BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JULY 2010
A Call for Toolbox Submissions
We are looking for succinct ways to constructively reply to this question:
"Then How Can You Be Moral?"
Brights Central wants to develop additional material for posting on the website in the "Brights' Toolbox." With help from readers of this Bulletin, we can add valuable material to show options for interacting with fellow citizens, especially those persons who do not have a naturalistic worldview (the supers).
The current web page catalogs how various Brights respond to remarks like "God bless you" or "I'll pray for you," and it offers alternatives for answering a child's query ("Where did we come from?").
Please take this opportunity to share your own brief response to our new question, and help us provide content that can aid Brights across the globe. Your own response may be helpful to others wanting to answer, from their naturalistic stance, questions or objections about their ethics.
Developing Your Answer to the Question ("Then How Can You Be Moral?")
There is a 200-word limit. We would prefer that you write your own response.
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 uppermost limit is 200 words. There must be adequate crediting if the passage is not your own. Note: Please do NOT send weblinks, as we do not have the person-power at Brights Central to keep them up.
You may put forth your understanding of how a sense of morality is acquired without supernatural account or explanation. Or, your submission may underscore how ethical standards need not require supernatural beliefs or religious directives. Or, you may tell how you demonstrate that you are capable of moral virtues (generosity, justice, compassion, sympathy, etc.).
Although academic wording rarely serves for practical communication, you may look to the four scientifically-defensible statements (and associated research findings) provided by the "Reality about Morality" project for some useful grounding on the website.
Guidelines for Toolbox Submissions
The (strict!) limit is 200 words per contributor.
Sometime during the month of July, please offer your very concise "naturalistic worldview response" to the "Then How Can You Be Moral?" question. (Or, "What is the source of your morality?")
Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with TOOLBOX - MORALITY in uppercase letters in the subject line. Include your name and your location. (Only first names will be posted to the web site.)
In August, reviewers will select from items submitted during July. Given that we receive sufficient material, we will be able to put up this Toolbox segment the following month.
Letting Others Know
Do you have a Brights banner on your website or FaceBook page?
Have you gone to the merchandise page for lapel pins, bookmarks and static clings?
New design by Diane (a composite icon)
New Document on "Religion in Public Life"
(Consensus of Atheists' Views from Recent Conference)
The recent "World Atheist Conference" in Copenhagen addressed the issue of "Gods and Politics" and produced a document of likely interest to many Brights.
To discuss in the Brights' Forum, go to:
Young and Loving… to Be a Bright
Julia (Seville, Spain): "I'm a 15 year old girl and I'm an atheist. My family is Catholic, and I feel lonely sometimes. This is great. I'd love to be a Bright."
Diego (Chile): "I heard about it from an uncle who's registered to this website. I think this simple website will help a big cause, the cause of truth and intelligence so of course, even though I'm 15 and I live in a third world country. I have the brains to decide this, I want and I'd love to be a bright."
Scouring the Web for "Who are the Brights?"
The main website of The Brights' Net is definitely the place to send anyone who wants an authoritative answer to this question. There are many other places on the Internet that describe the Brights. And, some even display a fairly accurate understanding! But misinformation and half-truths are plentiful, creating quite a muddle. One often encounters information that is part factual, but with some misunderstanding or distortion.
Example (one of the better descriptions on the Web) of a "mixed bag":
The Brights: This is a recently created network of individuals who view the universe as "free of supernatural and mystical elements." Brights consist of a diverse community including: Agnostics, Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Rationalists, Secularists, religious skeptics, some Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Wiccans, Neopagans, , and followers of other religions.
The above "pretty good portrayal" may not be obviously in error, but the website lists "The Brights" along with ten other entries under the heading of "non-theistic belief systems."
It is reasonable to characterize The Brights as "nontheistic" but not as a "belief system."
What DO Brights believe?
A lot of attention has been paid to the "beliefs of Brights" as word of the movement has spread across the Internet. But there really can't be any listing of the philosophical "beliefs of Brights." This is a constituency of individuals. Any Bright can catalog and profess his or her personal beliefs. But no one can justifiably catalog the elements of shared beliefs.
A naturalistic worldview may be a type of outlook, but it is defined more by what it lacks than what it contains. A supernatural-free (type of ) worldview is not an ideology. There is no creed or dogma.
Speaking about "The Brights" is clearly no simple matter. Doing so accurately requires a keen sense of exactly what the Brights' endeavor is about. One hopes that Brights, in their discussions about the Brights movement, acknowledge both the diversity within the constituency and the predominant civil intent of the overall enterprise.
If you would like to see the portion of the Brights' website that directly addresses the issue, go to our FAQ page
How Different People See "The Brights"
"The Brights" is a change! - Graham (Powys, UK) - "something positive to opt IN to at last, rather than just something negative to opt OUT of"
"The Brights" is a location! -- Larry (Germany) "a place to be "counted," as you call it…to give others the courage to say that they don't believe either; often people who don't believe are simply pressured into saying they do. Hopefully this is that place"
"The Brights" is a catchy idea! -- Alex (Spain) "…may sound a little bit 'pompous' but it works marketing-wise and I found it very very funny. Thanks and congratulations…"
"The Brights" is a resource hub! -- Luke (Dorset, UK) "I am thrilled that someone has started a group centred on rationality. Looking to expand my knowledge"
"The Brights" is an adjective! (A verb?) -- Edna (CA, USA) "'Brights' Is Beautiful; …brighten[ing] my every day"
And Does Your Librarian Know?
The Brights' registration form asks about how people heard about the Brights. Cecelia (Denmark) points out a new (to BC) and appealing route to making acquaintance:
"The librarian at my school told me about [it], because we were discussing atheism."
Not Before, But Brights Now
Some Brights journey quite a ways to reach the position of holding a naturalistic worldview.
Christopher (California, USA): "From a moderate-fundamentalist Christian upbringing to a naturalistic worldview has been an enlightening, exciting, and endeavoring experience for me. I truly accept the world deeper, rooted with-in Reason and Science rather than Faith Alone Reasoning."
Emanuel (Brazil): "As a former subconscious cold reader 'psychic', meditating until understand(ing) my failures led to the ultimate conclusion: I was wrong. There is nothing as supernatural. Period."
The Brights' Action Arena #1
Reality about Morality Project
UPDATE: Having taken a break following completion of Project Area B, we are now initiating Project Area C, which entails planning for the design and development of presentation and instructional materials for varied target audiences. (We will be building on the recently finalized declaration statements.) Phases of the project are outlined on the Action Arena's section of the website.
There will be varied ways for individual Brights to contribute as we go along. You may have some interest in personal involvement in this upcoming phase of the project. If so, then during July, please locate and review the posted interim report on the status quo to develop your understanding of the project intent and progress so far.
You can also start by participating, along with other Brights, in the topmost item in this Bulletin. Respond with your Toolbox submission during July. (Note: If you have previously remarked to BC or to Project Leader Bala regarding the project, you need not repeat; your comments have been retained and considered. You may be contacted to help in the review of Toolbox submissions.)
From the Brights' Forum Liaison
Member Jonr opened a discussion about Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a Supreme Court case which as he stated "pits the freedom of association (and belief) against the separation of church and state." That discussion (preceding and continuing beyond the supreme court decision in the case) can be viewed and joined at this link
Discussion of a troublesome nationwide (US) trend in which cash-strapped school districts are granting exceptional access to evangelical groups who use that access to promote their agendas on public school grounds and time can be found here.
All are welcome to register at the Forum and share your opinions on these important matters--or simply come to enjoy the company.
NOTE: Answering Gavin's query in the June Bulletin about apparent redundancy in the "Life, the Universe, and Everything" title:
It was just a whimsical selection, a reference to the popular novel of the same name by Douglas Adams. (That sub-forum welcomes content that people wish to share, but can't seem to fit in any of the categories defined for the other forums in the newly revamped structure.)
"A Little Brightness" (Prison Program)
The fact that few prisons permit computer access spurred volunteer Joel to establish a service for prisoners, now well into its second year. BC, with Kelly's help, mails Joel's "A Little Brightness" newsletters to incarcerated Brights.
Besides adapting the monthly Brights' Bulletin to produce a paper copy, Joel usually adds a personal addendum of "educational material" (typically drawn from the web). The most recent featured addendum topic dealt with Pascal's wager.
Joel also recently registered three new Brights into the constituency who had learned about the Brights through these newsletters (he uses a code that can be employed later when computer access becomes available or if the prisoner leaves prison.). One of the newest constituent Brights, Jeremiah, wrote back: "I am going to do everything that I can to promote and encourage a naturalistic worldview amongst fellow prisoners."
Illuminating a Worldview - But How?
Jeremiah wants to expend efforts to promote and encourage a naturalistic worldview among fellow prisoners. Okay, but what does he mean? Is he perhaps thinking of trying to convince others of the "rightness" of his outlook? Or, is he seeking to advance peer understanding and promote acceptance by way of considered personal actions?
Most any reading of the Brights movement's civic aims would counsel hewing to the latter path. The "pursuing converts" corridor more often leads to quarrelsome confrontations and dead ends. Besides being generally futile, it can engender ill feelings. With due consideration, one can instead apply one's naturalistic worldview in visible ways that exemplify its merits. One can open minds while adding to civility. This leaves available many more pathways to mutual accomplishment with peers.
A useful goal for incarcerated Brights who wish to promote the aims of the Brights movement is to live out the notion that they can be as principled as any other person and make useful contributions within their milieu.
Interestingly, persons who gather together for camaraderie as "nonbelievers" (various labels), tend to concentrate their banter rather heavily - if not exclusively - on atheist vs. theistic beliefs and on church/state separation matters. That is, the topics engaged by discussants (and speakers, whenever utilized) customarily swirl around "religion."
Leaders of freethought groups and Meetups have been surprised to find that the general interests and concerns of many Brights may not have a "beliefs-referenced" focus. Nonetheless, leaders of such groups may want to welcome Brights to their activities. Consequently, new on the main Brights site is a webpage intended for leaders of such freethought-oriented gatherings
. The page offers some brief considerations that may be helpful to leaders hoping to blend some broad civic interests of Brights with those topics that engage existing participants.
Brights Have Table at Humanist Conference
Brights' staff members Paul and Kelly volunteered to staff a Brights' outreach table at the American Humanist Association Meeting in San Jose, California. They were joined by Sonya, who volunteered from the Santa Cruz Brights group. (Sonya absolutely shines at staffing tables and would be a great model for Brights outreach tables everywhere.) Andoni had also volunteered for a shift, but he came down with a horrid flu and had to bail at the last minute. So, unfortunately, he missed all the great interactions with the Humanists. Some Brights swag was on display, with numerous bookmarks distributed. Mynga, in her final year on the national AHA board of directors, attended the convention but missed out on most of the action at the Brights table, which was one of twenty at the meeting.
On a Poetic Note
(The form of this poem is Terza -- the verses are triplets.)
A Naturalistic Terza Rima
Though it's unpopular I take this stand
Declaring that there is no bogyman
Nor anywhere, supernal guiding hand.
I comprehend that there is no grand plan
Or purpose to phenomenon we see
Except what is imposed on it by man.
With careful thought It's obvious to me
That nature's permutations are the norm
And not an aberration by decree.
An incremental process does transform
In unending varieties to fill
Without the need for wisdom to inform.
Though sans design, the mind can ponder still
Appreciating with a wond'rous awe
Complexity compiled without a skill,
Only the willful blind will find a flaw
In a cosmos that is all that there is
Without the deities they never saw.
--© John Miele 2010 (used with permission)
One "Free & Easy" Way to Contribute to the Brights Movement
Click through the Brights' link when you go to shop at Amazon on the web. Amazon sends The Brights' Net 7% (USA) of the sale price of anything you purchase during the session. Amazon remains an easy no cost way to donate money to UK and/or US Brights' activities..
(You can always locate the Amazon portal on the home page of The Brights Net - right hand column.)