The Brights' Bulletin
April 30, 2009
(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)
BRIGHTS' BULLETIN -- MAY 2009
A New Bumper Sticker
Shopkeeper Diane has added a more sophisticated bumper sticker to the lineup at Café Press. This one features the icon and the website address atop a background of orbs (much like that atop the website).
It's Updating Time!
Brights Community Cluster Leaders: If you have not yet done so, please take a moment to respond to Brights Central's email requesting status information on your group! Any cluster leader not notified should let BC know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and putting BCC LEADER in your subject line.
Websites For Brights: If you run a site, please review the information on the website listing and then email email@example.com to supply your best contact email address. Put SITE CONTACT in your email. Thanks!
Enthusiastic Brights: Please check your entries for currency, accuracy and emphasis (some have recently been revamped; more should be).
Here Is a First!
Brights Central looks over all registrations in order to answer any queries placed in the comments section of the registration form. Also of interest is how the individual heard about the Brights, and many registrants do supply that information. Peter's way is one we definitely hadn't heard before:
"Told about it by my diabetes specialist"
If you first learned about the Brights movement (or the website) by an unusual way, please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org (Put HOW I HEARD in uppercase letters in your subject line).
Respectful Civic Exchanges
BC was just notified of an opinion piece by a member of one of the more active campus Brights clubs. As a guest columnist, addressing his peers in the student newspaper, Nicholas offers his answer to the common query, "What does a non-religious club do?"
The closing paragraph captures the tenor of the published commentary: "Our actions are directed by our beliefs, so believe well. Take interest that others believe well, too. I encourage everyone to skeptically question reality, especially when instructed not to question reality. Remember that life is the trip. I am open to new observations so I may falsify incorrect models - please contact me with repeatable evidence and falsifiable hypotheses."
One "devout Christian" reader characterized the column as: "...respectful, thoughtful and mellow, and puts the focus on your own reasoning rather than on the rest of us who would disagree with you. It is a certainly refreshing change of pace, and I appreciate it."
Another BCC Bound for Action!
A prospective Brights Community Cluster (BCC) leader recently asked Brights Central to send out an "invitational message" to all registered Brights nearby. We think it one of the better kickoff messages that BC has conveyed regionally (groups that settle on something constructive to accomplish tend to continue over time). This leader wants to do more than simply meet and socialize (or engage in grievances about religion). Here's how she begins her message:
Are you feeling like I am? Feeling that it's time to go beyond the religious/non-religious talking points and become a positive force in our local community? The Brights movement offers a framework for joining together to show ourselves and our community that we are more than naysayers. We CAN bring optimism and opportunities to the table through projects and charitable events that are a benefit to the local community and promote a naturalistic worldview.
There are over 100 of you [nearby] registered as Brights. Please contact me if you are interested in helping to coordinate a Brights Cluster or are interested in participating in projects or events. Please email me [at...] and indicate your interest or suggestions."
Brights Expand Regional Awareness
The aforementioned segment illustrates that The Brights' Net occasionally alerts Brights within a locality to certain activities taking place in the vicinity. Prospective Brights clusters take priority, but other notifications are sometimes done as timing and resources permit (events must advance or align closely to overall movement aims). Example alerts since last reporting:
NEW CLUSTERS FORMING OR ACTION GROUPS: Madison, Wisconsin (111 contacted), Germany (1,447), SIG 2 (591), Israel (91)
SECULAR PARENTING: Portland (367 contacted), Seattle (519), NYC (963), Colorado (247), Chicago (691), Austin, TX (313), Boston/Cambridge (937). Notifying Brights of nearby parenting seminars in cooperation with Dr. McGowan is in keeping with Brights' Action Arena 2.
OTHER: NEWSLETTER (UK Brights, 4,500), MEETING (UK, 13), EVENT (Sacramento, 804)
Newest Enthusiastic Bright
Besides a career focused on solving environmental problems, Raoul Tommasi Crudeli is a strong backer of secular tradition and freedom of conscience. He has for two decades been honoring the memory of a freethinking ancestor imprisoned until death in the Roman Inquisition.
Correspondence with Incarcerated
Joel has sent out his April newsletter to a growing mailing list (now 23, including two new "prisoner-subscribers"). Thank you, Joel, for composing and mailing an abbreviated version of the Bulletin. And thanks, too, to those supporters who are helping to finance his stamps!
POST SCRIPT: Brights Central receives and forwards to Joel any letter of inquiry received from a prisoner. Some of these initial missives are rather astonishing. Take, for example, the latest person to write introducing himself and asking to know more about the Brights, a neatly typed 3-page letter that quotes the late Carl Jung:
"Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or holding certain views which others find inadmissible..." Brandt continues with more of the Jung excerpt before concluding: "It isn't fun when you reach a point in life that you understand this quote...but I am there--I've been there for ten years now!"
Academic Brights Calendar Now Available
Last month BC received this message from Matt: "Will there be a new academic calendar 2009-2010 available anytime soon? I really need one, and soon. :)"
Prior school calendars were published nearer to July, but shopkeeper/designer Diane has responded to Matt's urgency! She reports that the '09-'10 calendar version is available. For $13.29 (plus shipping), you can now purchase one for your favorite teacher or student. Or get several for the students and professors you know.
Loose Ends from April Bulletin
Last month's Bulletin urged Brights who support the social change aspect of the Brights movement to think pragmatically about how best to advance its social acceptance and civic participation goals. The "Pick Your Game" segment used a game analogy and urged activists to be resourceful and try to play the "civics game" apart from the proverbial "beliefs game" that is so culturally circumscribed by religion.
"Please do not talk in riddles!" complained Dick, who wants examples to make clearer what was meant urging language more attuned to the movement. Okay, let some language differences show below.
When engaging in a "beliefs game," players will tend to use words such as these: religious, nonreligious, theism, atheism, believer, nonbeliever, agnostic, faith, logic, evidence, supernatural, gods/God, Muslim, Christian, freethinker, etc.
In a social change endeavor, participants want to influence the civic situation for the better. Terminology could be more along these lines: equality, inequity, representation, civic parity, participation, pluralism, respect, rights, ability to contribute, elect-ability, fairness, equity, justice, neutrality, involvement, discrimination, etc.
A Pertinent Point of View?
"It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's [and women's?] minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion." This statement by Charles Darwin is quoted in "Why Darwin Matters" (p. 119) by Enthusiastic Bright Michael Shermer.
New Brights in a New Community
Amanda (Michigan, USA): "I am glad that I have finally found something that describes my beliefs so fully. Thank you!"
Jesse (Kansas, USA): "As soon as I learned of this site, I wanted to sign up. Thanks for helping pave the way for all of us."
Bob (New York, USA): "It's nice to know that there are large numbers of people who think. Thanks."
Peter (Michigan, USA): "I believe expressing my allegiance to the Brights is more acceptable to my siblings, their kids, my parents, etc. than if I said I was an atheist..."
David (Australia): "I never realized until 18 months ago that there was group of people that felt the same way as I do."
Theistic Brights? - Not So!
FROM JEAN-PAUL (Trieste, Italy): "I will be making a presentation on brights and atheists at our college next week. I have read that brights include some theists."
FROM BRIGHTS CENTRAL: Then be skeptical of what you read! This assertion is false. There are no known theists in The Brights' Network. A theist is defined by personal belief (affirmative, with respect to God or gods). One's personal belief can be different from how one self-identifies or associates in society.
Yes, some registered Brights continue to self-identify and associate as Jews, Christians, and so forth despite personally holding a naturalistic worldview (no belief in any supernatural). They do so for their reasons (usually familial or social reasons). Even though this fact may bewilder or frustrate some, it is a fact that people can self-identify in whatever ways they choose.
It is also a fact that the brights/supers and nonreligion/religion identities do NOT have congruency. There is a minority of atheists who, despite discounting deity-belief, give credence to such things as supernatural agency, or divination, or ghostly phenomena. These atheists do not have a naturalistic worldview. They would not fit as brights any more than theists would. The issue is not the label one may choose to wear in certain circumstances; it is one's own worldview (insight about reality and meaning). And that's personal.
What's It All About?
The Brights movement involves more and more people identifying openly as principled and productive citizens who "have a naturalistic worldview." Clearly, Brights have varied understandings of the ultimate point of their participation. Here's a sampling of alternative interpretations in recent registrations:
Debra (Australia): "Good idea - a movement is needed to counter the rise in fundamental religious views."
Holly (Colorado, USA): "I believe that 'brights,' as those of us are called, are ready to put forth the intent of evolving and teaching others what it means to evolve beyond what we have lived with for thousands of years. And thereby creating peace and more beauty in the world."
Michael (Cheshire, UK): "I am glad that somebody has finally tried to take the negative 'spin' off 'atheism'. It is fantastic that such groups exist so that enlightened people can share their views."
Brights, as individuals, can pursue a wide range of such goals. Hopefully, they will also be guided by the broader social change aims of the Brights movement. Brights ought to frequently review and consider these three purposes, (articulated on the home page at http://www.the-brights.net) since they provide a framework for considering one's individual and collective activity as brights.
So, What do Brights do?
The role of Brights is to contribute to efforts to illuminate and elevate the naturalistic worldview (as the Brights' Net tagline conveys). But how, you may ask? The umbrella notion of a bright is inclusive of varied beliefs and purposes, so there are no recipes to follow. Brights need to openly engage in society and to work alongside other citizens with civility and good sense.
The "bright identity" is an inclusive "civic brand" that [unlike such familiar labels as atheist, agnostic, secularist, humanist, Buddhist, etc.] is both fresh and unique. It is also emancipated from association to religion. Consequently, however you may otherwise choose to identify or affiliate in customary associations, as a Bright you elevate the naturalistic worldview in society through the constructive actions you pursue under that label or its definition.
New York Times Spotlights Humanist Group
It is refreshing to see such a positive presentation of atheists in a front page article! Enthusiastic Bright Herb Silverman co-founded the South Carolina secular humanist group featured in the April 26 piece. Herb goes by assorted labels (an atheist, a secular humanist, a bright, a nonbeliever) and focuses on building coalitions among people who go by any or all of these. You can find the web presentation of "More Atheists Are Shouting It From Rooftops," by Laurie Goodstein, on the main NYTimes.com website.
The preeminent coalition Herb worked hard to found is the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), which is lobbying in Washington, DC. The SCA's mission is "to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all." Through its Brights' Action Special Interest Group (SIG1), any American Bright can personally endorse SCA's endeavor.
Religion and Ethics in Schools (Germany)
A referendum that dominated discussion in Berlin for weeks went down to clear defeat recently. The proposal, if passed, would have allowed students to choose between ethics courses and religion courses (where Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism would have been taught separately).
In Berlin, ethics classes now remain compulsory, and religion remains an optional extra course. In other areas of Germany, however, only students who do not take religion classes must take ethics.
Religion in Flux (USA)
The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new poll ("Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S"). It documents the fluidity of religious affiliation in the U.S. and describes in detail the patterns and major reasons for change.
"The group that has grown the most in recent years due to religious change is the unaffiliated population. But this group's growth seems to have less to do with the belief that science disproves religion than with disenchantment with religious people and institutions. Many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so, in part, because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money. Far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition."
Amazon and You
Amazon purchases by Brights are quite helpful to this movement (they brought in $2,000 to The Brights' Net in 2008). IF you are going to shop Amazon (books, toys, etc.), then you may simply route yourself through the appropriate URL. When you "arrive" on Amazon's site, you will NOT see any references to The Brights' Net. Nevertheless, the Brights WILL receive from 4 to 8% on any purchase(s) you make at the time, with no additional cost to you.
The USA link yielded $156 this month. [American activists: Put the URL in your address book. Put it on your website. Keep it handy.] Others, simply copy/click to purchase (or use the USA search-box on the website).
UK's access route yielded GBP35.45 in April (all proceeds go to the UK Brights). Use the UK search-box at: