BRIGHTS' BULLETIN -- FEBRUARY 2010
Now >50,000 Brights
We are pleased to report that the constituency has registered more than 50,000 individuals/families in 186 nations. Surpassing 50,000 was expected in February, but it happened on January 5.
Tell someone else about the Brights movement. Direct the curious to the website. It's the way to grow.
How They Heard
Tommy (NY, USA) mentioned in his registration remarks how he first learned about the Brights:
"A guy gave me the pin while I was reading Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World."
To what extent will the noun "bright" work as a bit of memetic engineering? That's a question that Richard Dawkins is curious about
. In a video on his website called, "Atheist' - The Dirty Word?" h
e mulls over the origins and path of the Brights. This video is the 3rd of the four exhibited on that web page (5 min. 35 sec.).
Responding to the Haiti Earthquake
(18 January) "Natural disasters like the tragedy in Haiti are tests, but they are not tests of religious faith; they are tests of our humanity. The universe will not intervene for our benefit, just as it did not intentionally cause our suffering. If lives are to be saved, we people must save them; cities are only rebuilt by human effort. We respond to human needs with the power of human deeds." -- Rabbi Chalom of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
A New Route for Donations (15 January):
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has announced the opening of a dedicated bank account to receive disaster relief donations through PayPal in the name of 'Non-Believers Giving Aid
'. PayPal has agreed to waive all fees on Hait-related donations through February 11.
Overview of Humanist Charities and Strategy (22 January):
On the website of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Enthusiastic Bright Matt Cherry summarizes an assortment of available pathways for donors
.He also presents the approach of humanist charities to appeal to humanist donors and then forward 100% of donations to best qualified mainstream charities, simultaneously raising the profile of humanism and directing maximum support to the best and most inclusive aid organizations.
What D'Ya Know about the Brights, Anyway?
How well informed are you about the Brights movement? A short 10-question self-check designed for the website may help you answer the question. Maybe what you "know" actually isn't so?
If you are curious to see how you score on some of the basics, click your answer to each of the ten multiple choice questions.
Video Channels: Old, New and True Blue
As is appropriate, the individual (a self-described "civic justice & pluralism advocate")
supplied a disclaimer that reads: "This Channel is run by an individual Bright and never claims to represent the Brights Movement as a whole. It is not officially affiliated with www.The-Brights.net, the official homepage of the Brights Movement." BC is grateful to the individual for t
hat disclaimer, as it is in line with guidance on speaking out as a Bright
Like those on the prior site, some of the videos presented align with the civic goals of the Brights movement, while others depart from it. As with any channel an individual sets up, the uploaded videos will be what most interest the person who sets up the site. So it goes on the Internet! The site has no disclaimer (so far).
So - Are video channels like these helpful to the movement? They do spread the word. It should be noted, though, that they can also multiply confusion when the video selections and the positions of featured speakers don't mesh very well with the aims of the movement (some even counter them). The speakers (if Brights at all, and many are not) are speaking for themselves! Viewer beware!
BEST BET: To provide an accurate understanding of the Brights movement, the mini-videos produced at Brights Central attempt to accurately depict, explain, and educate about the movement itself. These videos
attempt to steer clear of presenting a speaker's favored positions on issues like politics or religion. So, suggest that your friends go initially to view the items on the international website and get the clearest message of what it's all about.
Hey, Play Fair!
Why is shallow media typecasting so prevalent? Are atheists really "dyspeptic"? Are Brights "shiny, happy"? Worth a look is the following letter to the editor by Richard Lettis (N.J, USA), published in the New York Times Book Review
on January 8 and titled, "Shiny, Happy Atheists."
"Why is it that we almost never see the noun 'atheist' without some pejorative adjective like 'dyspeptic,' which Judith Shulevitz shoehorns into her review of 'The Faith Instinct' (December. 27)? Are the great majority of atheists really sour and sulky, angry and indignant?
"Some unbelievers, uneasy at being the only group known by what it does not believe, have started the Brights, an organization that declares its faith in a natural world, without supernatural invention. The atheist Einstein professed awe and wonder at this earthly home of ours, and I have not read a world of grump in anything he - or William Butler, Yeats, or Matthew Arnold, or a number of other nonbelievers, have said. C'mon, play fair."
Registration In-Box (Comments by New Brights)
Christopher (Texas, USA): "I first came across 'bright' in Christopher Hitchens' book, 'God Is Not Great' and find it quite interesting that he falsely interprets the term. After research, I enjoy the concept and that it is not at all 'conceited.'"
Kurtis (Canada): "Sometimes, when something really fits right, you just have to wear it. If you wear it enough, hopefully others will too; then it becomes fashionable."
Jordon (Kentucky, USA): "It will definitely take some mental readjustment, but I will proudly proclaim myself a Bright. As they say, 'Progress marches on.'"
Diana (Texas, USA): "Within the few minutes I've been able to go through your website I've found an immediate connection… There is a clear need for those who don't follow religious dogma or believe in the supernatural to know that they are 'okay' and worthy."
Richard (Turkey): "A convergence of open minded people who now have a resource to share and promote their sometimes unpopular views is a great idea and a personal reassurance. I am a UK citizen currently residing in Turkey and your website is like a breath of fresh air. Thank you."
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 2010 programs, visit their website, camp-quest.org
To the Brights, from a Bright
Fellow Brights, I'm in the relatively late stages of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (it's in a near-miraculous post-chemo 'dormancy' right now, but I don't know for how long). A few months ago my doctor asked me if I was willing to be interviewed by a 60-doctor palliative-care colloquium on Patients with Fatal Diseases (he knows my humanist anti-supernatural stance), and since I'm wholly comfortable with my state and my fate right now, I said yes.
After a few questions, during which I think I demonstrated my energy, my on-the-go attitude (seriously playing piano, attending chamber concerts four times a week on average, going out to lunch and dinner with friends, even when feeling muscularly weak, etc.), the moderator asked me "How is it, Mr. Levitan, that you can be so cheery and enthusiastic and full of active desires in the light of what you are headed toward?" I thought for a moment and answered, "I attribute my relaxed attitude toward imminent death, my genuine lack of fear, my enjoyment of the pleasures of the present, and my total lack of regret for anything in my life, wholly and completely to my lack of faith in any deity."
Sincerely as I meant this, I also meant it to get a laugh of surprise and, I hoped, delight from the medical audience, and it did, plus some applause. There was no negative response during my question-session or afterwards. I did elaborate upon my comment, when asked, and I had a very good time that afternoon! I thought this story might be of interest to you.
Best, Alan Levitan
(Note: He stated to Brights Central: "I don't mind at all if you use my name should the anecdote be posted.")
Call for Submissions to Brights' Tool Box
Alan's story points out the value (to him) of his naturalistic worldview. His words have spurred Brights Central to think about initiating another round of web page development in which we assemble content that comes direct from constituents for placement on site in the "Brights' Toolbox
The current Toolbox catalogs how various Brights respond to remarks like "God Bless You" or "I'll Pray for You," and it offers options for answering a child's query ("Where did we come from?"). With help from readers of this Bulletin, we can add valuable material to the site to show how various Brights address (and face their own) mortality. The segment could illustrate clearly what life and death are about, give comfort or confidence to others, etc. We will select from items submitted those that would likely be helpful to others in facing imminent death or for anyone pondering mortality from their naturalistic stance, without supernatural. Given we receive sufficient material, we will be able to put up this Toolbox segment. We need material from Brights (YOU!).
THE REQUEST: Sometime during the month of February, please offer your "naturalistic worldview answer" to questions in this realm: How does a human accept personal mortality? (Or, how do you confront your own end/death?)
GUIDELINES: We would prefer that you write your own response and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
with TOOLBOX in uppercase letters in the subject line. The limit is 200 words per contributor. If you choose to convey someone else's words along with or instead of yours (such as a favorite quote you have found very beneficial to your own thinking), then again the overall limit is 200 words. There must be adequate crediting if the passage is not your own. Note: Please do NOT send links, as we do not have the person-power at Brights Central to keep them up.
Your text contribution can be poetic or prose as long as you think it would be of value to a person facing death, or to one who is contemplating the eventuality, or to someone wondering how death can possibly be faced without faith in some form of supernatural agency.
Books by Brights
By scientist A. C. Grayling by scientist A. C. Grayling
(A defense of the humanist and secular strands of thought)
By journalist Guy P Harrison
(An explanation of why scientists who study the subject have concluded that biological races do not exist)
More books by Brights are at:
Buying Books by Brights (or Purchasing Stuff by Anybody!)
Amazon remains an easy way to donate money to the UK and US Brights' activities. Buy anything you like
, and you pay no more (Amazon sends The Brights' Net 7% of the sale price). Last month yielded 71 GBP (UK) and $216 (USA). Thanks for supporting the movement!
A Pause for Beat Poetry
A Bright has suggested that several of the works by Tim Minchin might be of interest to other Brights, as so many are in line with the naturalistic outlook. With Tim's permission, below is an excerpt from one of his poems, "Storm":
Isn't this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
The full poem
(slightly edgy) recounts a dinner party conversation with a credulous girl and carries on about it)
For more about Tim:
Religious Voices for Evolution
Whereas most Brights give credence to evolutionary explanations from science, more than a few also blame "religion" as engendering public confusion and working against sound public education in science. What is often missed is the fact that the situation is not a clean-cut "religion vs. no religion" one. In fact, there is no such thing as "religion" - only religions, and much diversity within each of them. One cannot discount that many religions are actually "on the same page" in promoting sound science and science education.
In the U.S., the National Center for Science Education has published "Statements from Religious Organizations" (supporting teaching about evolution). For information about religious perspectives on evolution, see the "Science and Religion
" section of the NCSE website.
Here is a listing of religions or religious organizations that support teaching science in the public schools.
188 Wisconsin Clergy, African-Americans for Humanism, American Humanist Association, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, American Scientific Affiliation, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, Pastoral Letter, Episcopal Church, General Convention, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Humanist Association of Canada, Lexington Alliance of Religious Leaders, Lutheran World Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Rabbinical Council of America, Roman Catholic Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Methodist Church, United Presbyterian Church in the USA
The Brights (Idea in a Nutshell)
In a message pointing out the relationship of the Brights to atheism, UK Brights Coordinator, Quentin, composed an excellent succinct overview of the Brights' idea:
"It is important to realise that the Brights is not a membership organisation; it is a constituency of individuals each of whom has decided that he/she fits the definition of a Bright. There is nobody in the constituency who can speak on behalf of Brights; the closest anyone can come to doing so is to report the results of a poll amongst Brights as there is only one thing that all Brights definitely share and that is conformity to the definition!
"The Brights offer two things: raising awareness of and promoting the new use of the word Bright (the neologism) and working to constructively address the marginalized situation of persons who have a naturalistic worldview (the movement). In the latter, Brights may take part to the extent they wish by way of individual and/or group actions.
"The Brights do not offer any kind of dogma, philosophy, morals or rituals.
"As to where we fit in; the word is designed as an umbrella-term that would embrace all those who live lives free of supernatural and mystical beliefs. The word is not however a synonym for atheist and its antonym is Super and not dim! The word itself, used as a noun rather than a verb, has nothing to do with implying intelligence but all to do with reflecting the age of enlightenment when humans realized that science and a rational interpretation of the world was the way forward.
"With respect to the movement, we are not attempting to replace or usurp existing organisations but rather to enable individual Brights to complement and support their efforts wherever and whenever constituents agree with the declared objective."
It's just beautiful - Naturally!
If you are attending a meeting, convention, have a few to hand out as occasions arise.