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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- DECEMBER 2018 


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What Makes Life Meaningful?

Late last year Pew Research Center tackled the issue of what brings humans fulfillment and satisfaction. The Center first employed an open-ended question, the kind that permits survey respondents to ponder and then answer in their own words what most makes their lives meaningful.

What would they (Americans) describe?  Their work? Their family? Or their friends, religion, hobbies, pets, music, nature…What?

The Center compiled responses and then followed later with a separate forced-choice type survey to obtain more quantitative information about the relative importance Americans place on the various identified sources of meaning.

If curious, check out the results.

But maybe consider first - yourself?  Brights perceive just the one life to live, nothing more. So, the “what’s meaningful” question does seem to be worth a bit of pondering. How would you answer the query that Pew Center had posed (worded as follows)?

“We’re interested in exploring what it means to live a satisfying life. Please take a moment to reflect on your life and what makes it feel worthwhile – then answer the question below as thoughtfully as you can. What about your life do you currently find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying? What keeps you going, and why?”

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A Seasons’ Greetings/Happy Solstice Opportunity

Would you like to extend a "Bright-like" greeting (image at right) to a few others in your circle of friends and/or acquaintances?

Here’s an E-card opportunity enabling you to do just that.

Simply click on the image to get started and supply a few email addresses.

(Note that the limit on daily # of cards (5) is set by the content delivery service, Salsa, and not by The Brights’ Net.)

Bright Regards for the solstice season,

Brights Central 

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More from the Morality Project

Brights Central’s November bulletin mentioned that volunteers’ translated text of the Brights’ “Reality about Morality” infographic had been sent to the production artist. She has recently returned the Norwegian (bokmål) and Chinese (Mandarin) versions, which BC has posted online.

Although available to anyone interested to see or share, we want reviewers to see if any changes in transcription are needed before BC refines the graphic and urges sharing of the infographic in these languages. (In particular, the artist encountered some challenges in properly divvying up the Mandarin.) If you are fluent in either language, please have a look and email to the-brights@the-brights.net with specifics and rationale if you have any critical recommendations for change (Please use UH-OH in your subject line). Translation is tricky, of course, and there are varied ways to render. Please note that reviewers have already made a selection from variants received, so we want only to correct any errors.

With four scientific statements provided on the infographic of how human morality has come to be (without supernatural), the next step in this part of the Project will be pursuing translation of each statement’s clarification. If you would like to volunteer for the task, please email to the-brights@the-brights.net with TRANS-VOL in your subject line, specifying the language of interest.

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An Alarming Perspective at Justice (USA)

The U.S. Constitution (Article 6) specifically prohibits a religious test for any public office or trust.

Not so, the British guide to government. However, even the British took notice of recent changes at the top of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Matthew Whitaker, temporarily acting as attorney general in the department and presumably under consideration to be the new White House chief of staff, voiced his own religious test.  He favors a “biblical view of justice” (New Testament portion) and deems “secular judges” not to be trusted. Regarding prospective judges, he has said:

“[I]f they have a secular worldview, that ‘this is all we have here on Earth’, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.”  

Whitaker dubs his distinctly anti-constitutional requirements a “worldview” test. He will soon be replaced as acting attorney general with a permanent appointee (sure to be a good turn for the U.S. system of justice). But coordinating activities at the White House?  Scary to those who care about preserving a separation of religion and government.

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Lauding a “Secular Nation” Notion

The value of constitutional neutrality regarding religion is to protect liberty of conscience in a way that enables citizens of varied religious and nonreligious beliefs to get along without privileging any over another.

Pointing out how secular political systems cultivate harmony among religions, an attendee at the recently concluded “7th Parliament of the World’s Religions” summed up the value of secular governance as follows:

“In some countries religious orthodoxy is imposed by the state, minority religious are prohibited, and atheists and heretics can be executed. But here in North America where the Parliament of World Religions was born, we affirm religious liberty. It is liberty that allows us to talk about openly about our differences. It is secularism that allows us freely discuss whether there is anything we share in common."

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Got Curiosity? – Look into These Studies

>> Is “atheist” still politically taboo in the U.S.?

If you credit the freshly reported poll results from research conducted by Lake Research Partners, then the A-term no longer fully precludes from electoral success the citizens who self-identify as such.

In fact, sponsors of the research found the results sufficiently positive to conclude that more atheists, agnostics, and “nones” should consider running for political office.

The survey was conducted at the behest of the Center for Freethought Equality and the American Humanist Association (funded by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation). It reported that “bias against candidates who don’t believe in God has notably weakened.”

Being “nonreligious” or “agnostic” or “atheist” (long considered a strong impediment - the last label even an outright barrier - to a candidate’s electoral success in the U.S.) was found to be less important than policy stance in many voters’ decisions, although there were notable differences and the negative bias has not totally disappeared. Several charts are provided in the report.

>> How uniformly “secular” is “secular Europe”?

Most Brights are aware that populations of both the U.S. and Europe are reported to be increasingly secular.  Still, the U.S. tops out most developed nations on religiosity, while “Europeans” are generally considered the more secular.

Europe is very far from monolithic, however!  Although considered generally less religious than people in the U.S. and other parts of the world, there is considerable variation within Europe itself. So, it matters very much where you look.

Using analyses of its recent surveys in 34 countries, Pew Research Center has produced a new interactive map that lets you explore overall religiosity of the various countries. It shows some substantial differences in levels of religious commitment there.  If curious, take a look!

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Self-Awareness–in Fish?

If a mirror reveals a smudge on your face, you will notice and likely wipe it off. You know that the image in the mirror is you

What of other animals’ ability to perceive and recognize a reflected mirror image as themselves? How far does this self-awareness capability extend?

Mirror self-recognition is considered a hallmark of cognition across species, and the relatively intelligent animals like apes, elephants, dolphins and even magpies have all passed the mark test. However, what about creatures lacking the dexterity or limbs required to touch a mark? Fish, for example. What if we observe that they also attempt to remove a mark in the presence of a mirror but show no response towards transparent marks and none to colored marks if there is no mirror?

This issue is explored in the recent research which underpins another little "Hotline Story" by a Danish Bright. You can read it, in both Danish and English languages).

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Doing Seasonal Gifting?

Perhaps you know this already, but if not…

Online shoppers can support the Brights with their seasonal purchases (or purchases anytime, actually). And at no extra cost.

Example:  Over 1900 familiar vendors partner with iGive to send small percentage commissions to the charity of your choice!  You need only set up with iGive and choose “the Brights”!

The actual commissions vary by merchant, but all the partnered merchants – and there are plenty of them! – have agreed to share some of the profit for charitable good will.

You can use the Brights’ website's link to start, or set up appropriately on your phone. (Important! - Your friends and family can do that, too!) Then, subsequently, every purchase made will send a small commission our way. With enough folks participating, the funds add up.

The Brights’ Net is a 501(c)(3) educational charity, focused on its mission to illuminate the naturalistic worldview, so you can designate it and shop at any of nearly two thousand stores, knowing all along that you are helping out when you buy. (To name a few "B"s — Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & and Beyond, Bloomingdales, Brookstone, Burpee, etc.)

Shhh… There’s another quite well-known online merchant that sells most everything and has The Brights' Net as an affiliate, but direct mention by BC is now restricted by the seller from a direct and general mention of that connection unless it’s a new or newly promoted product.

Too bad. Were enough Brights to use that link (it works!) when doing their shopping, it’d go a long way towards paying office rent at Brights Central.

We can still announce and receive the generous percentage upon new release of any Book by a Bright).

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“Brighten” Others with Your Gift-Giving

Many Brights want to do some good works in the December holiday season. Here are some “bright ideas” (examples of ways to help others) that may be of interest:

Aid Humanist Charity. Foundation Beyond Belief is a nonreligious charity that selects different projects to support. The projects change periodically. You could check out FBB's current projects and decide if you'd like to give funds by that route. Its secular humanism values rationalism and empiricism over and above acceptance of dogma or superstition, so you’d be giving benevolently in ways consistent with having a naturalistic worldview.

Do Some Microfinancing.  This is a method to help alleviate poverty that would welcome your participation. For example, the nonprofit organization, Kiva has lots of different "lending teams" based on community interest. You can choose any team, of course (and brights first thought is to choose “atheist” team), but a handful of Brights did start their own separate Kiva team. You could make it one Bright bigger! Kiva makes general lending easy with Kiva ecards, too.

Elevate the Naturalistic Worldview. Because The Brights’ Net is itself a public benefit educational organization categorized as Civil Rights/Social Action (Alliance Advocacy), you can support Brights’ own activism and its goals. The primary interest is educating about the naturalistic worldview within the context of civic pluralism and the Brights movement.

Giving Books? – Add Some Bookmarks!   If you are giving books to others, consider Books by Brights. But whatever the book, why not “Brighten” your gifts.  That is, acquire a batch of bookmarks to slip in whatever books you choose to bestow!

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Spark “the Brights” Too

If for you this is a “giving season,” then BC is not too shy to suggest you take time to think about augmenting either a featured project of The Brights’ Net or the activities of the Brights, in general.

Support Evolution Education:  You can put a superb science resource in a teacher’s stocking!  (We have more teachers wanting the Brights’ 5.5-foot wide poster than we have so far been able to provide.)

It would be a fabulous visual help in their efforts to teach about life on earth.  It’s an unequaled combination of physical and biological evolutionary change that teachers know will help youngsters truly understand the concepts. Such comprehension is becoming so important as humanity faces climate change. 

Enhance Understanding of MoralityYou can aid our efforts to help brights around the world better comprehend four essential elements of a naturalistic worldview identified by researchers. Beyond the web portal and infographic (in added languages) means of information dissemination, we would like to pursue additional means to make naturalistic explanations more understandable and publicly acceptable.


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