The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #99
July 31, 2011

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- AUGUST 2011 


Spring of 2012 - Come to a “Reason Rally”
 
As an outreach opportunity to educate and inform about the Brights movement, The Brights’ Net is joining with other organizations to cosponsor a jamboree on the national mall in Washington, DC. The secular rendezvous takes place March 24, 2012. 
 
Although put together within an American framework, the event organizers hope to draw attendance of “nontheists” from far and wide. A number of notable public Brights (e.g., Richard Dawkins, the Amazing Randi) are among the speakers confirmed so far. A new website has just been set up for the rally.
 
The site’s discussion board is inviting suggestions on performers and speakers. This is an opportunity for you to feed ideas to the promoters that may help shape the program. Wouldn’t it be nice if the event could live up to its original stated intent as an affirmative “celebration of secular values”?
 
If amply positive, sufficiently educational and brimming with merrymaking, maybe the media won’t be so inclined to cast the rally as a gathering of malcontents teeming with grievance.
 

New Way to Support the Brights!—Free!
 
If you shop online, consider the idea of registering to start each shopping session at the iGive.com website. You select The Brights’ Net as your “Cause” and you can then shop at any store in the iGive.com network, earning for the Brights with each purchase its specified commission. It all happens at no extra cost to you.
 
Most store commissions are in the 1% to 3% range. There are over 800 stores available. Examples are: barnesandnoble.com, peets.com, and jcpenney.com.
 
There is one very important “extra” for those interested. The Brights’ Net will earn a $5 bonus for each new person to register with iGive.com via this link. That is, even a simple registration can be helpful to the Brights, whether or not you plan to shop. You can consider the pros and cons at:
http://www.iGive.com/TheBrightsNet
 

A Pro-Active Approach?
 
Brights Central continues to receive email related to an item in the May Bulletin. The item had dealt with what kind of explanatory language belonged (did not belong) in the Brights’ Toolbox.
 
Most Brights who wrote in since then have concurred with the original complainant. Those Brights prefer that conceptual clarifications be divested of religious vocabulary.
 
Johan (South Africa) expressed “full agreement with the sentiments expressed by Juan” (Mexico) who had stated:
“I think bringing ‘God’ to the table is using the frame of thought created and tuned by believers. I think the Toolbox should contain only ‘affirmations’ based on knowledge, and not ‘denials’ of others’ frames of thought or belief.”
 
Said Johan: “Using the ‘frame of thought created and tuned by believers’ is, to my mind, re-active. The Brights message is (or should be) pro-active - promoting a naturalistic approach to life.”
 

Communicating as a Bright
 
The civic and educational aims of the Brights movement are clearly stated on the website home page. If you are actively participating in the initiative, you will want to do what you can to propel these aims. But how do you best lift awareness and understanding? How do you advance broader acceptance of brights in society?
 
One aspect to consider is taking a fresh approach to communication.
 
Since most Brights are nonreligious, it’s easy to pursue customary communication patterns based on the secular vs. religious divide. But is that the best way to proceed when the idea is to promote the naturalistic outlook in society? Are the movement’s civic aims advanced or inhibited by persistent attention to religion and “beliefs”? Is it possible to pursue approaches quite unrelated to religion?
 
These are questions, not answers. There’s no broad agreement on strategy. When you take up the banner of the Brights, it may pay to consider making changes in style and patterns of communication. You have to choose strategies for yourself and your circumstances.
 

Are You Properly Equipped?
 
Brights' lapel pin is a great way to prompt conversations about the Brights. But do you have one? You can always choose to wear your pin (or not) as you deem appropriate, but you can’t make the choice if you don’t own one! Available on our merchandise page.
 
Most Brights are inquisitive folks and eager readers. Does that description fit you? If so, have you got some Brights Bookmarks on hand for those occasions when you come across other inquisitive folks or equally avid readers.? Offer a bookmark as a helpful resource (and a direct route to the website).
 
The new trifold brochures are also nice to have on hand. Do you have a reasonable supply so you can easily inform others about the Brights movement whenever suitable occasions arise?
 
Don’t be caught unprepared. Be ready to spread word of the Brights movement (and understanding) on a moment’s notice.
 

International Brights Forum Report
 
This month has seen a lot of civic interest expressed in the Forums, particularly focused on some happenings in the USA.  Members discussed the new California law that requires public schools to teach about the accomplishments of gay and lesbian figures.  Will freethinkers get a nod someday, too, or is it inappropriate to carve out time for sub-groups of citizens?  Participants have also been discussing the controversial lawsuit, filed by American Atheists, regarding a World Trade Center memorial cross.  Has AA stuck its foot in its mouth, or is this a fight worth having?
 
But it's not all politics and philosophy:  In parallel with our years-long Song-of-the-Day Topic is Motion Picture Experiences, in which members simply share films they have enjoyed.  In fact, we have whole sub-fora devoted to casual interests, so if you'd simply enjoy a hang-out, drop on by!
 
You can read without registering, but you'll need to register at the Forum to post your comments.  We hope to see you there!
 

A Simple Message of Caring
 
Text of email sent to Norwegian Brights on 25/07/11:
 
Fellow Bright
 
When I express our sadness about the tragedy that has taken place in your country, I speak only for myself and our small staff and volunteer here at Brights Central. However, I am sure that Brights around the world share our feelings of caring and would wish to convey sympathy to the family and friends of those who were harmed or killed in this awful circumstance.
 
Please know and accept our deep concern for you as well as for all affected.
 
Sincerely
Mynga Futrell, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Brights' Network
 

The Instant Revenue Gap
 
The Brights’ Net is not alone in facing a surprisingly fast drop in finances. Roughly 10,000 nonprofits groups and bloggers accustomed to getting revenue through Amazon links on their websites suddenly lost “Amazon affiliate” status last month when California passed a new law requiring online retailers to start collecting sales taxes, even if not based in the state. Within minutes of the law passing, the corporation abruptly terminated all its California-based affiliates. Customary commissions from the company would no longer flow in their direction.
 
We need to be clear on one point: The Brights’ Net takes no position regarding the controversy between Amazon and the State of California. However, Amazon had become a fairly dependable revenue stream, and so it was a rather significant loss.
 
The intent of the July Bulletin item was simply to report the fact that a budgetary gap had opened in an instant. By the way, if you were one of the Brights who responded with some monetary help to tide over Brights Central in the short run, we thank you
 

Hi! - Glad to Be Here
 
Michael (Minnesota, USA): “OMG this is great, I don't know why I didn't look for a group like this before!”
 
Suraiya (Somerset, UK): “This is an awesome attempt and much needed in this era. Thank you :-)”
 
Tapash (Australia): “I like your website very much. Keep up the good work!”
 
Chase (Washington USA): “I feel that this is a great description of my frame of mind. Glad to be counted! Thank you all!”
 
Michael (Israel): “I am very glad that I have finally found a group of people that keep the same worldview as I”
 
Will (North Carolina, USA): “What a great idea! I'm in.”
 

Bring Back that Calendar!
 
This email just arrived from Matt, who describes his physical location (Texas) as “deep in the heart of highly supernatural land :P ”:
“Are there any plans for a 2012 Brights calendar? I sorely missed the calendar for 2011, which apparently never happened. :(  I ended up printing monthly calendar pages and taping them to the appropriate month pages of my 2010 calendar so I could get by. I sure hope the calendar will make a return soon!”
 
The Brights’ calendar has a number of staunch fans like Matt. For example, Erika (Isle of Man), when emailing on an entirely different subject, quite recently expressed her chagrin that there had been no 2011 calendar. Yet, despite such unfaltering devotion, the number of fans is quite small as measured in actual purchasers.
 
The low number of purchasers was not the only factor in shopkeeper Diane's recommendation of suspension. There were incoming complaints about the calendar format (European vs. American styles). The rather hefty final expense at the on-demand publisher (Lulu.com) also factored in.  
 
Perhaps someone (or some set of Brights) will step forward and volunteer to work within BC's guidelines to lead and carry through the production. That would save Diane most of the troubles, and we could probably give new consideration to one more effort. Will more Brights both purchase and word-of-mouth "market" a 2012 calendar? Are you a Bright with graphic talents and the dedication and time to lead - and carry through on - such a project?
 

Brights Register Their Concerns; Assist
 
When last month’s Bulletin reported the sudden revenue loss due to Amazon Corporation’s abruptly disengaging from its contract with The Brights’ Net, we got advice right away.
 
The ideas came quickly, with several potential alternative affiliations suggested. Emily (Ohio, USA) was the first to mention iGive.com, which for now is the only route for helping out that we've completed.
 
At BC, we appreciate your advice. It can be very useful. (We will pursue any other affiliation situations that may prove viable.) Of course, with so much diversity of opinion among the constituents and limited resources, it’s nigh impossible to meet expectations across the board. Still, do keep those communications coming!
 

Necessary Website Changes
 
The longstanding arrangement with Amazon had provided a gentle way for Brights to individually support the constituency at no personal cost, and so its links are to be found in a great many places throughout our website. These have turned into “site clutter”! So, as time permits, we will be removing the Amazon links and changing the presentation to reflect all new arrangements.
 

More on the Amazon Saga
 
For those particularly interested in Amazon's dispute with California, here’s a link to a news report:
Amazon Cuts Ties With Calif. Affiliates To Avoid Tax -- NPR
 
Surely to be expected, Brights have different views on the matter and aren’t bashful about sharing strong opinions. Examples from these two California Brights illustrate the divergences:  
 
Michele: “[W]e should all lobby Amazon to stop being such a creep and pay sales tax which is due!!!”
 
Larry: “I feel that your newsletter left the impression that Amazon did something terrible to the Brights by terminating the affiliate relationship. Did you forget that it was the State of California that imposed upon Amazon the responsibility to collect state sales taxes?  The way I see it, it is California that you should be upset with.  In the absence of California's new law, Amazon would not have terminated the relationship.....wouldn't have wanted to.”
 
There has been some suspicion that Amazon has wanted to use its affiliates as a kind of pawn in hopes that they would be stirred to try to get the law changed. We repeat: The Brights’ Net takes no side on the matter.
 

Why Bother with Small Stuff?
 
In last month’s Bulletin, Jean-Paul (Canada) sought advice from other Brights on how to reduce the use of interjections that have religious origins. Although many Brights supplied some suggestions of “a cure” for such expressions as “Oh my God!” or “Jeepers Creepers”, others largely told him to just “fuhgeddaboudit”.
 
Brights Central’s transmission of the request was not universally appreciated either. Ronan in Ireland challenges BC as well as Jean-Paul:
“Why bother to dwell on this? … I enjoy interacting with the Bright movement, but sometimes you let things become too artificial.  We should not spend time worrying about trivial matters. There is a much more important long game at stake here.”
 
Although it’s worthy advice that Brights direct energies to significant matters, it appears from emailed responses that Jean-Paul’s issue with religious references is one that has occupied quite a few other minds. Consequently, so that Brights can set their brainpower to more important tasks, we’ve posted into the site’s Toolbox a sampling of the responses received at BC.
 

The Toolbox Why? (& How?)
 
Why Have a Toolbox? -- As stated on the website, the Toolbox is intended as a place where Brights can share some constructive ideas for how a person who has a naturalistic outlook can best interact with fellow citizens or resolve issues they confront.  Many Brights are isolated geographically or socially and, for them, this movement offers “virtual community.” In the interest of community (and as time is available), Brights Central is happy to respond. We do so when we recognize that real concerns are being expressed and that other Brights may have suggestions to impart.
 
How Is It Produced? -- The quantity of email received in response to any Toolbox question usually far exceeds the time available for reading, shaping and posting all incoming material. Of necessity, Brights Central must take on an editorial role. (Some excerpting or truncating or minor editing of an item’s text is needed to achieve overall uniformity of style and punctuation and to clarify the abbreviated wording in text messages, but little time is expended beyond that.) To keep time commitment low, there are loose guidelines. We try to: (a) post examples sufficient in number to illustrate a range of ideas; (b) omit or abridge items to minimize overall redundancy in the collection, and (c) include unique and especially interesting contributions. Also, profanity does not align well with the stated purpose of the Toolbox.
 

Evolution Resources - Tell a Teacher!
 
“Earth and Life: Changes over Time” -- Any high school teacher who teaches about evolution can acquire a full-color 5-foot-wide wall poster FREE. Brights, please continue to stay aware of opportunities to let high school teachers know about their opportunity to acquire this stunning resource. Please direct interested teachers to this link to view the pictorial and apply to receive an evolution wall poster for their classroom.  It’s quite unique and a great value.
 
Evolution Education Flyer - Also available is another useful resource for those teachers. The flyer was produced in a collaboration of members of the Brights’ Action Forum. It is free for downloading and reproduction.
 

Wall Posters for Brights
 
Some “Dark Sky” versions of the evolution poster (the first printing background is a “night sky”) are still available to anyone interested in obtaining one at cost of printing/mailing. Simply use PayPal to send US$18.38 (if in the USA) for the printing, shipping tube, and postage. Add $15 more if you want two posters. On the PayPal shipping form, put in your complete mailing address AND be sure to say "Dark Sky Poster" so that the amount you send will not be treated as a donation. We can mail out the same week we receive the PayPal. If not a US resident, then $US25 will probably cover the approximate international postage.
 
Lynda (in Missouri) was asked recently if she had received the two posters she had ordered. She replied:
“Yes, I received them yesterday--they are wonderful.”    
 

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