The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #83
March 31, 2010

(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- APRIL 2010


Did You Notice?
 
Twice a year at the equinoxes the Brights send along a simple request that each Bright make a donation to support the hub of actions of the overall international constituency.
 
The March equinox has just zipped by! Did you notice? Thanks go to all the Brights who have already sent a contribution by one of the several available modes. We definitely appreciate that you are willing to join forces with us to uphold the network for the benefit of all participants.
 
If you have not yet sent an equinox contribution, it will (of course!) be most welcome. The current slow economy has been a challenging one for many individuals and nonprofits (The Brights' Net is a nonprofit educational organization). Consequently, we hope you will pitch in and give what you can to support the hub of communications and action for Brights across the globe.
 

Forum Structure Revamped
 
A few months ago, the volunteer facilitators at the Brights Forum decided to reorganize the General Discussion Forum. They arrived at these five main categories:
 
  • Get Comfortable (for new folks)
  • The Brights Movement and the Forum (several sub-forums)
  • Brights in Society (civic matters)
  • Life and Everything (your interests and pastimes)
  • The Natural World (about science, nature and you)
As is to be expected with any collection of Brights, opinions differ. Some will like the fresh categorization, while others will favor the old. (Several have already said so!).
  
You need to register for the Forum to have input in either direction or on any topic. Register at:
http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?act=Reg&CODE=00
 

Coming Out, Part 1: The World Has Changed
 
The noted magician and skeptic James "The Amazing" Randi (founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation) customarily focuses his blog posts on issues related to the paranormal, pseudoscientific, and the supernatural. In a March 21 post, though, he introduced a distinctly different topic. He said, "I'm gay."
 
At age 81, Randi still doesn't like the term (and actually resents it), but he has long known it fits. He has lived his public life until now as a closeted gay man. Many will wonder why he remained so long in the shadows, and what caused his new declaration. In his blog post, he explains why he hasn't been so publicly open sooner, pointing to the changing atmosphere of acceptance surrounding him.
 

Everyone Is Different
 
Pressure for civic parity for people who have a naturalistic worldview bears some similarity to the movement for social and civic acceptance for gays. Surely both activism and openness will play a role in the desired cultural shift. Some individuals like to press for change. Others prefer to take mild steps to help things along. Others benefit when change happens.
 
For any one individual, some actions may be easy while other actions are difficult. Randi, for instance, has been "out" as an atheist and skeptic for many years. Being public about homosexuality - for him, and in his times - was harder. Note: Randi has been public as an Enthusiastic Bright since almost Day One of the movement when he, along with Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer (all 3 brights by definition) registered as Brights (supporters of the Brights movement).
 
The improving atmosphere of social acceptance that Randi observed is far from universal (in fact, in other parts of the world, the situation for gays is worse). Many would say that credit for progress in Randi's lifetime (where he lives) goes to the actions of gay activists. Others give even more recognition to the fact that more and more persons have been "coming out" to family and friends, co-workers, in the broader community and in the media.
 
Everyone is different. That's why The Brights' Net was established as an "international constituency of individuals".  It is Brights themselves that are to decide their undertakings as Brights.
 

Coming Out, Part 2: Changing the World
 
You need not be an activist to advance the Brights' endeavor. There is no manifesto to follow, simply 3 aims, 9 principles, and a set of guidelines for constructive communication.
 
You have a naturalistic worldview, but how you spend your lifetime is up to you. From wherever you are, you can just take a few steps forward to make the ethics and life stance you hold more visible to others.
 

One Bright's Proposal
 
"Hello
Can we somehow use the term 'The Enbrightenment' for the sake of future history?
Regards, Adrian"
 
From BC: Thanks, Adrian. Actually, that idea appeared as early as Bulletin #4 (this is #81). We mentioned how several folks had suggested that very concept. Here's the quote in its context - how registrant Brights were viewing the brand new noun (pro and con):
 
"Some admire its uplifting qualities. They welcome an opportunity to stand FOR their worldview. Some draw from the luminosity aspect symbolic comparisons to the Enlightenment. [By the way, we thank those who sent us the notion of 'EnBrightenment,' as there are some distinct comparisons possibly to be made there.]"
 
At that time, we followed on the suggestion by including the concept under Brights' "symbolism". You'll find it on the website along with the icon and motif. It stands as a useful metaphor.
 

Civic Activism
 
If society's religiosity has you feeling cornered, try stepping outside of that "beliefs" box. Not focusing on religion for a while may be just the opening for you to make a real difference.
 
You can go beyond silence or complaint to try the route of civic participation. Adopting civics (rather than beliefs) as your framework recasts the situation. You can start showing that you, as a citizen, have a stake in the community. You can engage in constructive ways. It's about time more people holding a naturalistic worldview moved into alliance with fellow citizens on core issues of broad shared concern.
 
Brights are sorely needed in so many capacities (on school boards, in civil institutions and community service functions). Here are real examples of activities recently spurred or pursued by Brights:
 
  • Nancy decided to apply to serve on her state's newly established commission to make legislative redistricting more fair. She is doubtful she will be chosen, but she's stepping forward. (And she just might!)
  • Fran is crafting an article to submit as an op-ed for his local newspaper. He wants to explain (as simply and briefly as he can) a concept that he thinks confuses people, but that the general public really, really, really needs to get straight.
  • Marco and his friends are assembling a catalog of free presentations. They want to prepare and "market" them among civic organizations in their community (as a "speaker's bureau").
 
Take a small step. Accept that you and others (fellow citizens) will differ by worldview(s). If your belief system becomes relevant to any activity, then you can favor either the noun ("I am a bright") or its definition ("I hold a naturalistic worldview"). Claiming this fresh identity - without any reference to religion - means that you are characterizing yourself, but cannot readily be typecast by others or as burdened by their preconceptions.
 
An idea to keep in mind is civic pluralism. It elevates civility. It enables the bridging of beliefs to focus on shared purposes. You can take the involvement at your own pace, but you can begin.
 

Letting Others Know
 
Be sure you have checked out the options and considered the many ways (your car, in your email signature line, on your blog, on your Facebook page) you can let others know about the Brights!
 
Wallet cards, banners, email signatures, flyers - all are available via the website.
 
For a description of all types of Brights "messages" check out the T-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise at The Brights' Shop
 
Items that are ordered the most have been: bookmarks, lapel pins, and clings.
 

Brights Registration Comments
 
Jash (India): "I am reading Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". It mentions the site and the statement 'The decision to be a Bright must be the child's. Any youngster who is told he or she must, or should, be a Bright can NOT be a Bright.' That got me here."
 
Simon (UK): "My uncle died last year and had a humanist funeral; it was the most moving service I have ever attended. I have always been an atheist and now I want to contribute something positive to the community of unbelievers."
 
Tom (Idaho, USA): "Finally something real to get behind!"
 
Rick (South Africa): "There is grandeur in this view of life!"
 
Janet (Pennsylvania, USA): "The fabric of society should be woven with strong threads of ethical and open minded ideals…"
 
Liam (UK): "I am also a zen buddhist but this does not involve any belief in the supernatural."
 
J.S. (New York, USA): "I am really glad to hear about this movement, for often it is a dilemma to assess how aggressive or passive I should be with my friends who are religious. Sometimes I feel the atheist's approach is too militant, thereby making us radicals so I need help to draw the line. I feel this kind of a network will be tremendously useful. In Dennetts own words, 'Thank Goodness'."
 

Lots of Reading at BC
 
To all newly registered Brights:
 
Hi, I just want to let you know that I do read every signup to check for any remarks you may have made when you registered. (Some new Brights write at length!)  And, unless I am totally swamped timewise, I will follow up with a reply I think may be useful to you.
 
I also try to answer all queries about the Brights sent via the main email address. I typically have to draw the line at engaging in back and forth on issues, though.
 
Paul (Constituency Services)
the-brights@the-brights.net
 

Brights in Prison: The Personal Obligation
 
Only a few American prisons allow the use of computers. Most do not, so Joel, a volunteer Bright, produces and edits "A Little Brightness" newsletter (a modified version of The Brights' Bulletin sent by postal mail with Kelly's help at Brights Central). Joel's readership continues to grow. He "registers" Brights with a code that they can it use later when computer access becomes available or if they leave prison. (Latest Report: Two ALB subscribers did return to civilian life!)
 
Recently, a prisoner's comments drew BC's attention as being worthy of broader readership. They were published in "A Little Brightness". Jason, the author, has received Joel's newsletter for only a few months. Jason is enthusiastic about spreading the word of the movement to other prisoners. (He is currently working toward a BS in Anthropology with a double minor in Philosophy and Psychology).
 
<<As prisoners that have registered as Brights, we have an obligation to hold ourselves to a higher level of morality. Supers often say of themselves, "Without God I wouldn't be a good person." They don't believe that people like us can correct our behaviors without divine intervention. By rejecting the need for God to make us better people we have accepted personal responsibility for our actions and lives.
 
Inherent of that responsibility is our duty to strengthen the reputation of the Brights. This is a lifelong commitment. No one has any reason to accept our authenticity. The truth will only be demonstrated through our actions over time. As atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, existentialists, freethinkers, etc., the only proof of our sincerity will be how we live the remainder of our lives in service toward the betterment of humanity. Upon our deaths we will leave the testament of our record of life that, as Brights, we truly lived a good life without God.>>
 

"Life and Death" (Poetry)
 
A recent Bulletin invited contributions on the topic of "Confronting Mortality" (from a naturalistic stance). That request set a Bright in Toronto to work on a poem. Here it is:
 
Natural Cycle
 
Time steadily takes me
to the edge of nowhere.
The end of another natural cycle 
is almost here.
 
Much remains unknown.
Previous and ongoing speculation
will not alter the whatever
that persists in the hereafter.
 
The natural, beyond my space
and duration in this sphere
will integrate my breath and body 
in any form and density.
 
In the nothingness out there
where mystery is the supreme
my elements will dance and evolve
in the endless cycles of nature.
 
--Sheila Bello
 

More for the Toolbox?
 
"The price tag of life is death, but it's still the greatest bargain on earth."
 
John sent in the above (author unknown). We'd prefer to credit the author, if anyone knows for sure. Either way, it would seem to be a worthy addition to the Toolbox on "Confronting Mortality".
 
Please email any further contributions to the-bright@the-brights.net with TOOLBOX in the subject line.
 

Brights Send Get Well Wishes
 
In last month's Bulletin, Paul promised to convey to Mynga any email that arrived at the-brights@the-brights.net with her name in the subject line. He did so, and while recovering from breast cancer surgery she delighted in receiving messages from Brights around the globe. To name just a few of the spots (beyond those scattered across the USA): Uganda, UK, Australia, Pago Pago, Netherlands, India, Austria, and Malaysia. Thanks to all of you for sending your thoughts and good wishes. Although not yet back to her lively self, she is recovering well.
 

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