The Brights' Bulletin
March 31, 2009
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
BRIGHTS' BULLETIN -- APRIL 2009
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Persons who have a naturalistic worldview must be accepted as fellow citizens and as full participants in the cultural and political landscape. They should not be culturally stifled or civically marginalized due to society's extensive supernaturalism.
Pick Your Action
Mixing elements of one sport into another rarely make sense. (Playing baseball with a football on a tennis court yields a mess--definitely something to avoid.)
Many Brights are quite experienced at "suiting up" in the religion and belief ballgame. But, the Brights movement is a SOCIAL CHANGE endeavor. In this game, we who have a naturalistic worldview are on the playing field of civics and pluralism. And if the "win" is set at "civic parity," many elements drawn from a religion/beliefs game are not helpful. This game of civic justice calls for careful thought, new rhetoric, and skills of play that lie outside the realm of religion.
In the Brights' social action endeavor, our objective entails ALL the people whose worldview is naturalistic. We aim for broader civic understanding and social approval. We want greater participation by brights in institutions and in civic decision-making. When acting as Brights, we seek societal involvement for citizens who hold a supernatural-free outlook.
Do we want to advance toward that goal? If so, the "team" needs to think more pragmatically about actions they should apply in a civics game. Employ appropriate rules and rhetorical tools. Different language and strategies can come into play.
Action in the familiar "beliefs" game is rather circumscribed by religion. It dominates the very language of identity and action. A person can play in many different sports. So, why engage solely in a religion game? All too many Brights do that, but they can actually be more resourceful.
More Videos for Visitors
To enhance the website's textual explanations of the Brights' endeavor, Brights Central continues to develop mini-videos. Two new items were completed and posted during March: (1) Several Brights, including Daniel Dennett and Hemant Mehta, present their notions of a naturalistic worldview; (2) for the curious, Mynga Futrell provides a small bit of background on the noun, bright.
More mini-videos are in the pipeline. A new four-page arrangement expands from the single display, allowing forthcoming videos to be better grouped by topic.
March Equinox Report
We want to thank the supporters who - whether online or by mail - responded quickly to the Equinox funding appeal. (You will receive a personal message shortly.) We are pleased to report that the immediate online donations are again going to be sufficient to sustain the organization on its 1/2 way trip around the sun. From here on, we will be using funds to expand the "action side" of the coin.
If you have not yet sent in your support, please do so soon. It will aid our planning. And what about registering The Brights' Net with your employer's matching program? Across coming months, we will be looking to any "latecomers" to move us well beyond sustaining BC's operations and into some funding of new activities. Given the economic downturn, we had viewed this Equinox with some trepidation, and indeed, the overall count of donors is down a bit.
Thankfully, postal contributions continue arriving. To see how you can still contribute, go to the Support The Brights page on the website.
Brights Paving the Way
Ryan (Tennessee) has sent in our favorite response to the equinox message (so far, anyway): "I just want to say that this is the best organization I've found in my life. I think that this group can be instrumental in paving the way for a much more enlightened future."
And the next favorite response? It was just one word: "Onward!"
Secular Parenting Resources
Youngsters can ask tough questions, particularly in areas of ultimate concern. Parents want the best ways of responding to and guiding their children. The Brights' Net will from time to time identify material that offers sensible, constructive tactics and arrange to make those resources available on the website as free PDF downloads.
Posted during March, with publisher permission, are two readings. Both are quite substantial. "Seven Secular Virtues" outlines and discusses some qualities that parents will likely want to foster in their children. The second, "Dealing with Death in the Secular Family," addresses many of the challenges parents face when giving children tools to understand and accept varied situations.
Brights Café Press Merchandise Updated
► Three new designs have been added.
► Some sections have been removed due to limited interest.
► New merchandise has been added to all your old favorites.
Shop Cafe Press for Brights merchandise
Lapel pins and static clings featuring the Brights' icon can be ordered direct from The Brights' Net via PayPal.
As always, compliments, complaints and merchandise problems can be sent to Diane, the Brights' shopkeeper.
Registration Comments by Americans
Ben (Texas): "I'm glad someone is doing this. It's almost like coming out as gay in the 50's to say you don't believe in something like religion or supernatural forces. It seems incredibly obvious to me the more I look at it."
Travis (Iowa): "Amazing. A place to register our productive and thoughtful minds, proud of the break we made from the entanglement of religion and mythical beliefs!"
K.T. (Arizona): "Thank you for representing us :-). Life should be simpler when we focus on the simplicities."
Justin (Oregon): "I love this movement as I understand it thus far because of how much respect it holds for religion while not believing in it and how much infuses it puts into developing critical thinking."
Activity in Canadian Brights Group
Report from Casey: "I just wanted to let you guys [Brights Central] know what our little group of brights had done last year at Algoma University. The group hosted two school parties with information sessions and live music. Furthermore we were able to raffle off over twenty items donated to us by the community (the grand prize was a diamond watch worth over $300.) The proceeds from the draws and the cover charge were then used to purchase several books for the School's library. [Lists 9 titles, including Breaking the Spell, How to Be a Good Atheist] We had a great time and I just wanted to share with you our activities. Thank you for all your hard work, and please keep sending the bulletins, they are one of the highlights of my month."
"Nones" (That's Most of Us) Are Up to 15% In U.S.
Mainline religion appears to be losing ground. Some rather dramatic shifts are detailed in the American Religious Identification Survey 2008 (ARIS), released this past month. Online, www.usatoday.com handily summarizes several changes.
USA Today's reporter, Cathy Lynn Grossman: "When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers. The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers - or falling off the faith map completely.
ARIS co-researcher Barry Kosmin: "Don't blame secularism for driving up the percentage of Americans who say they have no religion ... These people aren't secularized. They're not thinking about religion and rejecting it; they're not thinking about it at all ... More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, 'I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself."
The Full ARIS 2008 Report
How many atheists are there in the United States? One finds a wide range of claims on the internet. The academically grounded ARIS is generally considered to offer the most substantial look at the situation of self-identify by belief. Its current report put the percent of atheists at 0.7% and of agnostics at 0.9% of the adult population.
It may well be worth your time to review the entire ARIS 2008 Report.
Update from the Forums
One of the longest running discussions ever recorded on the Brights Forum is "A Muslim/Bright dialogue, a friendly chat with a Muslim" that began in July of 2004 and continues even today. This discussion has (to quote a leader in the Forum) "...aired a variety of attitudes toward Islam and made clear that, in some Western societies, Muslims are as much in need of civic equality as are brights." If you decide to join that discussion, best prepare for a 26-page background read in order to suitably reach currency.
NOTE FROM BC: We feel it is appropriate that The Brights' Net host such international discussions. It may be useful for supers as well as brights, but perhaps this is a fitting time to remind everyone that participants in discussions on the Brights Forum speak their own views (for themselves as individuals, and not for other Brights or for the movement).
Principle #1 of the Brights movement recognizes the diversity within the constituency, and other principles urge all Brights to heed some general communication policies of the movement. Given considerable freedom to speak within a lightly moderated forum, some individuals may at times fall short of these movement ideals.
Please familiarize yourself with the forum rules (a separate set of policies, principles, and guidelines) before posting.
Requiem: Two Brights
FAREWELL MARTHA, who registered in December 2003:
She was delightfully independent up until the night she had a stroke. She lived her life to the fullest, and will be sorely missed. She was a scientist, a musician, an artist, a writer, a linguist, a teacher, a creative spirit, a woman with strong passions and opinions, and tenderly in love with the world. (submitted by her daughter in Colorado)
FAREWELL BERNARD, who registered in October, 2005:
Without Bernie and his upbeat and pioneering spirit, we who are active will continue on in our hopeful vein and do so through constructive actions that accord to others all the rights we wish for ourselves. (FROM BC, informed by friends in southern California)
Atheists Give Reasoning for Going Bright
Edward (Germany): "I was struck recently by the fact that 'atheism' as a word is doubly negative: it is both a negation 'a-theism' and also an 'ism'. Most of the world's religions are also 'isms'... so in choosing a defining term for people who are, at heart, atheists, but who do not wish to be termed so, the choice of 'bright' makes sense from this point of view as well. I am proud therefore to call myself a 'bright' from now on."
Daniel (Colorado, USA): "Saying I am an atheist didn't accurately represent my natural moral character and my want to bring good change to the world."
Follow-up Note (from BC): Much of society seems to equate an "absence of god-belief" with an absence of moral character, presenting a huge problem that activist Brights of many stripes must directly address. The source of human morality is altogether natural. See draft assertions on the Brights' website.
A Youthful Perspective
NOTE: As Richard Dawkins often states, the societal labeling of children by parental religion or belief is exceedingly problematic. In his widely sold book, The God Delusion, Dr. Dawkins made mention of how the Brights campaign was scrupulous regarding its signup rules. The Brights' Net does not encourage registrations by youngsters. Still, clearly the many who explore the Internet have minds of their own. (They are welcome to change their minds, too!)
Sophie (UK): "I was so amazed when I heard about this organization... and fervently hope to help with this great idea. Also, I hope VERY much that in the brights age doesn't matter as much as it does elsewhere. I am used to being humiliated by pompous idiots when I try to do something useful. It is VERY vexing."
Camp Quest For Kids - Naturally
Parents who would like to provide an exciting and worthwhile week-long summer camp experience for their youngster(s) might like to know about that secular programs are taking place in several locations. To learn more about any of the Camp Quest 2009 programs, visit their website, camp-quest.org.
In 2009, the original Camp Quest Classic (in Ohio) runs from June 20-27 / CQ-Ontario (Canada) runs from July 19-25 / CQ-Smoky Mountains (Tennessee) is July 26-Aug 2 / CQ-Minnesota is July 26-August 1 / CQ-Michigan is August 17-23 / CQ-West in California runs July 12 - 18. With the date span, a youngster can actually attend more than one. California's Camp Quest West also has a Family Camp (July 16-19).
Follow-up Note: BC has received a request from Joyce Sogg, Staffing Coordinator for CQW, noting that its 2009 summer program in California still has a few staff positions available, an interesting opportunity. Visit Camp Quest West's website for more information.
From the Forums, and Quotable
ErikaIOM is hoping for a better sticker for her car window, something that "says it all," something to better help her friends "understand what it's all about," more attuned to what she puts on her Facebook page, which is:
"No ghosts , no gods, no gobbledygook and proud to be a 'bright'...the-brights.net"