October 6, 2003

Don't Hate Me Because I'm A Bright

Don't hate me because I'm a Bright.

Hate me because I'm... oh, well there are plenty of reasons once you get to know me.

Here I am: JP - defender of the Brights. Well, not really. They don't need my defense.

Over at Absit Invidia, Stephen writes:

They're calling themselves a movement, which always makes me suspicious, (and that 'great diversity of persons' line didn't help much either.) Referring to themselves as marginalized suggests that they sense oppression and victimhood so they'll, no doubt, be lobbying for protected class status in the not-too-distant future.

I share your suspicion of the word "movement," especially because I often imagine the word "bowel" ahead of it. However, I think the idea itself is not a bad one.

I've blathered on about it a few times:

Marginalized? Maybe. But Brights don't want pity at all, as far as I can tell. It just isn't obvious to most people how central a belief in god is to many things, and how important superstition and supernatural beliefs are to many people.

It's not oppression, but it is a sort of group-ism. "Atheism" is almost a dirty word to many people. Can you imagine an avowed atheist getting elected president? I can't in today's society. There is something wrong with that, considering that PotUS is a secular job.

God ManNo, no pity is needed. But what the Brights feel is needed is to call attention to the lack of superstitious belief as valid, and the benefits of such (not for prostelitizing, but just recognizing why someone else would be a Bright) . Looking at the goals you list in your post I'm in complete agreement with what they are saying. Especially the second one:

Gain public recognition that: persons who hold such a worldview can bring principled actions to bear on matters of civic importance.
I say "especially" because sometimes I think that people think of atheists as something like Billy Bilings in this Ruben Bolling God-Man comic. "Gosh - I can do anything and God-Man will never know!" As if there is no reason to behave with goodwill if you do not believe in a supernatural force which will punish you if you do not.

The words "movement, " "diversity," and "marginalized" (and the fact that many of them are liberals) shouldn't frighten you because of the way they have been used by others. You won't see these folks suing for reparations any time soon. I suspect they're just looking for a little social validation in what they see as a world sometimes hostile to them. And I believe you can take their goals at face value.

Posted by James at October 6, 2003 6:12 PM
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Awww, I don't hate Brights, I just cringe at the language they chose for the mission statement.

I'm not very religious - except, of course, in the 9th inning - and hearing so many of our political leaders sounding as if they have coffee with Jesus every morning concerns me.

So I welcome the Brights...but do they have to sound so darned Liberal?

I need an organization of agnostic anarchists...

Posted by: Steve at October 7, 2003 9:34 AM

Oh - I didn't get hatred from your blog post - just trying to get a catchy title for mine. Yellow journalism.

But on the sounding liberal front, I guess they should be more sensitive and reach out to anarchists. That would be very liberal of them. ;)

Posted by: James at October 7, 2003 10:39 AM

To many the words "Atheist" and "Agnostic" are dirty words. I once told someone I was an Atheist and they concluded that I worshipped Satan. Additionally there may be many atheists and agnostics who still believe in other supernatural nonsense (ESP, Ghosts, etc.) and would therefore not be Brights.

Taking all this into account, I understand the desire to organize and come up with a new name free of connotations... a "fresh start" for a group that is under-represented in the world.

Except that the name "Bright" is a terrible choice because it is *not* free of connotations. To many, Bright, when applied to a person means "smart" or "intelligent". Thus calling yourself a bright is pretty much the same as saying "I'm the smart one."

It's elitist, and I wouldn't blame a bright theist for being offended about it.

Therefore although I hold pretty much the same views as the group of people who go by the moniker "Bright", I cannot bring myself to become part of that group. Naturalist? Yes. Atheist? Yes. Humanist? Absolutely. Bright? No more than anyone else, thanks.

PS: Favorite Monty Python Quote -- "Well it's just like I've always said: There's nothing an Agnostic can't do if he *really* doesn't know if he believes in anything or not."

Posted by: Chuck S. at October 7, 2003 11:07 AM

I suspect there is an element of attention-getting in the name. I don't find it a problem, really, as it hearkens to the enlightenment, and to the idea of skepticism as a candle in the dark, which is the way that many skeptics view the philosophy.

"Naturalist" is already taken and usually means something completely unrelated to having a naturalistic worldview.

If the name alone is what makes people think Brights are arrogant, then I say "big deal." It's worth it for the press they've received. Eventually people will get used to the name.

If their actions are arrogant, then that's a problem.

Posted by: James at October 7, 2003 1:06 PM

I think the whole "brigts" thing is smarmy.

Posted by: Patti M. at October 7, 2003 1:06 PM

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