The Brights' Bulletin
November 31, 2005
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
TARDY NOVEMBER BULLETIN DUE TO LONDON VISIT
Despite its December release date, this email is actually the "End-of-November Bulletin, Postponed." The broadcast delay was due to Co-Director Mynga's trip to UK. Paul chose to await her return to permit her customary participation in preparing its content as well as some possible mention of any Brights-related visits in London. As it happens, there were two of note, which Mynga describes in the final segment ("Visits in London, England").
Every month, some Bulletins sent out from Brights Central return with a message of this nature: "no longer at this email address."
Keep your email current. If you change your email address, remember to alter it at the website. For your convenience, there's a "subscription settings" button on the home page in the right border at: http://www.the-brights.net
FOR THE BRIGHTS' TOOL BOX: "WHERE DID WE COME FROM, MOMMY?"
The website's Tool Box pages let Brights share constructive ideas for living in a cultural milieu infused with supernaturalism. The section is located at: http://www.the-brights.net/movement/toolbox/
It's time for some more brainstorming to benefit your fellow Brights. Previous toolbox challenges ("God Bless You!" and "I'll Pray for You") addressed likely casual interactions with fellow citizens. This time, we will shift the focus and concentrate on the actual situation of a perplexed Bright.
SITUATION: Brights Central recently received an emailed query from a parent who was bewildered by the question of her very young child. BC's quick reply was received with appreciation. However, there are likely many additional ways to answer - from a naturalistic perspective - a child's "origins query" such as the one received:
"Classmates say we were created by God. How did we get here if there is no god who made us?"
TOOLBOX CHALLENGE: (Presume child under age seven) How would you answer the child?
1) You must write in a manner that a young child will understand. (No philosophy, no big words, and no lengthy presentation.)
2) The attention span of a youngster is typically short, so keep your explanation to a maximum of 300 words (or three minutes, if read slowly and deliberately to a child).
Please send your suggested explanations by December 15 so that we can post some sample entries before the next Bulletin. Simply write your entire message in an email and send to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word CHILD in upper case letters in the subject line. Please do NOT attach files.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OF DONATIONS (USA)
To our knowledge, all U.S. donors have been sent their tax exemption statements for equinox donations. (Donations to The Brights Net are tax exempt in the U.S.) If you have not yet received yours, please let us know. Many thanks to the donors who help support The Brights' Net, whether at the equinox, end of year, or anytime!
THE DECEMBER DILEMMA (USA)
A month with various holidays in close proximity carries potential to heighten discord in any community, and school activities are often a fount of dispute in December. The antidote to such conflict involves schools (1) abiding by the standard of legal neutrality in programs (no privileging of any religion over others, or of religion over nonreligion), (2) pursuing sound curriculum, and (3) clearly upholding a fundamental commitment to civic pluralism.
Parents and Teachers:
Cognizance of what is "okay or not okay" in tax-supported schools with respect to religious celebrations and school programs and activities can be helpful. For a general summary written for teachers regarding matters that fall within classrooms, follow the URL below. Then click on the topic "Holidays" in the left border. You may also be interested in clicking on "Subject Areas" regarding holiday music. The website is designed for professional educators, but parents will find useful information as well. See pertinent material at: http://www.teachingaboutreligion.org/Guidance%20for%20Teaching/ok_&_not_ok.htm
"FROM SCRATCH" RHYMES AS MATERIAL FOR CHILDREN'S SONGS
Speaking of "holiday music," here's a suggestion for those who have poetic talents: Sharpen your quills and contribute lyrics to the Children's Songbook Project. (Simple rhyming verse is especially welcomed.)
There is a dearth of material for children of Brights, and present song material is either inappropriate or lies under copyright. If you are interested in participating in, or have questions about, this project, contact Tony by email at email@example.com.
HOW CAN A CATHOLIC BE A BRIGHT?
Yes, we do have Brights who say they are Catholic, Jewish, or keeping some other religious affiliation. People use such identifiers for quite varied reasons. For example, a "culturally Jewish" person may maintain and relish aspects of adherence without abiding any associated beliefs in supernaturalism.
A note received from Lawrence and Tina of Alberta Canada hints at the matter. They said: "From here on, we are going to refer to religions as ‘life styles'. In a movie we saw, the son said to his Dad "I thought you didn't believe in God"; the Dad replied, ‘That doesn't mean you can't be a good Catholic'."
TEST OF HTML/TEXT SENT
On November 26th we sent out from Democracy in Action a test mailing in HTML and text which you should have received. Overall, the test went smoothly, with few reported problems. We will abide by suggestions not to overuse available features. For pragmatic reasons, this Bulletin has been sent in text version.
MUDDLED MINI-MENTION IN LOS ANGELES TIMES
A November 16 article by a Times Staff Writer Stephanie Simon was headlined: "Doubt Is Their Co-Pilot: More Americans are shunning traditional religions and turning to upstart faiths..." Remarking that several secular groups have stepped up their public profiles this year, the author included the Brights. However, the net result of a 30-minute interview was 12 words transmitting a major error about the Brights. Do you see the error in the following excerpt?
"The American Humanist Assn., which has 7,500 members, is running a national ad campaign to persuade the public that atheists can be ethical, even patriotic. The Secular Coalition for America hired its first lobbyist to promote the separation of church and state. The Brights, an atheist civil rights group, has signed up 18,000 members."
The error is: the Brights' Network is neither an atheist organization nor an organization of atheists. It is simply a constituency of people whose supernatural-free worldview marginalizes them in a culture infused with supernaturalism. As such, Brights embody a startling spectrum of beliefs not constrained by a particularity regarding deity-belief. For a refresher look at how Brights self-identify, see the website page: http://www.the-brights.net/people/
"I am a Buddhist Bright, 15 years old, and am fed up with the stomach-turning tide of dogma as it washes across America. I have been Buddhist for a while but only recently have examined the Bright movement and decided I fit in it. As we slide toward theocracy, citizens must unite and mobilize to keep ourselves free."
MEDIA BOOST TO BE THEME OF FORTHCOMING MEETING
Although the development process was unique and a fine pronouncement (endorsed by 3769 Brights) resulted, the hard work on the "Intelligent Design Statement" did not pay off in visible press attention. Perhaps we need to get some professional help in this arena? (If you are a person who is "inclined" toward the Brights' view and might volunteer to provide guidance, or charge only a nominal fee, please let us know.)
In the meantime, Co-Directors plan to attend a January 21 meeting in Los Angeles specifically organized to aid freethought groups in gaining media attention. Among those sharing wisdom and providing guidance will be Marc Cooper, a senior fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communications (he's host of the syndicated radio program Radio Nation), and Duncan Crary, who was behind the multimedia success story of 2005 when the new lobbyist of the Secular Coalition for America grabbed headlines and considerable TV interest. Enthusiastic Bright Margaret Downey will also be there to share the basic techniques from World Wide Media Training she has found helpful.
BRIGHTS' REPRESENTED AT THE "ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES" RALLY (USA)
Co-Director Paul Geisert, a peacetime veteran with a service disability, attended an honor and recognition rally in Washington D.C. on Veterans Day. Invited to the event to represent The Brights' Net, he made two very short presentations and participated with the "Camp Quest Singers" as they sang very new and different wording (by Enthusiastic Bright Edwin Kagin) to familiar army, navy, and marine tunes.
The point of the rally was to refute the well-worn slur that "there are no atheists in foxholes" (or in danger zones, or in disasters, etc.) About two hundred veterans showed up to be acknowledged by representatives of most national freethought organizations. To read more about the event, go to: http://www.atheistfoxholes.org/
VISITS IN LONDON, ENGLAND
November 27: Co-Director Mynga and her traveling companion, Beverly Church (a board member of the American Humanist Association), were invited guests of the Hampstead Humanists at an afternoon "open house/discussion." It was an opportunity to meet with some British secularists (listening and learning, most particularly of their concerns of regarding the rise of "faith schools" in the UK). It was nice to "have a cuppa" and give mention to the Brights.
On November 28, Mynga met with and gave a talk to about 35 folks gathered for the London Brights/Atheists Meetup. She had a delightful time, enjoyed a tasty lager and lime (the group meets at a "Pitcher and Piano" pub), and relished the opportunity to meet with Quentin, Glen, and others active in the London BLC (local constituency of Brights). If you are close by London and interested in the group, go to: http://www.brights.meetup.com/4/events/4787123/
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
That was the title of Mynga's talk at the London Brights' Meetup. Her talk was aimed at those making their way in life as Brights and working to advance the three civic aims stated on the Brights' home page at http://www.the-brights.net
Employing a contrast of two real persons free of supernatural (both keen on being part of their societies), she characterized one as an "emitter" pursuing life's journey in ways consistent with his sweeping worldview and the other as a person able to proceed only as a "reflector" of the culturally monotheistic society in which he/she lived. Mynga remarked on how unproductive was the "godless person" compared to the "emitter." One can consistently and constructively act within society day in and day out, individually if need be, while the "reflector" languishes at the margins of society, holding forth only in dissent and disapproval.
While one can expend time railing against the harm of religion and blind faith, Mynga challenged those present to go further, to advance and pursue measures that "work on the Bright side". Her talk favored acting as contributors to augment a pluralistic society, pursuing concrete actions well-attuned to principles stated at the web site. She urged participation in varied ways to strengthen civil and secular institutions.
In education, she advocated tangible actions to secure sound programs over griping about irrationality. Brights can focus on ways to fortify programs and advance the skills and experiences that produce well-rounded and critical thinking citizens. Regarding rearing of youth, she encouraged parents to "emit" their encompassing worldview as opposed to accepting and "reflecting" the society's narrow view of them as godless nonbelievers. Nurturing skepticism, analysis, inquisitiveness, and "out of left-field" thinking are all part of the "Bright side" picture.
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Co-Directors: Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert
Webmaster: Kevin Schultz
Web Architect (emergency service) Theo Skye
BLC Coordinator: Tammy Richard
Outreach Coordinator: Debra Deanne Olson