The Brights’ Net is a Constituency of Brights…Period
An essay by Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert
The Internet-based constituency of the Brights is often incorrectly characterized by the media, popular blogs, and individuals. The most common error is identifying The Brights’ Net as an atheistic organization.
Consider: Is The Brights’ Net a “humanist organization”? No, even though humanists are very well represented within the constituency of Brights.
Is The Brights’ Net a “Jewish or skeptic organization”? Again, the answer is, “No,” but the constituency contains a great many secular Jews and skeptics.
It also has a profusion of atheists! But that doesn’t make it an atheist organization.
When properly labeling any diverse constituency of individuals, it is important to identify the shared attribute(s) of all members. For the Brights’ constituency, the common attribute is that all the individuals have declared: “I have a naturalistic worldview (free of supernatural/mystical elements).” Thus, the constituency consists entirely of people who have a naturalistic worldview. They are Brights.
A Bright is a Bright is a Bright. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_is_a_rose_is_a_rose_is_a_rose
The Nature of the Organization
The home page of The Brights’ Net’s website provides a simply-stated definition of “a bright” (noun). Anyone who reads it and self-identifies by that characterization can choose to register into the constituency of the Brights.
The Brights' Net site provides a wealth of accurate information characterizing the overall endeavor: the name, definition, three purposes, and nine principles.
The Brights’ Net is a transparent organization, populated by Brights of many stripes. The constituency includes Ethical Culturalists, Humanists, Secular Humanists, Freethinkers, Rationalists, Naturalists, Agnostics, Atheists, Skeptics, etc., and Buddhists, Druids, Pantheists, Deists, Objectivists, Transhumanists, Unitarians, Wiccans, Yogis, and a gamut of folks (Jews, Catholics, Quakers, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Muslim, Hindu, Jains) who maintain their religion’s cultural aspects but not its supernaturalism. There are ex-Mormons and ex-Pentecostals. Clergy in and out of practice include several UU ministers, Presbyterian ministers, a Protestant (unspecified) pastor, a Church History Professor/ordained priest, an ex-Benedictine monk/priest, an ex-Lutheran minister, ex-Catholic priest, and an ex-Baptist minister.
Probably (there are no hard statistics on this yet), the largest single identity group is “the Nones” – individuals who state “none” when asked for their religion on a form.
All members of the constituency rightfully self-identify with whatever term or combinations of terms they choose. All, however, are Brights. To tag The Brights’ Net with any term other than that is a misrepresentation.
The Nature of a Worldview
Brights’ varied connections to religion(s) are not germane to The Brights’ Net, and neither are their dispositions regarding gods. If the shared attribute of constituents is not the statement, “I lack belief in (any) god,” then why the widespread insistence that they are (or must be) atheists?
We have come to the conclusion that part of the semantic problem lies with the worldview concept, which is the crucial consideration in deciding whether or not one is, by definition, “a bright.”
The succinct definition of a worldview is: the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world – a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual. A website for teachers, Worldview Education (Futrell and Geisert), offers insight into the nature of a worldview. A deeper understanding can be found at: http://teachingaboutreligion.org/WorldviewDiversity/wvdiversity.htm
A worldview is broad and sweeping. It is an individual’s scrutiny of his/her overall worldview, rather than the adherence to any specific belief(s), that grounds the bright identity. If it happens that an individual’s worldview is supernatural-free and mystical-free, s/he is by definition a bright. The counterpart of a bright is a super (a supernatural worldview; this term introduced by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell).
Atheists, like all humans, do have their worldviews, but atheism is not a worldview. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view
Furthermore, some atheists do not fit the “free of supernatural and mystical elements” criterion that defines “a bright” and thus should not register as Brights. Such individuals include believers in astrology, curative powers of copper bracelets, crystals, chi energy, ESP, and a host of other extra-nature forces and phenomena.
The arc of a naturalistic worldview is far-reaching. When considering whether one is a super or a bright, one’s answer to any deity question is but a component in the deliberation. Atheism denotes an absence of belief in the existence of gods or deities. For some, atheism entails a specific belief that there is no god. An agnostic may not settle the question but be functionally atheistic. In all these instances, a worldview consideration regarding the individual (a super or a bright?) will bring many more matters under scrutiny.
A “Naturalistic Worldview-Focused” Organization
Over 30,000 constituents have registered with The Brights’ Net, each attesting that s/he wishes to join the group of individuals who share a naturalistic worldview. All these individuals register by saying “Yes! I do fit the definition and therefore am a Bright, and I want to be counted in the Internet constituency of the Brights.” Each retains the right to self-identify in all other aspects of her/his life in any manner s/he chooses.
It is plain and simply wrong for individuals in the media or the atheist community to attempt to co-opt the identity of these constituents by labeling them atheistic.
The Brights’ Net is a constituency of individuals with a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements…period.
Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell
Co-Directors of the Brights’ Net
This article may be duplicated without further permission by any organization wishing to inform others of the nature of the Brights constituency.