The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #82

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


Fresh Video Commentary on the Website
We hope you will take some time to check out the material just recently installed in the video section of the website. (You will need to scroll down the page a bit in most cases.)
Our appreciation goes to David for his volunteer work in helping BC crank out more examples illustrating Brights presenting their own notions within the realm of a naturalistic worldview!

Each Bright Unique
As newly registered Brights are reflecting on what "being a Bright" means to them, they often send email to Brights Central. Whenever we can (timewise), we reply. John, in a recent exchange, said this about the subject:
"Being a bright is kind of like being a scientist or musician--lots of approaches, but a solid core of agreement."
As regards the individuality aspect of being a Bright, the parallel is interesting! So many types of scientists; numerous variations in musicians. It's important to note, though, that in the Brights movement, no "solid core" is ever specified, nor need it be. A bit more of John's message will show the context leading up to the statement (his email subject line was RE: "coming out"):
"Yes, it's amazing and wonderful. I used to wonder why there were so many churches, when all of them claim to follow one Bible. The answer is, they don't know what the Bible says! No one can agree what the Bible says, so there are all these divisions. Now there is only one requirement: a naturalistic worldview, free of supernaturalism. Being a bright is kind of like being a scientist or musician--lots of approaches, but a solid core of agreement."  

New Enthusiastic Bright
Zambian born and British educated philosopher A.C. Grayling writes that he is "very happy to be counted among the public supporters of the Brights' project," which he hopes to see "cast wider and wider." On that score, Professor Grayling can help! He is a prolific author. His writing is to be found in numerous blogs and diverse publications. Among many varied roles, he has been a regular columnist for The Guardian and New Scientist, and recently he contributed to We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (Oct., 2009). More on the website on the Enthusiastic Brights page!
In Grayling's extensive Wikipedia entry one can view some key points he has made regarding the position of religion in contemporary society. He demarcates three related but distinct debates. There is the metaphysical debate. That's different from the debate about the basis of ethics. Different still is the debate about the place of religious movements and organisations in the public domain.
In these debates, Professor Grayling stands as atheist, humanist, and secularist, respectively. And now, defining himself as someone who "has a naturalistic worldview," he is a bright! Further, he publicly supports the Brights' moving toward parity in civic participation, so he's an Enthusiastic Bright.

Toolbox Item: Facing Mortality
Thanks to all who sent in your answer to the question: How does a human accept personal death? This latest Toolbox request brought in more replies than would be feasible to post on the website, but there are enough to see that Brights display several different approaches to "accepting death" (all are from a naturalistic worldview, though). Topmost is the reply sent in by Art, who said, among other things:
"My role is to live only for a while, not forever. I'm a short strand in a long rope that stretches back to the beginning of life billions of years ago…"
You can read Art's complete comment and/or the entirety of the "Confronting Mortality" material on the website.
The Process: We screened replies for length and held to the stated 200-word maximum (allowing only 5% overage). We aimed for enough to show an array of perspectives. So that we could capture something a bit different, we did use portions of a couple of the longer replies. If you read through the sampling and think you definitely have a unique perspective that is missing from the array, we can perhaps post a couple more. Instructions are in the February Bulletin.

A Similar Statement in Close Anticipation
Roger Ebert, the film critic, wrote about dying in a recent Esquire article (excerpts below). His body has been degraded over time by cancer and cancer treatments, but his perspective is one that many a Bright can understand:
"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear... I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris…
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

Exploring and Contemplating the Toolbox
The request for contributions on "Mortality" apparently stimulated a number of Brights to venture into other portions of the Toolbox, created previously. Brights earlier had been asked how they reply when…:
  … a child asks, "Where do we come from?"
  … someone says, "I'll pray for you."
  …or "God Bless you."  
One thoughtful comment BC received comes from Juan, who had this reaction to the Toolbox material:
"I just read and enjoyed some answers for 'How to answer children, where did we come from.' But even when I loved the different ideas fellow Brights use to answer, I don't feel comfortable reading some answers with the word 'God,' 'without God', 'not by someone called God'.
"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."

Turn Up the Brightness!
When signing into the constituency, Brights register their desire to elevate the civic status of citizens who have a naturalistic worldview. Here's how it is stated in the movement's vision:
Persons who have a naturalistic worldview should be accepted as fellow citizens and full participants in the cultural and political landscape, and not be culturally stifled or civically marginalized due to society's extensive supernaturalism.
The idea of this social action movement is that Brights will work for parity in civic participation. Consequently, the place to engage others in this endeavor is on the playing field of civics rather than religion or philosophy. No need to be locked into customary patterns. Each of us needs to consider ways how we can take steps to contribute to the aims and affirmative principles of the Brights movement.
Waiting around for progress to happen means it won't. A better civic situation for those who have a naturalistic worldview will not be forthcoming unless Brights of all stripes show they can take pragmatic actions with an eye on their civic situation. The Brights movement offers a fresh framework for taking such actions.

The Mystery and the Mystical
You can personally contribute to the movement via individual activities in your own communities (virtual and/or in person). Several activity suggestions are provided on the website.
Besides writing letters to editors on key topics that arise, responding to BrigtenOps you receive from BC that are of interest, etc., there is also the possibility of crafting a mini-article and yielding it to Brights Central for potential use. The site provides some guidance.
Every now and then BC receives a mini-article we want to share via the Bulletin so that other Brights can think about its substance. Michael's idea in "Void of the Mystical; Rich with the Mysterious" merits both attention and consideration. It begins, "To rid the world of the mystical is not to throw out the mysteries."

Brights Registration Comments
Carlos (Mexico): "It's comfortable to know about people viewing the world as it is."

Danny (Washington, USA): "I kind of knew this existed and what it was about, but now that I do I am excited to be a part of this movement. I feel it can give me something to strive toward… Thank you for having this available to the world. It needs it."

Richard (U.K.): "I don't like the term 'atheist' - I don't like to be defined by what I am not - but I am an atheist. I don't like the term 'humanist' - I see humanity as only one part of an interconnected whole - but I am a humanist. I don't like the term 'rationalist' - it's just too stuffy - but I am a rationalist. I shall henceforth consider myself a bright - thank you!"

Heidi (New York, USA): "I, like many others, am thrilled to finally have a 'name' for myself. I have always refused to call myself an atheist because I felt that it gave the false assumption that there was something to deny and called too much attention to religion. I love that I can say I am a Bright; I feel hope to raise my son in a world where he may not be looked down upon as a 'heathen.'"

Steve (California, USA): "I am a former 'super' and recently extracted myself 'midstream' from a life-long commitment to Christianity...with a little help from my friends, of course! Thank you for starting this community."

Ligia (New York, USA): "I finally found my peeps - after all these years."

New in Books by Brights
To Set Prometheus Free: Essays on Religion, Reason and Humanity by A.C. Grayling (December, 2009)
More books by Grayling, and other Brights at:  

Purchases of Books (or Stuff) Benefit Movement
Purchases by Brights are such an easy way to aid the UK and US Brights' activities! Buy anything you like through Amazon links on the website, and you pay no more! (Amazon sends The Brights' Net 7% of your purchase price.) Thanks to all who remember this route for painlessly supporting the movement! By the way, it's not just Brights who can use those links. Supers can, too! - Have you told those friends who also value the goals of this movement?  

REPORT: Despite February being a comparatively short month, the dollar amount ($237) that credited The Brights' Net increased over January's $219! (UK amounts were 54 GBP and 41GBP, respectively). Unfortunately, TBN had for some time been getting a friendly "below-commercial" rate for its subleased office (backroom of a business that recently moved), and it now must pay the new landlord an extra $110 for the same office. :(

Merchandise News
MORE NEW DESIGNS: Shopkeeper Diane reports that she has made available three new designs for the varied swag and apparel at the Brights' Cafe Press Store. There's a rather intriguing logo composite if you want something bold on a T-shirt. But, don't forget our priority to spread the "official logo" design far and wide!

FREE BOOKMARKS: Be sure you have some Brights' bookmarks on hand for spreading the word of the movement!

LAPEL PINS: We have a first-hand report that the lapel pins hold up very well (even when a Bright forgets to remove the pin and it goes through the laundry!). Have you gotten your pin?

If You Donated in 2009
BC has sent to U.S. Brights a summary statement of their donations for 2009. If you donated and did not receive such a statement, please let us know. And, we thank you once again!

A Bookmarking Site (Mexico)
From Francisco: "I've just created a group called The Brights in the social bookmarking site called Diigo where other users can join and contribute with relevant links for the Brights constituency. I volunteer to monitor that the links provided are relevant to people with a naturalistic worldview. My idea is to spread the word about the Brights movement and to share relevant resources with fellow Brights."
From BC: "The offer to monitor links for relevance is something we would wish more of the Brights to do in order to more accurately reflect the Brights movement. Francisco's new site avoids any anti-religious presentation.  

One Person's Opinion
From K.D. (in Louisiana): "Many people associate the word "atheist" with horrible things that are not true at all. I am a good person. I donate to charity. I pay my taxes. I have not murdered anyone or oppressed any other individual. I am an American citizen and my vote counts. I think that we atheists, agnostics, and others alike who fit into the Bright category should stand up for ourselves and show the world that we are normal people. I do not need a god to be a decent person and neither does anyone else."

Death of an Enthusiastic Bright
Mynga and Paul are greatly saddened by the death, just this month, of the delightful Helen Kagin, M.D. Helen, together with her husband, Edwin (a lawyer), co-founded Camp Quest (the first  successful summer camp to focus on serving children of secular parents). The couple's ongoing efforts led to several U.S. locations of a "CampBeyond Belief," as well as to the formation of a nonprofit Camp Quest, Inc., which now endorses similar camps in Canada and the U.K. as well.
On a personal level, Mynga recalls with much pleasure how she and Helen labored together to produce a songbook for the "2001 class" of campers, a mutually gratifying experience that led to further pleasurable interactions across the years. Mynga and Paul are but two among countless folks who have relished their acquaintance with Helen, value her pioneering actions, and will miss her lovely presence at freethought gatherings.

Ups and Downs at Brights Central
Local Collaboration: Ten freethought billboards went up in the metro area connecting a number of organizations, including the Sacramento Brights Action Meetup group. The billboards carry the message: "Are you good without God? Millions are." The United Coalition of Reason posted and funded these billboards to boost visibility of the various Sacramento-area freethought groups and as part of a nation-wide effort.
A Difficult Situation: There has been a bit of a slow-down at BC of late, given that Mynga's recent breast cancer diagnosis is leading to surgery on March 2. That will restrict her activities for a period of time, but only briefly, she hopes! Paul promises to convey any "Best Wishes" that arrive at with MYNGA in the subject line.

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