The Brights' Bulletin
July 31, 2008
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
AUGUST 2008 BULLETIN
BRIGHTS RETURN TO THE AAI
The first-ever public presentation of the "Brights idea" was at an Atheist Alliance International convention. It was prior to any website. At that 2003 meeting in Tampa, Florida, co-founders made a twelve-minute presentation. They remarked on the potential for bright pride, participation, and power. They urged movement toward a generic civic identity available to all persons whose worldview was naturalistic, first by educating for awareness, to be followed by actions to counter inequitable citizenship participation. (James Randi, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins registered as Brights.) That was then.
This is now. The upcoming annual AAI conference is taking place in the vicinity of the L.A. Brights. Members of the Los Angeles group will be tabling at the September meeting and continuing the message that a positive and widely shared naturalistic worldview need not be circumscribed by religion. Brights can characterize themselves in the affirmative.
If you are attending, stop by and meet some L.A. Brights. Pick up a Brights' static cling for your windows or a button! And, of course, hear presentations by featured speakers, including Michael Shermer (a skeptic and a Bright). The conference hosts are Margaret Downey and Herb Silverman, who are both atheists and Brights. Full convention information is available at:
CONFRONTING A SO-CALLED "UNITY" (USA)
The Democratic National Convention Committee is planning an "interfaith gathering" at its Denver convention. A professed aim is to emphasize unity among diverse Democrats. However, clearly the organizers are facing a challenge in arranging their religious "service" to include representatives of a dramatic variety of faiths.
For example, a recent New York Times Magazine piece ("Can Leah Daughtry Bring Faith to the Party?") points to a secular/sacred dilemma faced by the committee's leader, Rev. Daughtry. The article reports that the gathering is to be held in a theater - "in neutral, secular space, so as not to offend anyone." But the organizers then must face and discuss the question of "how to make the televised event look sacred." How easy to see that a genuine unity - a civic gathering - would present no such "make it secular and then make it sacred" dilemmas.
Learning of the plans, the Director of the Secular Coalition for America expressed her concern that the event would be divisive rather than unifying. She also expressed to Rev. Daughtry the Coalition's willingness to discuss ways to make the convention more inclusive. In the SCA press release (http://www.secular.org/news/DNC_Daughtry080730.html), you can read: "Based as it is on the premise that all values are necessarily derived from religion, this year's Democratic convention leaves atheists, agnostics, humanists and other secular voters feeling increasingly isolated and voiceless."
If you are sympathetic to the SCA's "just add us" slant on this issue, be sure to have registered your "one more Bright's support" in the BrightsAction-SCA SIG at:
www.the-brights.net - SCA
BRIGHTS' BLOG RANKS HIGH (GERMANY)
News from Klaus, who self-identifies as "Publisher, Editor, Admin, Web-Ringmaster and Internet Commissioner of Brights-Germany":
"The 'BrightsBlog' at Wordpress.com has achieved, for the first time, a rank of '4th' of the entire network which includes 1.3 million blogs. This month the Brights' Blog had more than 30,000 visitors. Here is the listing (in German):
Die Top-Blogs auf WordPress.com von heute
2. Noushisubs Weblog
3. Frau Antonmann
4. Brights – die Natur des Zweifels
There is some bit of blogging at Wordpress.com in English one can visit:
BRIGHTS MAY "DEBATE" CREATIONISM (UK)
The UK Brights received an invitation from a local radio station with an audience of 1.4m to debate creationism. Whether and how this might be done has been widely discussed at http://groups.google.com/group/ukbrights and, on balance, the view is that despite misgivings, the publicity for Brights would be beneficial. However, no one has so far stepped forward to undertake the task. Should a qualified Bright debater in the UK wish to do so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
2008-9 ACADEMIC YEAR CALENDAR
The Brights' 2008 annual calendar is the creation of Brights who collaborated in the Action Forums of The Brights' Network. Shopkeeper Diane has once again revamped the product to fit the northern hemisphere academic year, freshly beginning. This new "school calendar" begins August 1, 2008 and goes through July 31, 2009. It is a perfect gift for the students and teachers that you know. (Or, just buy one for yourself!).
The school calendar has beautiful visuals with accompanying uplifting quotations by historical people. With its focus on the intellect, ethics, and sense-of-wonder sentiments, the calendar is suited to both brights and supers. Priced as a service to the constituency, it earns just USD $1 for The Brights' Net. Each calendar sells for USD$15.04. To view or purchase a calendar, go to:
LOOKING TO 2009 (NEW THEME FOR CALENDAR)
The upcoming year's annual calendar intends to carry forward an attitude of deep and sensitive enthrallment with the world to overall cheerful effect. "Hearts on Fire" is the working title! The design process is being managed by a cadre of Brights on the Forum, which will likely welcome your creative ideas for quote and photo (or artwork) combinations. All quotes must be original (coming from YOU) and positive; all image contributions must be legal (either free of copyright or with permissions obtained by The Brights' Net). The starter thread for background and submission rules is:
If not already registered in the Brights Forum, you must do so to participate in the design process.
THE BRIGHTS' SPOT -- A WELCOMING PLACE
(RECENT REGISTRATION COMMENTS)
Stewart (Oregon, USA): "I am very happy to have come across such a wonderful natural phenomenon."
Barbar (South Africa): "Yeah - I am not alone or crazy!"
Geoff (UK) "I read the info on the link and it is just the sort of community that I want to be part of. Full of light and hope. BRIGHTS -- casting a positive image on secular views."
Shelly (Colorado, USA): "After trying to find the truth for all of my life, I can now honestly say that I have found it!"
Anne (California, USA): "Yes, you are like coming up for air!!"
NATIONS WITH BRIGHTS = 179
When registering into the constituency, Brights indicate where they live. Brights Central (BC) has finally gotten around to more carefully tallying those places of residence. We were surprised to have reached a new grand total of 179. (The last reporting was 148 nations). In order, the top ten are the USA, U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Sweden, Netherlands and New Zealand.
TWO FOR ONE
Did you register two or more people at the same time (like husband; wife; teenager)? In order to get an accurate count of the number of registered Brights, we would like to know how many "twofers" or "threefers" signed up. Please drop email@example.com an email with "REGISTERED TOGETHER" in the subject line.
BRIGHTS CAN "SHOW THEIR STUFF"!
A researcher working on a doctorate at the Centre for Anthropology and Mind (Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford) is studying atheism and agnosticism in order to test several theories from psychology and sociology about how different factors can affect beliefs. In order that his conclusions are not based just on the humanist and atheist groups in the US, UK, and Denmark that he has actually visited, he has put together an online survey for individuals that can be taken by people in diverse locations. Reach it at:
This Oxford survey offers an excellent opportunity for Brights worldwide to provide information on their own naturalistic worldviews and at the same time draw attention to the Bright identity label. (Spread the word where it counts!) Perhaps many Brights from various backgrounds and upbringings can express what they believe and experience in the broader outlook of being supernatural-free, rather than just by the customary concentration on (and dogged reference to) deities, theism and religion. Or at least try it! The survey takes some time, but the software allows for exiting and returning to the survey later. If you encounter any problems with the survey, or have questions about the research, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM OLD TO NEW -- "BLCS" BECOMING "BMCS"
More and more "not-local" online groupings of Brights have formed, and so the "local" in Brights Local Constituency is increasingly becoming a misnomer. Many Brights - too far apart geographically for in-person meetings - still manage to communicate online by email, listserv, or website. Hence, it seems the time has arrived to shift the terminology. But what shall we call these "bunches of brights" in the international Brights constituency?
Brights Central, in consultation with Groups Coordinator Will, has adopted a "clusters" point of view. The parallel with "bunches of grapes in the vineyard" may draw some chuckles (it has at BC), but the analogy actually seems to fit well enough. Members in the cluster do have a commonality, but the individuality of each person is respected. No dogma. A Brights Movement Cluster (BMC) consists merely of those individuals who choose to form a grouping centered around the definitional identity, three aims, and nine principles stated on (or linked from) the movement's home page. As we update pages of the website, the BLCs will gradually morph into BMCs.
INTERESTED ARTISTS AMONG US?
Just what has spurred so many artists to communicate with BC recently? Was it perhaps last month's posting of Sylvain's graphic, which was inspired by the Brights movement?
Something prompted the curator of the Bates College Museum of Art (Maine, USA) to wonder if there might be within the Brights constituency visual artists, or art historians, mathematicians, or scientists, willing to be featured as lecturers there.
The BCMA is requesting proposals about contemporary art that is one or more of the following: "the product of a naturalistic worldview, scientific or mathematical inquiry/method, which helps us better understand human perception or the mind, or which is predicated upon the values of a secular society." Interested parties should submit a short proposal, C.V., and, if appropriate, images (slides or med-res jpg files) to the below address. Submission materials will not be returned without a SASE. Anthony Shostak, Education Curator, Bates College Museum of Art, 75 Russell Street, Lewiston, ME 04240 USA
OF PARCELS AND POSTINGS
THE PARCELS: We have recently received by postal mail lovely examples of recorded music and a bit of art -- some created by friends of Brights, but most of it by Brights themselves. The material is delightful, and we appreciate that you may wish staff here to personally enjoy the items (books, poetry, music, etc.). But, just to be sure...perhaps it is time to make a gentle clarification regarding the fate of items received at Brights Central?
If you are pondering mailing an item to the Brights' physical hub, please consider (prior to affixing your postage) that it will be shelved and made available for the perusal and pleasure of volunteers or visitors to the office. If promoting your product via Bulletin announcements or website entries is actually your intent, then please know that however much you may wish to add to the pleasure or wisdom of Brights around the world, that is not as likely to happen.
THE LIKELY POSTINGS: Occasional items created by Brights (a poem here, a gallery opening there) will be given mention in the Bulletin, if there is room. With mounting numbers, however, it is of necessity (time and resources) that additions to website space be given more scrutiny than received previously. The lengthy listing of Books by Brights, now over 70, is perhaps deserving of an overhaul, too, and when time or volunteers are available, that process can take place. Clear relevance to the Brights movement itself -- and also alignment with its principles of positive civic action -- will increasingly be considered as factors before items receive translation into website additions.
LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE A BRIGHT
Todd (California, USA): "I long considered myself an atheist - however atheism by definition does not include the non-belief/denial of the supernatural. Your definition a world view free of supernaturalism and mysticism fits me much better than the militant and often negatively viewed label atheist."
K C (Pennsylvania, USA): "Living a life of oppression, hiding one's true nature and fearing repercussion. That is to be atheist. Hopefully not much longer."
Jim (California, USA): "I am a devout agnostic. Though I am very interested in the supernatural as a writer of fantasy and horror, it does not affect my world view, and the goals of this group seem to match my own. I am not anti-religion, but the requirement that one be religious to be in politics is a problem for me, so I'll add my voice to the chorus here."
Ross (Dorset, UK): "I'll try hard to always act like a bright and help others realise that they are brights too."
There are a number of items you can download from the Brights' website to let others know about the Brights. They include:
* Icons for Email Signatures
* Web Banners
* Wallet Cards (PDF)
* Flyers (PDF)
* Visual Identity Materials (1.2MB ZIP)
* Printed Banners
Check them out at:
BRIGHTS THAT GATHER AS BRIGHTS
There are now approximately 17,950 Brights in some sort of a cluster. There are small local gatherings and meetups as well as regional and national web groups. There is also the international forum community at The Brights' Net site (http://the-brights.net/forums).
If you would appreciate communicating with others who share a naturalistic outlook, you can start your search for others at this listing:
In general, the Brights of many stripes are not widely viewed as "joiners," let alone civic activists. Leaders of BMCs have reported on contacts and activities ranging from email, internet, and listserv to in-person meetings. Most accounts describe simply casual conversing, with a few clusters so loosely connected as to be considered struggling. Still, depending on circumstances and leadership, coalescing into groups can be quite fruitful. Here are two significant milestones reached:
Misha (California): The California-Cal Poly, San Luis Obisco cluster (14) is mostly in-person meetings, but members also use email and Facebook; the group is becoming an official university club and planning to advertise for more members.
Volker (Germany): The Frankfort cluster (14) includes casual/social as well as formal discussion; it is organizing a series of public lectures this autumn.
AMAZON PURCHASES -- FOR THE BRIGHTS
Using Brights' links for Amazon purchases is an easy way to support the work of the organization, and yet you pay no more for what you buy. In June the movement received $USD146.18 from books and other items purchased by Brights on Amazon. Some income results from the .COM and .UK links that lead to Amazon from the Brights' site:
You can also copy the following URL and put it where you have ready access -- it will take you to Amazon.com and credit TBN with 6% of the price of any purchases during that visit.
If you have a website, you can place the following piece of code on your website. It produces a standard Amazon.com Search Box, so that use of that box to purchase from Amazon results in a donation to the Brights movement.
<iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=thebrighnet-20&o=1&p=20&l=qs1&f=ifr" width="120" height="90" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
THIS MONTH'S DOGGEREL
Geoff's poetic "one-person opinion" (UK):
A naturalistic delight
In the world is what makes me a Bright.
It was clear all along
Fear and magic are wrong,
Astrophysics and Darwin are right.
NEW LISTINGS OF BOOKS BY BRIGHTS
The Wholly Trinity: Fact, Evidence and Reason (Reality versus the Human Mind)
By Harv Damschen
An earnest effort by the author (initiated through dialogue with a devout theist) to find a factual basis for theistic thought using fact, evidence, and reason, perhaps lending substance to dogma, faith, and belief. It becomes very evident why an organized movement like "The Brights" is absolutely essential to our global society.
Totality Beliefs and the Religious Imagination
By Anthony Campbell
There seems to be a widespread notion that belief is, in itself, a good thing, but Campbell argues that, for at least some people, freeing oneself from belief systems brings a huge sense of relief.
All books submitted by Brights are listed at:
PRISONERS RECEIVE CONDENSED BULLETIN
Joel recently sent an abbreviated Brights Bulletin to 17 regulars and two new people who are in U.S. prisons. BC sent five responses to Joel.
FRESH EYES AND LIKELY ALLIES
Some Brights seem as prone as anyone to over-generalize and typecast. In particular, there is a tribal tendency to treat religious groups (and religion itself) as homogeneous, when that is plainly not the case. To ignore the great diversity within Christianity, for example, is to close one's eyes to reality. Many denominations support appropriate teaching of evolution in science classes. On this and similar issues of concern to so many Brights, it can be useful to focus on places where supers and brights overlap, and not just on the differences between them. Fine distinctions need to be made, so that brights can see where allies on particulars may actually exist.
Some Christians can offer worthwhile perspectives that are not far afield of what a bright might say. One example regards the $27 million "Answers in Genesis" Creation Museum in Kentucky (near the Cincinnati airport). Jason Byassee, an assistant editor for The Christian Century, offers a useful critique in his article, "Dinosaurs in the Garden: A visit to the Creation Museum." In it, he demonstrates the absurdity of the creationism "science" presented by the AiG.
You might want to take a look at:
Byassee's concluding statement in the Century article is: "Reconciling Christian claims about God, creation and humanity with the findings of Darwin and his successors is an important and daunting task, one that mainline theology has still not satisfactorily accomplished. AiG can hardly be faulted for attempting the task, though its effort is a spectacular failure."
REFERENCE GUIDE TO BRIGHTS INFORMATION
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Bright Regards from Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert at Brights Central