The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #150 (latest issue)
October 31, 2015

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



Best for Explaining to Children

Brights Central previously asked readers to suggest the best book likely to constructively keep open a child's pathway toward a naturalistic understanding of the world. "[S]uppose you could provide only one book to a youngster (any age). What would it be?”

"Grandmother Fish" was the first entry. This month we share the nomination that came in from Dan (Ontario, Canada).  In putting forth his choice of “the single book you’d hold paramount”, Dan said:

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be" [is] written especially for young readers, the illustrations are well done and not calculated to frighten, and the limited material that touches on religion is neither hostile nor condescending. I've looked at a lot of the literature on this topic aimed at children, and I think this is the book I'd have chosen for my children, had it been available for them forty years ago.”

Preview the book, on Amazon (after selecting the link, select the book cover, with text "Look Inside"). 

Please submit your own book recommendation by providing title and author and, if you can, a link to further information (or send an abstract).  Email the “top choice” to with BEST (in upper case letters, please) in your subject line.


Religiosity Decline Due to “Nones” (USA)

Religious demographics in the U.S. public have been the subject of major Pew Research Center reports in recent years. While it is often noted that the United States is highly religious (in comparison to other modern democracies), new Pew data show some shifting in a secular direction as younger Americans prove less religious than older Americans.  Of likely interest to a great many Brights is its highlighting of an overall falloff in traditional religious beliefs and practices from 2007 to 2014.

The researchers attribute the decline largely to the “nones” (“a growing minority of Americans, particularly in the Millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith”).  The religiously affiliated, though, generally showed just as much religious commitment as in the previous 2007 Religious Landscape study, and within some groups, more.  


Explore the Religious/Nonreligious Landscape (USA)

The latest Pew report (published November 3rd) contains lots of interesting information, not only about religion, but also about social and political values.

To Comprehend the Highlights:  
This “5 Key Findings” link includes a brief video contrasting the unaffiliated and the affiliated, along with text summarizing five takeaways from the study”).

You may also watch the video directly.

To Dabble in the Database:

This link leads you to many, many more, and lets you explore data by different variables (traditions, geography, topics and questions).

For Facts about Atheists:

Might the very existence of this segment hint of growing researcher interest in delving into aspects of the “nonaffiliated”?


Delight in the Workings of Nature

Are you interested in contemplating what other Brights have to say? A great many Brights have authored books, and the website has numerous entries of titles and abstracts submitted by the authors themselves. (These are folks who’d like other Brights to read their work and perhaps respond to their ideas.) The books are grouped into various categories (e.g., Fiction, Philosophy, Humor & Humanities).

The newest listing is titled, “Reality Is Enough.”  In it James Merryweather (U.K.) “…explores what it is to be an atheist in a religious world, and shows how science – particularly biology – is under attack from extreme religion.”  Aspects of brain behavior have interested him, and so as he sorted out his own life and studied the extraordinarily baffling phenomenon of religion, he paid special attention to its interaction with science.


"Books by Brights" Boosts "The Brights"

Most “Books by Brights” listed on the website are linked into The Brights’ Net’s Amazon portal. Purchasing via the portal (books, or anything) is one way you can, at no cost to you, back the nonprofit organization that sustains Brights Central and the coordinated activities. 

If you find an entry enticing and decide you’d like to obtain the book via that route, you will know that 6 or 7 percent of the resulting purchase price will be directed to The Brights’ Net. And if you follow this link and make your first purchase ever via Amazon Smile during November, an additional $3 bonus comes along to the charity as well! 

Many Brights prefer other routes to books than Amazon, though. So don't forget the "brick and mortar" stores, which may be able to order a book for you if it's not on the shelves.  Your fellow Bright author, will doubtless be pleased!


Appraising Religion’s Influence on Children’s Beneficence

From University of Chicago researcher, Jean Decety:
"A common-sense notion is that religiosity has a positive association with self-control and moral behaviors. This view is unfortunately so deeply embedded that individuals who are not religious can be considered morally suspect.” 

Whereas religious parents are more likely than non-religious parents to describe their offspring as empathetic and concerned about justice, new evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on November 5 does not conform to that. In fact, it suggests the opposite.

An article at titled: “Does religion make children less generous?” provides a summary. Interestingly, it states:

“Importantly, the researchers report, children who were the most altruistic came from atheist or non-religious families.”

Of course, research on groups does not mark any individuals. Best not to stereotype on such studies.

Related article:


What If Religion Goes Away?

What will happen to society? You are doubtless familiar with this one:If people become less religious, then society will decay. Crime will skyrocket, violence will rise, and once-civilized life will degenerate into immorality and depravity.”  Right?

Not so, according to Phil Zuckerman, the author of Living the Secular Life. Still, it’s another popular presumption that affects public perspectives of citizens who have a naturalistic outlook.

Surveying the world (and various data) from his post as a professor of sociobiology and director of the secular studies program at Pitzer College, Zuckerman recently deemed that supposition about societal decay without religion demonstrably false. He summarized his analysis in a recent Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times. The reasoning, published October 31 concludes: “it is clear that a strong or increased presence of secularism isn't the damaging threat to society so many continually claim it to be.


Passing Your Values on to Children

A recent work by a Bright garnered considerable success on its launch week. It rose to the #1 spot in the Kindle Best-Seller "Family Life" category, and to the #2 spot in the "Parents" category.

In Case I Die Before You're Born: Father-Knows-Best Advice for 21st Century Kids  by Marcos Carvalho is ostensibly addressed to the author's future child. The book is basically a primer on the value (or necessity?) of developing what Carvalho perceives as worthwhile habits (regarding work, money, intellect and exercise). As the author explains:

It's completely secular; in fact, the only time I mention the Bible is one having to read it in order to understand the references peppered throughout the Western canon of literature and art.

There’s a relevant podcast (interview with Carvalho about the philosophical roots of the book).


Morality Made Meaningful

Brights collectively are well positioned to articulate and defend the naturalistic basis of human morality. Through prior activities of task teams pursuing “the Morality Project,” all of us have in hand an absolutely indisputable basis for the assertions that we make in the morality domain.  We have amassed firm knowledge of the foundations of morality as it is understood by scholars. Those foundations are natural, not supernatural.

This assembled knowledge base is available via our website’s “human morality portal.” So, if you are new to the Brights, you may want to explore the portal and firm up your understanding of what is known about morality's natural underpinnings. This way, you can more effectively counter the “common knowledge” of so many that morals are presented to humanity by a supernatural deity through revelation or scripture. The portal holds a bibliography of popular readings recommended by scholars.

When you are confident that you understand the key elements, please do share what you know with fellow citizens. An infographic, with explanatory information, is available in 15 languages. Check it out! Pass it on!


At the International Forums

One frequently hears voiced the assumption that atheists are identical with naturalists, but this isn't always so!  It turns out that even in some of the more popular examples of non-theistic societies, belief in "something out there" tends to creep in, even when the gods have slipped away.  Some argue that humans simply have a need of some kind for transcendental explanations and stories; other hold that the habit of clinging to metaphysical mystery is an obsolete contrivance.  What do you think?

Amazing photographs of the natural world have been made by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and showcased in the Forums. Such celebrations are welcome and invited! 

Participation in the Forums requires only a brief and confidential registration.

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