The Brights' Bulletin
January 31, 2009
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
FEBRUARY 2009 BULLETIN
Suggestion from Jonathon:
"I think you should put the number of registered brights up on the front page. Maybe update it every month, so people can see growth."
As it stands now, Brights Central is reporting the constituency size in the Bulletins. (Each time the head count tops another thousand registrants, BC reports that fact to subscribers.) The count recently surpassed 44,000 and is presently growing at just over 600 a month. It is hoped that new visitors to the site will base any decision to register (or not) wholly on the nature of the endeavor, not the size.
We are all pioneers in this emerging movement. More vital than the number of registrants is the (unknown) number of constituents who decide to participate in a constructive way, acting within their available circles of influence. Question to Bulletin subscribers: "Can you count yourself among them?"
STEPPING OUT, AND UP AS WELL
The thrust of the Brights movement is civic fairness: People who have a naturalistic worldview should be accepted as fellow citizens and full participants in the cultural and political landscape, and not be culturally stifled or civically marginalized due to society's extensive supernaturalism. Brights of varied stripes can participate and invite others to do likewise.
You need not accept how you are defined by a predominant view. You can go beyond silence, or complaint. If society's religiosity has you feeling cornered, step out of that box. For self-identity, you may favor the noun or its definition ("I am a bright" or "I hold a naturalistic worldview"). Whichever your preference, claiming this identity means that you are characterizing yourself, and not so narrowly.
The Brights' Net is established as a constituency. Consequently, it is individuals who make the decisions to act - not the Brights' board of directors. Accept that others differ, and start simply. Adopt civics, not beliefs, as your framework. Stick to it. Be conversant. Listen. Then you can get involved and start showing that you have a stake in the community. You belong. Demonstrate that your ethics and life stance are part of the mainstream. Participate in community service. Run for the school board or other local office. It's about time. You can take it at your own pace, but you can start. Take a hint from Donna:
Donna (Missouri, USA): "I'm a bright, having many super friends, and never know how to bridge the gap clearly yet respectfully, share my views, and respond or behave when faith-based behaviors and traditions cross over into public life. I will absorb your information on how to be honest, cooperative, and inclusive like a dry sponge. You've hit the nail on the head with this well thought out concept, and today I officially come out as a Bright. Thank you."
From Quentin (UK Brights Coordinator) - "The Brights provide two major things:
1) an identity that may be adopted by anyone who thinks they conform to the definition (it's an umbrella term that will embrace individuals who may have many other identities and allegiances), and
2) a movement that seeks civic parity between brights and others in society (a movement in which any Bright may or may not choose to participate).
The Brights is not a membership organisation but a constituency of individuals."
AUDACIOUS OPTIMISTS & A WARNING
Tarik (France): "The world need more brights persons to enlighten the future. Even if we are few and they are many, the truth will rise someday."
Michael (South Carolina, USA): "My hope is that, one day, naturalists will be able to express their views openly in the state of South Carolina without being subject to prejudice and exclusion in the community. I want my children to have the right to believe as they see fit, free from the constraints of any superstition. Thank you for providing hope,"
PJ (Tennessee, USA): "I am excited to have found a group under a new (for me) and positive name with which to identify!"
Chris (Australia): "Excellent! What great 21st Century thinking to finally eliminate the 'God Gap'"
Brad (Vietnam): "I loathe organizations and I loathe joining them. Don't screw this up."
U.S. TAX STATEMENTS
The Brights' Net is a United States 501c3 nonprofit organization. If you donated during 2008, your contribution is tax deductable. We have emailed all donors their statement (to the email address in the database). Some few notices were returned as undeliverables. If you donated to TBN but did not receive a statement, please contact email@example.com, and do update your email address! (The link to your profile in the right column on the home page).
CNN TURNS TO BRIGHTS' BLOG FOR DAVOS SUMMIT MATERIAL
In its preparation for the world economic summit in Switzerland, CNN (an international news organization) asked the German BrightsBlog and its readers for action. This blog ("Die Natur des Zweifels") has become notably influential, and CNN requested that the blog team formulate "the most important question" to be asked at Davos.
If CNN selected that question, it would go to the representatives of the summit (2500 participants from 96 countries, including 41 heads of state, leading powerbrokers and moneymakers), and CNN would report. Even if the Brights' question were not selected, CNN would supply a link to the BrightsBlog.
Blog leader Klaus issued a tight deadline (January 21, 2009) for the international Brights' Forum to generate questions in English for consideration. After several proposals, this question by Lunzie (member since 2005) went forward:
"Since only three of the thousands of edible crops provide 60% of the world food intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and constitute a contributing factor to worldwide food shortage, what measures are required for expanding the diversification and processing of staple food crops and how are they to be implemented?"
GERMAN BRIGHTS ORGANIZING
With the number of Brights growing in Germany, Dieter Kaiser plans a national organization. He reports: "I received about 120 [editor: now above 140] positive emails. Many people encourage me with my project; others gave me useful addresses, some others are ready to hold conferences themselves. A Stuttgart round will be formed since some are interested in it and live in this area. … Thank you for all. I will keep you informed."
"JUST SAY NO" TO BOY SCOUT HONOR? (USA)
Blogger (and Enthusiastic Bright) Hemant Mehta titled a recent item: "Barack Obama Should Not Become Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America."
It's a tradition that the BSA invite the American president to accept a role and title as Honorary President of the scouting organization. Every modern-day president has done so, even though in recent years it has become widely known that the Boy Scouts actively discriminates against gays and atheists. Acknowledge either identity and you can't be a scout or scout leader.
A group of 19 non-theistic organizations is now asking Obama to reject the title. As many Brights already know, The Brights' Net is a constituency and the board of directors doesn't speak for you. If you are interested in this situation, though, visit Hemant's blog and act as you may wish.
A CHANCE TO GET SOME BRIGHTS' STUFF AT A BARGAIN
Shopkeeper Diane reports:
"SPECIAL FEBRUARY SALE
Save 10% on all Brights Cafepress merchandise now through Feb. 28.
Now's the time to stock up on all that Brights merchandise you've been meaning to buy from our Cafepress shop."
NEW ARMED FORCES COMMUNITY CLUSTER (BCC)
Reported by Stephanie:
"I just wanted to let you know how this is going so far! I opened my email after returning from R&R to find already seven emails from people that were interested, which included a 15-year veteran of the Marine Corps, a first LT of the US Army, two Captains in the Marines, a Retired Air Force member, a retired military member and one with an undisclosed rank. I was very happy at this small turnout and think that it is indeed a good start.
THOSE NAUGHTY RECRUITERS?
The Brights registration form inquires into how each registrant heard about the Brights. Here was a rather unique one:
Liam (Ireland): "Oddly enough, on a forum where Christians were insulting the movement. In a way it was theists that recruited me."
OBAMA'S INCLUSIVENESS - PROS & CONSEQUENCES
The new American president got specific: "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers." That one sentence in the inaugural speech signaled a rather profound shift of presidential vision. By including the "non-believers," President Obama made the point clearly that he looks out on a nation of citizens.
Prior occupants of the presidential office have increasingly showed narrow (and narrower) focus. They spoke of Americans as a "people of faith" and the country as a "nation of believers." Even their more ecumenical or multi-cultural-sounding "we are of many faiths" terminology quite clearly excluded a definitive segment of the citizenry, producing that "second class citizen feeling" so rampant in the post-September 11 high-religiosity USA.
Obama's use of the term "non-believer" showed a full civic embrace that is a revolution of sorts (hey, non-believers are citizens, too!). The post-inaugural period also shows how far the U.S. has to go before reaching genuine equity and acceptance for people who refrain from god-belief. Click here for a sampling.
MILWAUKEE BRIGHT CITES BRIGHTS LINK
The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel published a letter to the editor from Ed Werstein. In the letter, printed under the title, "An Inclusive Address," Ed laid out his personal view of the new president's inaugural address, including this important point: "Many Americans lead moral, ethical, meaningful lives based on a worldview that is naturalistic and free from religion." The full letter is is online and can be found here.
Getting a letter published in a metropolitan paper is generally worth a nod. But for spreading the idea of the Brights movement to the broader pubic, Ed had another accomplishment worthy of mention in the Bulletin. His letter included a link to the Brights' website that was printed by the newspaper. That happens less often, but BCl urges all letter writers to give it a try!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OR CONDESCENSION?
Even though President Obama's inaugural was bookended by religious ritual, his "welcome into the ranks" wording in a single sentence produced a full-scale gushing of gratitude from Americans who count themselves in the "non-theistic" community. Several organizations issued letters of congratulations and thanks to the president. (As one leader stated, I find myself thankful for the crumbs.) Not everyone is happy with the characterization, though. Even atheists express discomfort with the negative label employed to sum up their status as citizens. Here are a couple of different views:
"I always take the term 'non-believer' to be somewhat condescending, as in 'those that just don't get it.' Why not couch it in such a way that you can just say 'atheist' in a non-negative tone; or better still: just address the populace in non-religious contexts."
"Non-believer = lack of belief?? Nonsense! I believe in many things, just not in any creation myth. Many morals are shared across religions, and many atheists also accept those morals, because they are wise and born of human experience and wisdom. I've lost count, though, of the number of times I have seen folks imply that atheists are without morals."
Brights Central: 'Non-believer' (when added to a listing of full-bodied religious worldviews, like Christian or Buddhist) packs a double problem as an identity label for citizens who have a naturalistic outlook. First, it basically narrows their characterization down just to the single conclusion they have reached about the existence of God (or gods). Second, it casts their conclusion against that of the predominant majority and in a negative (non) and inferior way (- less). Not the best positioning for civic involvement.
GRATITUDE, BUT LOOKING FOR CHANGE
One Bright's letter to the president is below. You may wish to write your own, but feel free to copy or adapt this one if its basic message suits you. Mail to: President Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500
I would like to heartily thank you for including as Americans the millions of citizens whom you identified as the "non-believers." After so long in the wilderness, I can actually feel included.
Surely you recognize that, in this culture, the labels Christian, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus are affirmative terms, while that final term in your listing is not. Although deeply imbedded in our language, the term non-believer is clearly a negation - we are not (as we supposedly should be?) part of the society of "believers."
But of course we are believers. All humans have beliefs. We have a full spectrum of convictions and values. We believe in a host of things, just as the religious believers do. We differ simply because our worldview is naturalistic, which excludes the supernatural.
I am one of 44,000 individuals who participate in The Brights' Net. It is a civic action group, and our current civic action is to contact you and ask that we be accorded the same affirmative characterization and voice as religious Americans have at the ready. We would ask that you refer to us as "citizens who have a naturalistic worldview." Having a worldview free of supernatural is what sets us apart.
We know this phrasing may seem rather long and cumbersome, but it does cover the bases. In fact, it represents a very broad range of citizens, not only the atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and rationalists, but also the many thousands who self-identify by heritage or community as Jews, Christians, or other faith groups for their own reasons. It does not produce a pithy label, but it is a very accurate and encompassing statement -- we are individuals who have a naturalistic worldview, and like those who embrace a faith, our ethics and actions derive from our life stance.
It's time for this change, so that we may be accurately and positively represented for who we are.
[name], a participant in The Brights' Net
(a nonprofit educational organization)
A BUSY 2009 AHEAD (BRIGHTS IN PRISON)
From Joel's January report (some text omitted for length):
"I celebrate holidays mainly by spending special time with my family and friends, but I'm not a big celebrator of special days. I give my wife Valentine cards, but I don't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, I try to make changes in my habits whenever I decide I really want to. So I'm not going to resolve to send you a newsletter on a strict schedule in 2009, but I'm always trying to find ways to make the process more efficient (I am a software developer after all), and I hope to do better in 2009 than I did in 2008. With a deep sigh, I'll have to confess that I may not answer all your letters in the future. I'm now sending out over 20 copies of the newsletter a month, and I receive several letters a month."
YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED TOO
Many new registrants send a comment about their being or feeling rather alone in the region where they live, but then Brights Central will usually reply:
"Thanks for the comment. We are pleased you found The Brights' Net. Actually, the following data might surprise you. We have checked, and there are 172 Brights living within 25 miles of you. You Brights should get together sometime."
The data sometimes astonish the recipient. Said one: "I am surprised by that number of Brights right in my METRO AREA--who would have thought!?!?"
You too might be amazed by the number of Brights that live near to you.
PAUL GEISERT DOES WHAT?
Is it okay for the "inventor" of the noun neologism "bright" to go to church? Well, he was seen seated in the pews of Grace Church four times in the last week alone. Actually, while staying in New York, his accommodations were adjacent the church, which has an organ recital six days a week at 12 o'clock. He couldn't resist, stating: "One of the things I most miss in the freethought community is such inspirational music. Any comments on "the music of those who have a naturalistic worldview"? Send your remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org and put MUSIC in your subject line.
SOMETHING IN COMMON
Brights' Net director, Mynga Futrell, recently went to Washington, DC to attend an annual gathering of leaders of nationally-focused atheist, freethought, Jewish, humanist and other secularist groups. This year, 26 "non-theistic" organizations were represented by 38 leaders, and the day was spent in information sharing and exploring common challenges and interests. As happens each year, discussion turned once more to just what it was that the different groups, with their separate agendas, actually had in common.
At one point Mynga issued this challenge: "Would all who are present who have any belief in supernatural or mystical forces, please just stand up?" Not one person rose (one person even dropped to the floor - really!). She then expounded: "You have just seen the one thing that joins all of us together, what we have in common. It is a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements." It was a visible demonstration that all leaders present were brights (by definition) whether or not they had registered into the constituency as Brights.
BRIGHTS COMMUNITY CLUSTERS
If you would like to start a local, state, or national Brights group please contact Will Morris, the BCC Coordinator.
A listing of all national and local groups can be found here.
Information on how to start a Brights Community Cluster.
JEWISH BRIGHTS SIG UNDERWAY
An announcement was recently conveyed by Brights Central to all Brights who had subscribed to a special initiative group focused on heritage/community identity The volunteer leader, Marvin Rosenblum, said in a portion of his letter of introduction:
"Our 'Brights Action' group is for Jewish Brights who wish to further the aims of the Brights movement within secular and humanistic Judaism. We would be able to create camaraderie, organize ourselves into a cohesive group to heighten personal Jewish awareness and imbue the concepts of secular and humanistic Judaism to those who are adherents, but who are unaware of, as support, that there are so many global groups of like thinking. Further, pluralistic ideals will be aggressively marketed and contribute to Judaism's amalgamation into the world's countless population of advocates for individual self determination without divine interference.
The Brights' Net SIG 4 encourages further ties with the supers (those who embrace supernatural elements in their understanding/worldview) who share your cultural and/or religious heritage or community identity."
If this SIG is of interest to you and you have not yet enrolled, you may do so at this page.
SUPPORT BRIGHTS VIA AMAZON
Amazon.uk has sent to the UK Brights organization 27 GBP, thanks to purchases there during December. Amazon.com has returned $149 commission to The Brights' Net for that month.
If you are shopping at Amazon and buying a book (or almost anything else), be sure you are starting from the Brights' website.
REFERENCE GUIDE TO CONTACTING PERSONNEL AND LOCATING INFORMATION
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Bright Regards from Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert at Brights Central.