A contemporary constituency of Brights is materializing in the United States and other nations as persons find the broad civic identify (as a Bright) useful to them as individuals.
Activists within the Brights constituency seek greater societal acceptance for freethinking citizens, along with an increase in civic participation by those persons who are reluctant to let their nonsupernatural worldview be known (due to the forceful cultural authority of religion within their society). The concept of the Brights' movement is to grow influence (by increasing the number of freethinking people who make use of the generic umbrella term) and advance the use of reason (above faith and superstition) within their society and politics.
Exactly what is a Bright?
The Brights’ constituency includes everyone who says: "I am a Bright" (by the above definition) and who wishes to use the self-identifying term candidly. The term Bright as a noun offers an umbrella label that could be used by most variants of freethinkers to contrast themselves from the portion of the citizenry that has a worldview that is inclusive of supernaturalism.
The contemporary Brights' constituency include a number of prominent freethinkers, such as Richard Dawkins (atheist), James 'The Amazing' Randi (skeptic), Margaret Downey (freethinker) and Matt Cherry (humanist), as well as the authors of the article below, which is addressed to persons who "just might be Brights"--it encourages them to adopt the "umbrella" term and use it candidly, proudly, and extensively in their daily lives.
Authors' Comments (July 1,
Toward A Unifying "Umbrella" Name
By Mynga Futrell and Paul Geisert
Atheists. Agnostics. Skeptics. Rationalists. Materialists. Naturalists. Secularists. Existentialists, Humanists. Igtheists. Secular Humanists. Etc. Etc. So many labels. Wouldn’t it be sensible if the "freethinkers" of all stripes would coalesce through the adoption of a common name?
We think so. The time has come for a movement to pragmatism that can take us beyond all the philosophical distinctions (and our varied different organizations) and give us some civic clout (as a constituency). In this article we present "the word" to accomplish that task.
If you are over 50, you’ll remember when the thesaurus listed for "Gay" such words as joyous, joyful, merry, high-spirited, gleeful, jovial, happy, convivial, sunny, cheerful, buoyant, delighted, jubilant, vivid, sparkling, shiny, and fresh. In the vernacular back then, we had words like queers, homos, fags, fairies, fruits, perverts, and degenerates. It wasn’t so long ago that a homosexual could not be: out of the closet, mentioned in newspapers, discussed in polite society, elected to office, or moral (in the eyes of most citizens).
No more. The cultural status of homosexuals has changed. There are of course many reasons that society in general views homosexuals differently. But among other things that helped fuel that change is that homosexuals said "enough is enough." They "came out of closets," formed groups, marched and spoke as one. There was a social transition to the use of the word "gay." Gay became a powerful word. Gay—no rules, organizations, dues, or infighting. Gay today includes anyone who says, "I am gay." This unifying word helped to create a new reality: Power, Pride, and Rights for Gays.
Gay—Notice that the name has no prior relationship to "homosexual" and no prior "bad vibes." The term carried no baggage. Unfortunately, our terms do.
Our Current Reality
While we in the "community of reason" think of ourselves variously by our plethora of terms (or some combination of them), society-at-large thinks of us generally as atheists or secular humanists and describes us altogether as a negative, using terms like nonreligious, nonbeliever, godless, or faithless. We are judged as the opposite of values widely seen in a positive light. Here are some of the common contrasts: Pious–Disrespectful; Believer–Skeptic; Holy–Sinful; Reverent–Blasphemous; Devout–Worldly; and Moral–Wicked. We have to change that manner of thinking.
ENOUGH ! ! !
The Unifying Word
We, the "community of reason," need a name which: includes anyone who wants to accept it; has good connotations; has no bad connotations; makes no demands; is simple (effortlessly pronounced); is evocative (suggestive of good stuff); is easily understood; is something to be proud of; is easily explained to others; and is well-suited to use in mottoes and slogans. We should have an "umbrella" term that is as warm and fuzzy as what the gays of today have going for them.
A constituency of Brights (materializing now!) includes anyone who says: "I am a Bright." The Brights constituency includes everyone who says: "I am a Bright."
Exactly what is a Bright? A Bright is a person whose worldview is naturalistic (free of supernatural and mystical elements). Brights base their ethics and actions on a naturalistic worldview. "Bright" as a noun (person) has a rigid meaning (see italicized definition).
A noun? What we learned from the "gay experience" is that society can learn to give a new connotation to an old term. Bright in customary usage is a modifier (adjective). We are introducing a new use: I am a Bright. Are you a Bright? Collectively, we are (if we say we are) Brights!
A meme? What if bright is a meme? A meme is a word, idea, or behavior that spontaneously spreads through a given social group (like ours). Memes are analogous to viruses. Once a meme gets started, perhaps by someone on TV, or in some song or some joke, it spreads from person to person much like the flu. No one really plans for memes they just seem to happen, and they can spread swiftly.
The noun bright may or may not be a meme that catches on and spreads spontaneously, but perhaps Bright can happen if and when enough Brights of the nation (and the world?) use the word to identify themselves.
We cannot designate other people Brights. Bright is a self-identifying term. Richard Dawkins is a Bright (he signed up for the constituency already!) Jerry Falwell will not be Bright (his worldview wouldn’t permit that). Kurt Vonnegut can be a Bright (if he ever learns about it). Are you a Bright?
Any supernaturalism-free person can use this term to self-identify (as having a naturalistic worldview).
Bright is a name that seems to evoke lots of good stuff (check your thesaurus for those upbeat adjectives, especially those "luminous" terms like brilliant, vivid, intense, clear, dazzling). It is a name that trips off the tongue because of its familiarity. It is a name that is "bumper-sticker ready." It is a name than can generate a first-class logo. Creative people will have a fantastic repertoire in their hands for mottoes and slogans because bright rhymes with so many nifty words, or comes close enough. "It feels so right to be a Bright." "Brights illuminate life." "See the light, be a Bright; shed light, vote Bright."
Imagine how much better it would have sounded if "The Godless March on Washington" had been named "The Brights’ March on Washington." No doubt but what "Bright" would unify most everyone who came to D.C. on November 2. Also, since "godless" implies "wicked" to so many people, think how many more people would have wanted to come under a positive label to seek our civil rights as citizens.
It is impossible to control how people use language, but we would suggest the the following:
This new Bright is a fresh word with decisive new meaning as a noun (for a person). If you are indeed "bright" (by existing adjective meaning), you will see the necessity that this bright remain a noun for a substantial time. In fact, as it applies to people, it must do so if it is to take on its "new and different" meaning.
A Constituency of Brights
If you are a Bright, you need not use any of the "old terms" that carry negative societal baggage. Of course, you do not lose your present self-identity as agnostic, rationalist, atheist, (some combination) etc. Indeed, many persons will continue to use narrower terms, too. But, by adding bright to your linguistic repertoire and speaking out often as a Bright, you help extend the BRIGHT idea among us and to the general population, one query or opportunity at a time.
We hope to build a huge constituency of individuals who see themselves as fitting the definition and who will self-identify as a Bright whenever the occasions present. All the varied persons whose worldview is naturalistic can combine their voices and, like the homosexuals in the 1970s and 80s, begin to candidly self-identify. The Brights will be a corpus of individuals who can speak their minds (as Brights) and vote their consciences free of "sundry supernaturalism." The more Brights we have speaking out with their generic identity (as Brights), the louder the voice for reason in our society will be.
If you decide you fit the definition, then please sign up to say that you want to be counted as part of the Brights’ Internet constituency. Simply visit the web site at www.the-brights.net and you will be in on the ground floor.
When there are enough of us, we can start to use our power as Brights to influence legislators and the public and help build understanding of the naturalistic worldview and of the right of citizens to hold that worldview.
Brights’ Power—Brights’ Pride—Brights’ Rights. It’s about time for the Brights.
Note 1: In this article, and until the term is well on the way to becoming widely known, we will refer to the persons as "Brights" rather than "brights"--capitalizing the first letter of the word. We do this simply to key readers into the unfamiliar noun usage with the new meaning it carries. return to essay
Note 2: Numerous factors besides intellect go into the shaping of any person's worldview. To ignore or diminish the influence of such contributors as upbringing, experiences, education, and inclinations from heredity is fallacious return to essay
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