirely without drawing on faith or trusting to any supernatural entities or agency. So, what do they hold dear and/or keep in mind?

BC is asking individual constituents to offer their thoughts and show how they personally persevere. Collectively, then, we can point out to others some sayings or mottos or maxims that help to frame our “just-one-life-to-live” mindsets.

What fairly brief saying do you personally applaud that would be likely to help illuminate and elevate your naturalistic outlook on life?  Besides a hoped-for brevity, of priority interest are quotes illustrative of a naturalistic worldview and heartening from an ethical standpoint. Readers could recognize that magical thinking and/or religious faith is not a necessary component of a moral and satisfying approach to spending our time on earth!

If you have some cherished quote that you carry in your mind as you live a life grounded in a naturalistic outlook, do pass it along for consideration and possible posting to the website. We would appreciate your providing and affirming the source. Perhaps it is something well-known from a sage or historical circumstance. Maybe it came from someone you treasure, like a relative. Perhaps just your own invention?  That’s okay, too.

Please email your nomination for consideration to the-brights@the-brights.net with BEST QUOTE in your subject line (using all caps helps with inbox sorting). Besides the quote wording and authorship, provide your name and your country (or state, if USA). Please check your source attribution so that, if we do publish it, BC will not receive flack (we will have to presume you have done so!). If we publicize contributions, we will use only your first name and location (country or US state). Thanks!

Prompt respondents will deserve a ”Brights Awesome! bumper sticker” for their troubles! The first hundred correct submissions will merit this perk even if the entry is not selected for publication to the website. (Also, a note here to all prior contributors: You will receive an email offering you the same swag freebie after-the-fact.)

 

Identity Stuff:  By Religion / By Civics

Here’s how the joke begins: 

“An atheist walks into a bar…”

But from another storyteller:

“A bright walks into a bar…”

Two different persons? The self-same being? It could be either situation. Why? Because so many brights (not all) do consider themselves to be atheists. And also, because so many atheists (but certainly not all!) do have a naturalistic worldview.

A bright freely chooses to take on whatever identity labels may fit their notions and their circumstance.

However, self-identified Brights (constituents) will want to keep in mind that the terrain of a bright is not a territory defined by religion. The notion of “Brightness” originated in a civic sense, to give greater voice to the supernatural-free folks, so the terrain is far broader and involves conclusions about all sorts of supernatural entities and agency. (see spectrum sketch)

With atheism (or agnosticism), religion has already carved the identity landscape. The topography comes with already-imposed cultural constraints. Viewed in a civic sense, atheism delivers a rather “pinched” identity. That is, it is based on what others (often a creed-infused society and history) have created and given importance. Religion already “owns” that landscape and constrains a person to that landscape. It has instilled its terminology, along with all the entrenched assumptions that the culture proffers. Citizens are positioned accordingly.  

The notion of “being a bright” is expansive. It allows a person to express and share with others a common type of consideration in the civics realm without being roped into identifying with respect to religion. (The website presents a sketch that distinguishes how “the Brights” idea relates to both the civic and religious domains.) As individuals and citizens, Brights may publicly carry either a nonreligious or religious social identity. There are many Brights who clearly have no deity-belief and view scriptural narrative as lore and yet are comfortable with maintaining a nominally religious identity and engaging in a religious community’s activities.

The website offers a treatise on the identity of brightness. It points out the relevance and civic usefulness of being an individual whose worldview is wholly bare of supernatural or mystical elements. The idea is that Brights themselves can help to make a naturalistic outlook more visible and civically recognized.

Brights may live among friends and fellow citizens who are quite ardent about their supernatural/mystical views. In societies where those hold sway, perhaps by way of some religion-infused power structure, the civic life of a bright can be thorny, and views disparaged or taboo. Life can be especially perilous for brights if their society’s civil governance is intertwined with religion to the extent that profess acceptance of and allegiance to divinity is a requirement. No doubt that, in some countries, the holding of a supernatural-free worldview may even place a bright in jeopardy. As the website points out, it can be civically useful to place “brightness” into a separate arena from beliefs/religion.

 

The Poster Project Is Back!

At Brights Central, we are anxious to restore The Brights’ Net’s Evolution Poster Project to active status. The suspension last year was occasioned by the closing of in-person learning at most public schools due to the pandemic and 2020’s turn to virtual learning rather than in-person instruction.

This dissemination project is sponsored by “The Brights.” It involves BC staff supplying to high school science teachers a classroom resource they highly value. It is a large wall poster that bears a distinctive Earth and Life: changes over time image that is not commercially available. (The Brights’ Net holds a unique agreement with the developers.) The poster is not for decoration. It is an instructional tool, and so teachers need to apply and clarify their instructional need.

Upon prior closing of schools and suspension of the dissemination process, BC retained the on-hand applications from teachers and will first need to reconfirm their continued usage interest (some employment situations may have changed). We are anxious and well-equipped to do so! We’ve a goodly supply of the colorful 5 ½ foot wide posters already printed, and abundant mailing tubes are “at the ready/”

This singular resource is ready to go out the door to any high school teacher who values the teaching of authentic science and is giving solid emphasis within their teaching to evolutionary change through natural selection. Due to detailed scientific information in the image, free posters go only to high school instructors of relevant science, and not to 7th and 8th grade teachers. (An application form is available on the website.)

 
 

Update on Climate Change

Most Brights tend to be part of a generally science-leaning segment of global society. As such, they maintain a shared and strongly felt interest in global climate status as well as their own nation’s policies. Brights Central follows with interest what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has to say so as to occasionally makes mention in a bulletin of the IPCC’s activities.

The UN body was established over three decades ago to give political leaders across the world periodic scientific assessments useful for framing policy. As such, the IPCC’s major task is to integrate what is learned from published scientific papers across the globe and to offer up a comprehensive summary of what is known about climate change on earth.

A very brief overview of the reporting structure and planning is available in a helpful 2:37 duration video. (Scroll to choose the graphic link shown above when you arrive at the media essentials page.) The helpful video imparts the essence of the IPCC’s present efforts.  In summary, the IPCC body is aiming for its next (the 6th) major synthesis report to be published in 2022. (See schedule and synopsis document.) The reporting structure is being revamped from prior synthesis reports to better impart its intelligence holistically (information is to be provided by and integrated from three different working groups).

Working Group 1 is first up of the three, and finalizing of its contribution was considered at an approval plenary just completed this very month. WG1’s highly significant report is surely a vital consideration for current public policy makers worldwide. It is titled: “The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change.” WG1’s about web page is a good place to start if you are not yet familiar with the process and interested in keeping up with this aspect and also getting comfortable with other aspects of the forthcoming sixth synthesis report in 2022.

 

Changes in American Religion (USA)

Another area of interest to many Brights is the continuously shifting religious landscape in the United States. The latest extensive study of this topic comes from the Public Religion Research Institute, which shows that the demographics have indeed been changing.

PRRI keeps tabs of the cultural landscape by giving its attention to the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. The Institute is nonpartisan, and it has a commitment to academic rigor. Its 2020 census report is well worth a reading, and there are colorful charts of data substantiating the major contentions.

Diversity data collected and aggregated at the county level offers up an array of interesting demographic maps, filling in religious demographics not provided by the U.S. Census 2020 or its American Community Survey.

Briefly, these few items from the 2020 PRRI census may be sufficiently enticing to send a curious you to take a personal look at the data and conclusions themselves:

  • White evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop
  • Both the overall decline of white Christians and the rise of “the unaffiliated Nones” are stabilizing
  • Both political parties (Republican and Democratic) evidence a decline in the share of Christians and a corresponding increase in the share of religiously unaffiliated Americans
  • More young adults are unaffiliated today than in the past, and young Americans more religiously diverse.
 

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