Tuesday, October 16, 2007

why I am a Bright

adrian has a recent post on fox news' treatment of an atheist radio station.
in response he got a rather aggressive comment that, in my opinion, had no substance. but it did get me thinking about this stuff again i thought i may as well post as to why i'm a Bright.

Brights, if you aren't familiar with the term, are people share some very basic beliefs. from that website:

  • A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
  • A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
  • The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview
thats all. most Brights are obviously atheists, but as i understand it there is even some room for people who believe in a god or some such that exists completely outside our universe (really though, whats the point of that?).

Why does this movement exist? mostly because atheists are, at least according to some studies, america's most distrusted minority. i should point out that distrusting any minority, any group of people, due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, taste in music, or whatever, is stupid and wrong.

So the Bright movement is an attempt to counter that distrust by using a positive re-branding, similar to the homosexuals' use of the term Gay. it seems to have worked pretty well for them (well, as long as you're not playing like halo3 or WoW, where "gay" is used to mean anything that the 12-yr-old saying it doesn't like), hopefully it will work pretty well for us too.

now, why is this important? because politicians these days feel the need to cater to religious groups in order to secure their votes and remain in office. some of these religious groups believe (for example) that the rapture is imminent, that we should hasten it as much as possible, and that war in the middle east on behalf of israel is the way to do that. seriously, people believe this, and these people vote, often in larger numbers than any other interest group. this has a serious impact on our policies. these peoples beliefs thus directly effect my life, for the worse. making policy for these kinds of reasons is one of the most moronic actions a nation can take, and it is exactly the kind of thing we as americans have a long tradition of not doing.

where do the Brights come in? they count their members. I'm actually having a hard time finding that number right now (which is stupid, it should be plastered all over the site), but the point is a simple message: theres more of us than you may realize. the more this group grows, the less pressure there is on politicians to kowtow to religious groups. we've apparently got one atheist senator; i suspect theres quite a few more, and strong groups like the Brights may help give them the courage to "out" themselves. i would very much like to see more, if not all, of our policy decisions that require moral viewpoints be grounded in naturalist morals, and i challenge any theist to show me a single instance where a naturalistic morality is in any way inherently "worse" than a theistic one (sending other people off to kill each other in order to hasten one's own ascension into heaven is, i think it is fair to say, easily worse and more evil than not doing that).

So, that's why i'm a Bright, and thats why its important to me to be one right now. other atheists may find comfort in the communal aspect of the group (often one criticism leveed against atheism is that it does not build a community), and while i get a vaguely nice feeling on that note too, its not really my prime focus.

now, most people i talk to about this immediately go "isnt calling yourself "bright" pretentious?" the implication is that Brights think that they're smarter than people who believe in god and deliberately picked a term that shows that. its a valid criticism which is worth discussing.

its important to note that here the term is to be used as a noun. thus i am a Bright, not i am bright. very important distinction. the word "bright" didn't previously exist as a noun, just like Gay, so we, like they, get to define it however the hell we want to. that being said, its not the word i necessarily would have chosen (though i've yet to think of a better one). and certainly some Brights will use it in that sense and feel clever, but they're wrong to do so. being a Bright is not a condemnation of supernatural worldviews, merely the affirmation that one has a natural worldview instead. there is no judgment, only statement, inherent in being a Bright. individual Brights may pass judgment on those who belief in god, but they do not speak for the group in doing so.

So thats my schpiel on this stuff. if you think you're a Bright and would like to be counted, i encourage you to go sign up on the website. yes, you'll get an email (seems to be once every month or every other month or thereabouts). yes, twice a year they'll ask you for money. is that really a big deal? are you really running out of space in your gmail mailbox? theres strength in numbers, and we need all we can get.

EDIT: and, aside from the politics, it will also be nice if most of the country doesnt think we're amoral hedonists merely because we dont believe in god. but really in my social circles this isnt such a big deal.