A Look on the Bright Side of Social and Religious Issues

by Marilyn LaCourt
Featured in CNI's August 6-7 "At Ease" section

Forty years ago, it was the blacks who were coming.  And then came black pride and black power.  Today the derogatory names and racial slurs that were common before World War II and Martin Luther King are politically incorrect and unacceptable in mainstream, fresh-air America.   Enlightened people of all colors will silence anyone who uses the old hateful and degrading labels and the name callers are the ones to lose face. 

African Americans have gained respect and a voice in social, political and ethical issues and they are being taken seriously.  They're mayors and senators.  One day soon, we'll have an African American President.  

A short couple of decades later, the gays were coming.  And then came gay rights and gay pride.  The battle for gay rights isn't over.  But, there is progress and hope.  Gays have gained respect and a voice in social, political and ethical issues.  There have always been gays in public office.

However, today many of them are out of the closet and demanding respect.

What do gays and blacks have in common?  Both of these minority groups have been bashed by mainstream Americans, and have sought refuge in closets.  Some lighter skinned African Americans attempted to pass for whites.  Some homosexuals have hidden their identity behind heterosexual marriages.  Both of these minority groups have been denigrated and denied their civil rights.  Both have been discouraged from taking pride in their identity.  Both have understood the power of words.  Both have chosen new names or labels for themselves.   More power to them! 

There's another category of citizens that has been the subject of denigration, disrespect and bashing.  Atheist bashing is fairly common.  The word atheist however is not in and of itself a negative term.  However, it's used to infer something negative by those who misunderstand the word's origin, those who assume that atheist means against theism. 

Look at it this way:  Asymmetrical doesn't mean against symmetry; it means not symmetrical.  It's a simple concept.  Atheist means not theistic. There's nothing about being against theism implied in the word. 

However, the atheist bashers, the ones who want to blame everything that goes wrong, from 911 to hurricanes, on atheists, choose not to use the word with an understanding of its proper syntax, even if they know about the formal properties of language.  The ones who say there are no atheists in foxholes discount the authenticity of a person's belief system.  They show their utter disrespect and contempt for anyone who says they do not believe in God. 

When our elected officials call for public prayer they show their contempt by shunning 29 million nonreligious citizens.  For this reason, Many atheists are closeted.  If they want to be heard--that is, taken seriously, and respected--they feel they have to keep their identity as atheists secret, closeted. 

People whose world-view is naturalistic--that is, free of supernatural or mystical elements--refer to themselves as Brights. The Brights have learned something about the power of words from African Americans and gays.  In this new connotation, Bright is a noun, like the word black is a noun when used to refer to an African American, and gay is a noun when used to refer to a homosexual person. Some Brights, like some African Americans and some homosexuals,  are very intelligent.  Others are average, ordinary people. 

Who are these Brights?  They are humanists, free thinkers, agnostics, skeptics and atheists.  They are barbers, teachers, waitresses, doctors, philosophers, construction workers, and scientists.  They are mothers and uncles.  They are your next door neighbors.  They are Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians.  And yes, some of them are members of your church, mosque or temple.  

The only thing Brights have in common with all other Brights is that they base their ethics, morality, decisions and behaviors on a naturalistic worldview as opposed to one based on faith.

So often I hear the phrase freedom of religion.   What does that mean?  Does it mean we can choose any religion we want?  Does it mean that in order to be considered credible citizens loyal to this great country, we must choose a religion?  I don't think so.  That just doesn't make sense.   Freedom of religion must imply freedom from religion, or there is no real freedom regarding religion. Brights are free from religion.

What do these Brights want?  They want the same thing blacks, gays, Christians, Jews, and Moslems want.  They want a voice in social, political and ethical issues.  They want to be heard and respected.

The Brights are coming, and they will staunchly support the separation of church and state.  They will protest tax money being used to provide help of any kind with religious strings attached.  They will protest tax dollars being spent to support schools that teach children to make important decisions based on faith as opposed to reason and scientific evidence.

Brights are not against religion or people who practice a religion, as long as they do not break the laws of the land.

Reprinted by permission of the author.

Marilyn LaCourt is the author of two novels, The Prize and soon to be released, The Almost Brother. Her Web site is http://www.lacourt-m.com.

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