The Brights' Bulletin
October 31, 2006
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
WEBSITE ADDITION - A SYNOPSIS
The Brights' Net site recently underwent a change. The home page now has two banner-links, not just one. The link to the nine Principles of the movement has been moved below the added banner, so that site visitors encounter beforehand a new explanatory page called, A Synopsis.
This new "get-acquainted page" for potential registrants will likely reduce the email flow into Brights Central (at least, we hope it will).
It's important that prospective Brights understand the overall nature of the Brights' civic justice endeavor. To check out the synopsis, read down the home page and click on the first blue icon you come upon:
BUMPER STICKERS - NEW MERCHANDISE
"Living on the Bright Side of Life" and others. See the available designs and sayings at:
You can obtain some of these same maxims on products such as T-shirts, caps and buttons. Check out all Brights' Shop merchandise at:
BRIGHTS AND SUPERS
These two nouns offer a way to contrast people by their complementary types of worldview (naturalistic or supernaturalistic). Earlier this year, Daniel Dennett promulgated the antonym duo in his book, "Breaking the Spell." Since then, the "supers" label has apparently been gaining some strength, at least as measured by the number of Google hits on the term. A simple search that yields over 3 million pages already puts the plural of the noun (supers) in third place behind a music group and a game. It will be interesting to see to what extent the term takes hold. (The Brights' Net site now employs it.)
Googling the combo (+brights +supers) generates a listing of about 1350 pages. Not all references are complimentary! Still, many Brights are so weary of being identified solely by the negatives grounded in religion that they're not at all minding another positive for others. In this twist, they see the "super" status in a wholly different light.
A PLEASING SIGNUP COMMENT
From Joshua (Australia): "This is an excellent idea. It becomes tiresome to always be defined and to define myself by what I am not. Yes, I'm an atheist, but only incidentally because my worldview is naturalistic. It's wonderful to finally have a simple, positive term and a chance to define myself by what I AM."
Over 30 individuals responded to the request to form a Morality Project panel. (Sorry, no additional applications, please.) All who volunteered have received information on how the project will proceed. A Wiki has been initiated, with a proposed "Project Procedures" page being the first page developed. That page is up, and editing has been taking place. Members of the panel have asked many sensible questions. This page should be locked in shortly, after which the project will proceed as directed by the Project Procedures. A later Bulletin will report the panel's progress.
EQUINOX FUND DRIVE - THE RESULTS
The September equinox fund resulted in donations of $14,235. This amount is the most yet for any equinox (thank you, donors!), and considerably more than the March drive. Still, it is only 57% of the hoped-for backing - the amount to give confidence in hiring of an assistant at Brights Central.
BC has been carefully squirreling funds from prior equinox drives toward that end. As a result, the Brights' Net now has earmarked for the hiring almost $15K (of a bank balance just short of $28K). When it comes to hiring assistance, this is a pittance. Nonetheless, it is enough to proceed very modestly. (We need the help!) Presuming some funds will continue to trickle in via check or PayPal, we will commit these reserves to person-power and stipulate job description(s), albeit for a defined period of time.
Obviously, the majority of constituents did not financially support the Brights' Net this equinox. Thankfully, many of those who did demonstrated generous support for the work of the organization. U.S. donors to the September equinox will receive their acknowledgments for federal tax purposes during November. Any further donations will be acknowledge during December. The next campaign drive will be the 2007 March Equinox.
From Elizabeth (Idaho, USA): "It is a privilege to support the Brights' Net. While my budget as a high school teacher only allows for a $50.00 donation each equinox, please know that I read all the Brights' Net emails, visit the website ‘religiously,' and fully support your goals. THANK YOU for providing all of us who share a non-supernatural view with a global meeting point. Especially for those of us who live in ‘out-of-the-way' places, you offer a connection to quality thinking and conversation of the best and the brightest."
A GOOD MONTH FOR GROWTH
The steady linear expansion of the constituency in 2006 has taken a noticeable swing upwards. October is the best of the year so far and the largest increase since the original burst in 2003. There were 74 registrations on Oct. 23, mostly due to a Wired article, and the month itself has seen a near doubling of the average daily rate of registrations experienced in previous months. This is a pace for adding 11-12,000 new Brights in the coming year.
The current priority of The Brights' Network is to spread general awareness of the movement in ways that grow the Internet constituency whilst communicating the character and composition of its overall endeavor on behalf of brights everywhere. To date well over 23,000 individuals have registered as Brights. It's easy to let people know about the movement. Simply invite them to take a look at the website.
NEW ATHEISM OR NOT?
"My friends, I must ask you an important question today: Where do you stand on God?" So begins Gary Wolf's Wired article entitled "Battle of the New Atheism." Wolf's mental picture is indeed one of doing battle, and its knights are girded for their task. They will confront such fence-sitters as agnostics, calling for backbone and a rising up of atheists to counter the curse of faith. That, Wolf says, is the essence of "the challenge posed by the New Atheists" (his capitalization).
Wolf seems to have had certain knights in mind to interview: "Three writers have sounded a call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. A few months ago, I set out to talk with them."
Two of the three are recognizable as Brights, and the article quoted from comments of some other Brights that Wolf engaged during his travels. A small mention of Dawkins' adoption of the word "bright" in the piece resulted in a spurt of registrations. Despite that, this piece disappoints.
Co-Directors met with Gary in an interview that turned out to be astonishingly lengthy. The discussion was broadly positive, civics-oriented and, in fact, quite enjoyable. But, since Brights' plans are not battle plans, very little of its substance was useful in supporting the sort of new "New Atheist" movement that this journalist had in his mind to describe. Read the article at:
EMILI DELIGHTS IN A DISCOVERY
"Finding this website is awesome! It turns me from an 'atheist' to a 'Bright', which thrills me. I hate being categorized into a 'god hater' or called 'ignorant' and you have helped me correctly label my beliefs and view on the world with your wonderful points of views! Thank you so much!"
MORE/FEWER NATIONS TO REPORT
As the website said, there are Brights in over 100 nations. This summer BC reported a climb to 138 nations, using the webmaster's drop-down menu leading to the Brights' database. Then, a registration came in. The location name was unfamiliar. Was it a nation or not? To answer the question for that enrollment, we referred to the United Nations' listing of member states. By that method, we must report that currently there are Brights across 132 nations, not 138. Although the constituency didn't actually suffer any loss, we will subtract 4 from our reporting. You can peruse the U.N.'s list of 192 at:
BRIGHTS' TOOLBOX: REPLYING TO "MERRY CHRISTMAS"
Last December 24, Brights Central received a note from Georgios. At the time, the topic of appropriate holiday greetings was permeating the American media and many locales outside the U.S. Georgios had checked the Brights' Toolbox on the website (http://the-brights.net/movement/toolbox/), hoping for some guidance. He found there ideas for "God Bless You" and "I'll Pray for You," but none for replying (as a Bright) to a "Have a Merry Christmas" message.
Another December is approaching. There is time to solicit suggestions we can post to the Brights' Toolbox. How do YOU reply to a cheery seasonal greeting? Do origins in or connections to religion even matter? (You may wish to substitute any December holiday for Christmas here.) Does your response differ if you know the well-wisher, or are aware of his/her sense of the message?
Of course, there is no "standard reply." Any roomful of brights would likely yield an array from jolly to Scroogelike. (BC is relying on Principle #1 of the movement here.) Are there ways that Brights can reply in a noticeably "Bright" fashion, or not?
What we seek most for the Toolbox are civil and kindly replies in tune with Brights' Principle #8 (http://the-brights.net/vision/principles.html). Please send your example response (with or without brief explanation) to firstname.lastname@example.org with MERRY in the subject line. Thank you!
PURCHASES AND RESULTS (PAY A BILL)
Brights who shop for books (or other items) via the Amazon.com site link have a painless way to support the Brights' Net. In fact, for the past three months, the accumulated commission from these (mostly USA) purchases has been sufficient to pay in full our database bill from Democracy in Action. It is necessary to go through the Brights Amazon.com link to generate any commission (you pay no additional amount). Unfortunately, we cannot arrange this for Amazon internationals.
TRANSLATING THE BULLETIN
Machine-translation is not perfect, but it appears to be improving. Brights who want to read website material in a language other than English can use Google, which can quickly translate an entire Web page into Spanish, French, German, and a host of other languages.
For example, to translate the monthly Bright' Bulletin, which is one Web page, follow these steps:
1. Go to google.com
2. Pick "language tools" by the main menu
3. At the bottom of the page is "translate a web page"
4. Type in (or copy and paste) the URL for the page (current Bulletin):
5. Select the translation language from the drop-down menu
6. View the translated material.
FORUM FACILITATORS IN CAMBRIDGE
Cambridge (UK) was the location where a handful of Brights' Forum leaders met just this past weekend. (It is rare that Internet collaborators can arrange to meet one another in person to interact face-to-face.) Their gathering afforded the opportunity for chat about ways of better utilizing the Brights' Net's discussion hub. In one brief account (the only received so far), those newly-met were judged to be "lovely"! A report of the proceedings is promised to BC.
LONDON BRIGHTS MISS FINAL CUT
Glen, the Meetup organizer for London Brights, has learned that the footage filmed at the September gathering did not make it into the final version of the documentary to be shown on Channel 4. Given the program's new title, "The Trouble with Atheism," his view was an optimistic one: "I guess they couldn't find anything to challenge in the material we generated!" The revised broadcast date for the program is (provisionally) Monday, December 18.
BOOKS BY BRIGHTS
"History: Fiction or Science?" by Anatoly T. Fomenko, who is head of the Moscow State University Department of Mathematics and Mechanics.
DAWKINS - FOR PROFIT, & NOT
With apologies, the new Richard Dawkins' website announces it is undergoing actions to split itself into two sections: (1) the official promotional site for Dawkins and his books, and (2) a two-nation non-profit foundation (Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science). The breakup and rearrangement of content is requisite to obtaining non-profit status in the UK and US for the work of the foundation itself.
Professor Dawkins is currently promoting "The God Delusion" in the United States. You can follow posts of his US book tour at his site (the proper portion, of course).
BRIGHT REACHES "HIGH OFFICE"
Margaret Downey is an Enthusiastic Bright, and now she is the newly-elected President of Atheist Alliance International (AAI). Margaret is on the Brights' site at:
The AAI, which has as its tagline "A Positive Voice for Atheism," is a democratic organization of autonomous atheist societies headquartered in the United States. Among its projects is an attempt to list all freethought organizations in the world:
$1,000 FINDER'S FEE (USA)
The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) has initiated a contest with a reward. The $1,000 goes to the one person who meets the SCA's stated terms and conditions for identifying the highest level SELF-IDENTIFIED nontheist in ELECTED public office in the United States. Any office holder identified by a contestant must be currently holding a federal, state, county, or municipal elected public office in the USA, and a letter of acknowledgement of his/her nontheist status will be requested by the SCA. Contest rules, terms, and conditions are to be found at:
REFERENCE GUIDE TO PERSONNEL AND OTHER BRIGHTS INFORMATION
Paul and Mynga
Co-Directors The Brights Net