The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #147 (latest issue)
May 31, 2015

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JUNE 2015 


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Being Bashful?

When it comes to illuminating your personal worldview, reticence (photo above) may have its place. In some cultures, it’s unsafe to show others that your outlook on the world is supernatural-free.

Even where bodily security is not an issue, social barriers can be high when others around view the world differently. Action is especially difficult when those “others” are people you care deeply about.

Still, as Brights, we want to elevate the naturalistic worldview (advance the naturalistic outlook and enlarge its civic acceptance) as best we can.  Sometimes, “how we go about it” can make all the difference.

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Minding Our Methods

Jeffrey’s Facebook post (Brights’ FB, March 9, 2015) offers an instance in which a change in personal approach made a difference:

“As a rule, I have usually taken a negative, polemic approach when talking to people about naturalism. Since reading the information on the Brights webpage, I opted for a more positive, exuberant approach…  I was shocked how just a simple change in my personal attitude changed how he responded to me…!”

Such success is hardly guaranteed, but before we can advance civic participation in our society, we do have to embark on openness. That means being candid about values and beliefs whenever it is feasible (and listening, too).

Within one’s personal sphere of involvement, practicing civility can be beneficial. It also helps to focus on positive attributes of viewing the world as it is, free of supernaturalism.

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Will Rise of “Nones” Affect Politics?  (USA)

The Pew Research Center’s massive “Religious Landscape Study” (35,000 sample, 2014) clearly shows that “the nones" (atheists, agnostics, nothing-in-particulars) are increasing in numbers. The trend might have political implications if secular voters actually do become more active.

At this point, there is diverse opinion about political effects. So far, the ballot box doesn’t show impact from the religiously unaffiliated. There is potential, but the difficulty of motivating secular voters to political engagement has long been apparent. What, if anything, will galvanize secular voters?

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Individual Actions

The previous Brights’ Bulletin asked readers to ponder how best to align individual activities with the overall aims of the constituency. 

Some suggestions, focused on the overall civic vision that underpins the Brights initiative, are already on the website.
(Topics: “Openness,” “Visibility,” Constructive Engagement”).

But what else might we do? The bulletin invited suggestions from constituents. What follows are three example offerings.

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#1: Can’t You Just Be Nice?!

Rubens (Brazil) advises that Brights refrain from taking easy offense, such as when somebody issues a Christianity-based holiday greeting. “What the heck – assume that that wish refers to the merry season; smiling an acceptance of the greeting, in my view, does not make you a Christian; it in fact shows that you nicely abide by the customs of the land...”

As he puts it directly:  “Don't give religious bigots food to chew on.”  For emphasis, his further suggestion appears in emphatic upper case (removed here): “Do not wave your Brights’ advantage at people all the time.” 

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#2: Sit Down for Civic Equality

Kevin (California, USA) focuses on the prevalence of an American “civil religion” in which religious references, rationalized by history and tradition, have become part of the American civic fabric, including the public school. Examples of such blending of public piety into patriotism include insertion of Under God into the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance (1954) and replacement of the original E Pluribus Unum motto by In God We Trust (1956). These governmental actions have sent a message to nontheists of being disloyal “outsiders.”

His suggested action is that American Brights participate in the American Humanist Association’s “Don't Say the Pledge” campaign. Says Kevin:  “I can’t imagine anything more open, visible and constructive (than joining) with thousands of others in making a unified and unambiguous civic statement that patriotism should not require belief in God.”

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#3: An Artificial Divide

Roger (London, UK) sees a need to acknowledge how ideas and viewpoints result from centuries of evolution rather than engage in customary binary discussion (there is or is not a god; we are or we are not religious).

In a rather lengthy essay, he points out that, yes, we do now have rational explanations for natural phenomena like eclipses, earthquakes, contagious diseases and so on, and “there is no longer any subject of study requiring theism, other than theism itself.”  But religious people and theists are reluctant to let go of important cultural and social tools that have survived and evolved over millennia. They will retreat “beyond the reach of reason” in the face of non-theists who, in the main, are determinedly apathetic to the cultural treasures, failing to separate them from "religion."

Much of what has come about is very desirable and some is central to the experience of social humankind – e.g., life cycle events… birth, puberty, marriage, death.  The struggle to maintain group bonding, identity, life cycle events and the ability to pass values to succeeding generations has to be addressed in a non-theistic way lest Brights evermore be in a minority.

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Persian Proofing Possibility?

Brights Central is ready to add more languages to the “Reality about Morality” segment of the-brights.net website. Thanks to volunteers, we have in hand a Persian language draft, Hebrew, and Arabic.

There was a notable delay, as first we had to conquer some “right-to-left language issues.” The Persian has now been installed, but it is appropriate to invite some further scrutiny of the translation before actually making the content accessible internationally.

So, if you have high facility with Persian and a fairly solid awareness of the morality content in English, we’d benefit from your expertise. Please volunteer by emailing to the-brights@the-brights.net with PERSIAN in upper case letters in your subject line.  Thanks!

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Celebrity Claptrap Taken Seriously (UK)

What is it that makes the public listen to the health and science views of entertainers?  All too often, the advice coming out of the mouths of celebrities is little matched to reality (general bunkum). Sometimes “celebrity advice” becomes viral flimflam, and that effect (combined with modern day simultaneous reporting of conflicting information from varied studies) plays a strong role in public opinion (and action) on issues like vaccination and dieting.

The UK Brights Twitter feed points us to a Guardian article that features a well-positioned Canadian academic (himself a self-confessed celebrity junkie) who has written a book on how celebrity culture is undermining the public’s trust in science. The article’s links lead to further information on the science/celebrity clash.

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At the International Forums

Why does scientific knowledge get such inconsistent treatment?  In this age, routine events inject scientific findings and arguments directly into all from casual chat to legislative debate, but the employment of this knowledge can seem quite scattershot.  A member reports on events in Vermont, USA, where the legislature has almost simultaneously adopted measures to ban Genetically Modified Organisms, but require vaccines, for philosophically self-contradictory reasons.  How can brights in society challenge these inconsistencies?

An older topic has recently reignitedDid the universe come from nothing, or didn’t it?  Or does “nothing” mean what we think it does?  After all, even experts seem to get confused about the implication of new findings about the “vacuum” (which seems to be a seething stew of exotic particles) and still can’t seem to agree about whether the cosmos did (or could) have a “beginning” in a context where even basic physical entities like “time” are defined only for events consistent with our experience — which the Big Bang certainly was not!  What a rich area for stimulating conversation and debate!  What do you think about it all?

Anyone may read most of the forums, and registration to participate takes only a few minutes.

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Easy Way to Support the Brights

If you shop Amazon, please don’t forget that you have at hand one of the very best ways to back the constituency. Simply start each of your shopping sessions at the website. It won’t cost you anything at all. And 6-7% of your purchase amount comes in to The Brights’ Network.

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Get Your Brights Flag Now!

There is a limited supply of these new items in “sports banner size” (16 in. x 24 in.).

We reported last month that Jason, who has worked over two years at Brights Central, had recently moved away to the Bay area. That distance didn’t prevent his returning soon after to pick up a flag in person!

While the supply lasts, other Brights can order from the merchandise page (first come; first serve.)

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Atheism vs. Brightness

Last month a bulletin item dealt with the “Brights and Supers Compared” diagram on the website to show that Brights aren’t always nonreligious. (Brights go by any number of identities, including identity by a religion (for its cultural or social attributes).

The same chart’s analysis gives special attention to atheists. “So, Are Atheists Brights”? 

Whereas atheist identity is firmly grounded in a religious framework, “brightness” just isn’t (and it is broader). Atheists may or may not be brights. Mull over the distinctions using a chart at The Brights Net web site.

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Interminably Incompatible?

Because both science and religion are in the business of concluding what in the universe is true, the conflict between them isn’t going away anytime soon. Jerry Coyne has written a book on the topic (“Faith vs. Fact: Why science and religion are incompatible”). Besides the book, he recently authored an article on the topic. His opinion piece bundles a rather comprehensive look at the terrain into a succinct package that is readily accessible online.

A recent International Journal of Science in Society article probes why people do not accept evolution. The authors posit that it is the incompatibility between science and belief in supernatural causation.


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