Many of you used the Amazon.uk or Amazon.com links on the Brights’ site for your seasonal shopping. Thanks!! The company issues commissions two months after the purchases, and Amazon.com’s latest transfer came at an opportune time because December’s US$766 almost exactly covered the expenses of Brights Central’s unplanned (hence unbudgeted) office move. Commissions on the items purchased in the UK during December earned GBP113 for the UK Brights. Although the funds may not seem that impressive, it’s a fact that folks who “faithfully” remember do make a difference!
It is generally accepted that in many locales, showing that one has a naturalistic worldview means enduring discredit in the community. (Many brights are maligned even within their own families.) Still, not much is really known about this. An email that Brights Central sent this month to Brights in Midwestern states touches on this aspect.
The email blast, which went to 3600 Brights in twelve states, was sent at the request of Chris, an ABD in sociology at the University of Nebraska. The “BrightenOp” invited participation in his doctoral study, examining stigma with respect to “secular individuals.” BC is pleased to learn from Chris that many hundreds of Brights participated.
The research request to take part in the web-survey had cautioned potential respondents that it might take up to 30 minutes to complete. Still, within just one week of the blast, Chris saw total participation so far rise from about 1600 to over 2300. As he stated to BC: “I can’t thank you enough!” (He had been receiving data from other routes at a rate of about 150 to 200 responses per week but got a net gain of 700 in the week following the blast to Brights!)
Also, Chris reported some feedback that the survey had actually required only 15 to 20 minutes to complete. So, if you had been invited and given the URL to participate but have not yet responded, you still have time to do so. Surely, having more solid knowledge about this topic will be a good thing. Although only one person wrote to Brights Central about the experience, Kyle in Ohio said: “Good stuff! These were excellent survey questions and I am happy to help out a fellow Bright.”
A wall poster five feet wide, with a stunning pictorial narrative of cosmological and biological evolution, would be an asset to any classroom in which a qualified teacher is helping students understand evolution on earth.
If you would like any more eye-catching posters to go out the door to draw the gaze of over a hundred students per classroom, then this is the time to do so. Earmark any donation
as EVOLUTION POSTER PROJECT.
Notes: 1) Recall that sale of this poster is not allowed. 2) The pictorial continues to “evolve” beyond the sample version that posted on the website (e.g., the “halocene” misspelling will become “holocene”).
Holocene or Anthropocene?
A relevant discussion is taking place in science. Has human activity already shown itself in ways that will be detectable thousands of years from now in ice cores and sedimentary rocks? Are we beginning a new era?
How They Heard of the Brights!
Adrianne (Washington, USA): “I found The Brights vinyl cut-out sticker on evolvefish.com, read the blurb on The Brights and followed the link.”
David (New Zealand): “I read Wolpert on The Origin Of Belief, then Dawkins, then Hitchens then Dennett and saw Brights first mentioned on his webpage.”
Jack (Australia): “I was actually looking up Penn and Teller, two of my favourite celebrities… "enthusiastic Brights". Curious, I followed the link to the Wikipedia page, and having my interest further peaked…”
Marcia (Oklahoma, USA): “I started out at Visual Thesaurus and somehow found my way here.”
If you reached the Brights’ website by what you think is a unique pathway, let us know by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org
with HOW I HEARD in your subject line.
Forum Fodder for Brights
One subject of avid discussion this month is what some call "religious naturalism
". Proponents suggest that religious naturalism grants access to such feelings as awe, humility, and connectedness to the broader world, while detractors claim that to engage in such a practice requires one to descend into numinous fuzzy thinking. What do you think? Do we give up something important by automatically rejecting everything that can be called "religious", or does an open-minded stance toward the natural world and the feelings it evokes provide a worthy and satisfying viewpoint?
Of course, the Forum shouldn't be considered just a place for philosophical debate. It also has appropriate venues for anything from politics, to games and hobbies, from challenging family situations
, to reports on your involvement in your local community, and, of course, proposals for worthy civic action. Register at the Forum
to make your ideas heard!
Morality Project Re-activated
Ruban Bala, who had been volunteer leader of this endeavor, has indicated his readiness to pick up the project
again. (He had suspended it due to a combination of unfortunate circumstances, including the harmful effect on his company of October’s volcano eruption in Indonesia.) Ruban is just now notifying the cadre of team members previously assembled of this fact. Presuming they too indicate availability and readiness to pursue the next phase of the project, the executive team will commence what is foreseen to be six months of work on Project Area C.
Brights Lose Out in Web-Survey of “Godless” Social Networking (USA)
In mid-February, BC received an email stating that “The Brights” had been nominated as one of “the top five social networking sites for agnostics and atheists.”
The “letter of congratulations” announcing the “reader’s choice” contest (at about.com) was urging that we tell about this nomination and have more persons thereby vote their favorite. (Okay, we are doing that now, but we suspect the contest is probably to acquire more readers for about.com.)
It’s already oh so obvious that we are NOT going to rate as the best place for that kind of networking! Still, thanks anyway for the nomination and (to whomever) for the smattering of votes we received so far!
But Of Course!
(Brights Lose Out in Survey of “Godless” Social Networking) Actually, no surprise here, because a survey location permeated with “godlessness” is not a useful environs for this movement. In fact, isn’t the Brights’ endeavor something of the reverse of atheist social networking?
In such a God-dominant culture as the USA, having Atheist Nexus, Think Atheist, Ex-Christian and similar sites to connect atheists and agnostics via a shared “godless identity” can gratify. Still, there’s something of a “silo” effect at work that can perpetuate marginalization. A tendency to focus on matters involving faith, logic and evidence - and to identify and commiserate with one another on that basis - is unlikely to convince in the broader arena (where one cannot be wholly candid without losing a chance to be elected). There has to networking also that will gain a high degree of sway outside that silo.
A civic vision
requires redirection of talent and energy. The Brights’ Net challenges people free of supernatural beliefs to disengage from the religion arena so as to facilitate civil and constructive interactions with their fellow citizens, finding areas of agreement for addressing social concerns. Bringing a naturalistic outlook to bear on many crucial issues will require alliances with supers, not separation from them.
The Brights movement offers some positive and constructive phrases for a civic self-identity. Individuals can be citizens who have a naturalistic worldview. It’s a broad umbrella, and activist Brights will want to start making use of it when talking and mixing with fellow citizens. We want to convince people of our own worth as citizens. We are deserving of acceptance. We want the avenues to civic participation already available to supers. We have to direct supers’ attention to matters of civic fairness and equality that will benefit brights of all stripes.
Show It! (Then, Explain It)
A small Brights' lapel pin
is something you can wear with pleasure and pride! It is a great conversation starter. It will pique the curiosity of persons who notice it and provide you with many opportunities to answer their queries. You can divulge/discuss your naturalistic worldview in amiable and informative ways.
Anne (California, USA): “Wow, what a great site to find. I don't feel alone anymore!”
Stefan (Netherlands): “Homo Sapiens' first steps away from mysticism. Let's write history.”
Justin (New York, USA): “It's organizations like these that make me believe there's some hope for humanity after all. Cheers from a high school sophomore who hasn't been brainwashed by society!”
Michael (Oklahoma, USA): “This is a brilliant movement. Thank you for bringing this movement about.”
Janice (Indiana, USA): “Very nice to meetcha! So great to realize I am not alone in my thinking.”
Carl-Fredrik (Sweden): “Go brights!”
Insulting Native People? (Or, Pressing for Equality?)
Each week comments roll in to Brights Central via the website. Although there is not enough staff time at the hub to respond to all of them, we like to reply whenever possible. This week brought a polite request from Philippa (Australia) that surely compelled a response:
“Please do not insult native people by saying there are no spirits. Just because you do not see them, and do not respect them, does not mean they do not exist…”
It is true that The Brights’ Network is urging citizens who have a naturalistic worldview to be open and honest about holding their outlook! (Illuminate your worldview! Elevate the naturalistic worldview in society!) But, insulting others? No. Not our ballgame. (See the Brights movement’s Principle 8
So, how to respond to Philippa? It’s traditional to say: “Well, just because people say there are spirits does not mean they do exist, either!” It may be tempting to center a back-and-forth on logic or beliefs, but a more relevant focus here is civic fairness. Through The Brights’ Network we are reaching for civic parity with supers. That’s our ballgame, and it makes for a different message.
We envision an even-handed situation. It is this: Brights should be able to utter a naturalistic view of the world. And, they should be able to do so without being told that simply “saying it” (however politely) is somehow an insult to supers. It isn’t.
Living on the Bright Side!
The Brights’ Shop at Cafй Press
has a wide range of items bearing the Brights’ logo. From t-shirts to tote bags to teacups (well, mugs, actually), you can show that you are “living on the bright side of life”! Wearing Brights’ apparel is a great way to prompt queries from fellow citizens. Check it out!
The Bright Identity
Andrew (Australia): “I have been labeling myself as a Compassionate Secular Humanist, as I think it is silly to define oneself through something that doesn't exist…”
Note from Brights Central: One can self-identify however one wishes and be active in the Brights. The issue is whether one’s worldview is free of supernatural/mystical elements, and whether one supports the civic aims listed on the home page.
Of course, when one identifies as a Bright, that clearly helps to spread the term and leads curious people to the website. In the constituency we have humanist Brights, agnostic Brights, and atheist Brights. The various identities also include those derived from community or heritage relations to a philosophy or religion (e.g., Buddhist Brights, Jewish Brights, Quaker et al. Brights).To add “Bright” and make a Compassionate Secular Humanist Bright would be a mouthful, for sure, but I hope the point is clear - how you label yourself is up to you.
When other citizens inquire about your views, labels aren’t really necessary. A Bright can self-identify in a way that is affirmative and wholly free of reference to religion or philosophy. One can choose to be a person who simply "has a naturalistic worldview." Alternately, particularly useful in letters to editors and email signature lines, identify as "a participant in the Brights movement.”
When a Golden Opportunity Knocks!
(Note: This item had been intended for the prior bulletin.) Did you hear about the zodiac being out of whack nowadays, such that horoscopes are in need of adjustments? Depending on your date of birth, your “sign” (the one you’ve been told is yours) just might not really be your sign after all! Of course this “news” wasn’t really news at all (at least not to astronomers). However, new social media can suddenly send an issue viral and that is what happened.
The facts of the matter upset the life coaches who make use of astrology in their counseling. The “news” also flummoxed many a regular citizen accustomed to planning the day according to traditional dates for the zodiac signs. Discovering that patterns established thousands of years ago no longer fit today’s heavens has discomfited many! (According a 2009 Pew study, Americans display extensive receptivity
with regard to the paranormal, with 25% of the public overall believing in astrology!)
Astronomers may be chuckling, but the point is not to mock the credulous. Rather, the situation is ripe for brights to perhaps raise a bit of awareness. Upheavals in popular thinking offer golden opportunities for brights to share friendly facts with fellow citizens. If one wants to take advantage of the zodiac “news” to be amiably conversant with supers (and illuminate with such small glimmers of factual information as one might), an article by Jesse McKinley gives useful details
One Bright’s Experience (“Transcending via Science”)
Lawrence (New Jersey, USA): “"Periodically, when I've finally grasped some set of complex, unfamiliar ideas about a given theoretical element of science (evolution for example), I have a transcendent experience that literally changes my consciousness, not just my view of nature's mechanics. In other words, this journey toward understanding, when successful, is actually enlightening in that it alters the way I perceive the world and think about it. For one thing, my skeptical resistance to illogical nonsense is palpably sharpened. Therein lies my revealed secret---science education, when it's done right, is palpable! I expect that faith-based believers will find this odd or incomprehensible but it's real---I've experienced it. Also, I can report that this benefit is lasting and cumulative."
Speaking of Science, a Serious Note (USA)
The U.S., perhaps more than any other developed nation, has over time been enduring de-legitimizing of scientific research by both left and right. Trending from postmodernism to neo-conservatism, antiscientific thought has now reached the mainstream. This is most clearly seen in the anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite cultural worldview of the climate change deniers in legislative offices ranging from school boards to Congress. In an article called, “Fact-Free Science
,” Judith Warner bemoans the American situation.
How much longer can the pushback against scientific authority in the United States continue without increasing global repercussions? There is a real need for more people in high places who do not draw on magical thinking. Citizens who have a naturalistic worldview are needed in civil institutions, in government service, in education. They need to be involved and making decisions on an equal basis with those who have beliefs in the supernatural guiding their actions! Civic involvement is crucial.