By definition I am a bright. However, I hate the name. Why are Brights not naturalists, which is more descriptive, accurate, and less cocky sounding. Where does the term come from and why do people like it?

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"Super" can alternatively be deemed as flattering for the superstitious supernaturals.
I prefer to call them "super-gnats".
Ah! Interesting, I guess I don't know the UK slang very well. We may just have to start inventing words here. XP Fnarfs?
I always support the creation of new terms entirely. Or the melding of strange words together. Comes with having studied linguistics.
Dr. Terence Meaden: "I don't think much of Daniel Dennett's abbreviation "supers" for those who believe in supernatural forces.

"They are better called "super-nats" or "super-gnats" because of super-gnat brains."

With all due respect from a new member, Dr. Meaden: you think the term "Bright" comes across as superior?

Will you stipulate the fact that, at least here in the United States, which is where I can speak to, we (those holding naturalistic worldviews) are hopelessly outnumbered by supers. We will not, not ever, not even possibly, accomplish the goals of civic and social parity in this culture without allies among the ranks of those with whom we disagree about the nature of reality.

How far do you think you're going to get in discussion with supers, if you lead off with bombastic and condescending insults that show no respect for the background and needs of the people you're talking to?

You may be interested in this Forum post I wrote, concerning only some of the issues involved:
Anyway, it can for some people be very much about whether or not God exists. My wife was educated to believe that accepting any unbiblical explanation or prescription for anything was a damnable denial of God, and that God and the Bible are necessarily the only possible (not to mention permissible) explanation and accounting for the world we live in. If other explanations are satisfactory, then there is an implication that God as an explanation is unnecessary, and by extension, perhaps superfluous. That is, a workable but unbiblical explanation about, say, the origins of the Earth implies that there are serious flaws at the heart of the kind of religious dogma with which my wife grew up. If Genesis is wrong, what else is?

I think that historically, people have plugged gods into every gap in their knowledge, but as our knowledge grows, God has fewer and fewer things to do. Disputes over evolution are a common example of this. In the past, it was just obvious to people that God must be necessary to explain the diversity of life, and the diversity of life was taken to be evidence of God's work. But now that numerous natural speciation events have been documented and the fossil record thoroughly explored, it's no longer so defensible that God must have directed the whole process. If God doesn't do that, what else doesn't he do?

On top of all that, add in the fact that devoutly religious people have organized their lives around the principles they espouse, as do we all. But for religionists of the stripe I'm talking about, those principles all spring from God and the Bible. Cast doubt on either of those, and a person's whole way of living is at stake. (Remember, I'm focusing on a Bible literalist, here--every word of it is absolutely, factually true, as the 7th-Day Adventists believe.) But demonstrable facts quite obviously conflict with parts of the bible, as interpreted by some.

Some people feel a lot of fear about the implications of naturalistic explanations.

Then, too, to suggest that a bible-school explanation of some natural thing might be in error directs doubt at the people and institutions who promoted that explanation--the respected and loved authority figures who educated the believer. My wife placed her trust in these teachers, clergy, parents, aunts and uncles, respected them, obeyed them, believed them. Were they all wrong, lying, manipulative? What else were they wrong about? She carefully came to believe as they do. But if they are wrong, so is she--a fearful prospect when one's entire worldview is at stake. And the church and the family are the core of many people's lifeways. Demean them, and you threaten the foundation of a person's functional stability and place in the human world.

Further, diminish God and you diminish the sense of specialness and purpose that many people attach to God--God created you, cares about your life, loves you, directs you, will take care of you. All will be made plain if you follow in His ways. These transitory pains of life mean nothing next to the grand design God has laid out; they are temporary and will be eased by His grace. Diminish the importance of God, and you threaten a massive source of consolation and validation.

Joking about heaven and hell is right out, as far as my wife and I are concerned. She believes fully in the picture of eternal rewards and punishments with which she grew up, and she is quite empathetic, and we are quite in love: she is tearfully terrified that I will not join her in heaven due to my unbelief, instead to suffer eternal torment, leaving her forever without her husband.


Consider that my wife and I have fairly all-encompassing worldviews. We're driving down the highway, we see a valley with a moraine at its foot, and the whole science "vs" religion controversy is right there. Biblically, there wasn't time for glaciers to roll across the landscape, carve out that valley, and collect all those rocks. "Why do birds fly south in the winter?" 'Cause God made 'em that way--isn't he smart?//'Cause they are well-adapted to distributed food resources--isn't evolution comprehensive? Who should we vote for, the person who says she believes in Godly ways, or the person with a history of responsible economic policy (not sayin' those aren't the same person, necessarily). There is practically no possible subject of discussion that doesn't potentially touch on the disagreement.

We'd each decided we weren't going anywhere, so we had to figure out how to get along. In the bigger picture, there's nowhere to go but Earth, so societally we all need to get along, because while in a marital fight some dishes might get thrown and a few dollars wasted, in fights between masses, nukes might get dropped, and, well, there we go.

But, finally, people are, the psychologists tell us, roughly 50% the product of their environment. I've had the history I've had, and it's led me here. My wife has had the history she's had, and it's led her to where she is. Frankly, I still think she ought to "convert"--she has an exceptionally rigorous thought process, and loves to know how things work. I think she would be delighted to understand the naturalistic worldview to which I subscribe--and I'm equipped to get her started. She would also be delighted if I'd make even a little space for God in my life.

But I'll guarantee you this: she's not going to listen to a word I say if I don't respect where she's coming from--and I can't do that if I don't listen to her first.

Besides, as wrangling over the name seems to be a favorite pastime of a lot of brights (whatever they call themselves), consider this:

At its root, the Brights Movement is an identity campaign. Our primary objective will be met when lots of Brights say that they are Brights. We intend to unite atheists who don't want to be saddled with that loaded label, humanists who don't quite align with the politics of the various humanist movements, secularists who aren't fond of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, etc., under a single banner that focuses on the common desire of all these: not to be civically marginalized or socially ostracized because of their naturalistic worldviews. That will not be achieved by offending or scaring people with other kinds of worldviews.

The Brights Movement was born of the observation by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell that the adversarial approach taken by many advocate atheists simply wasn't very productive, and too often resulted in bitter arguments that made enemies even of people who might otherwise share common objectives.

And it's working!

The constituency of Brights is hugely diverse. Besides those who self-identify as atheists, ethical culturalists, humanists, secular humanists, freethinkers, rationalists, naturalists, agnostics, skeptics, etc., the network includes Buddhists, Druids, Pantheists, Deists, Objectivists, Transhumanists, Unitarians, Wiccans, Yogis, and a gamut of folks (Jews, Catholics, Quakers, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Muslim, Hindu, Jains) who maintain their religion’s cultural aspects but not its supernaturalism. Sometimes signup comments reveal fairly snug religious connections! Among the Brights there are ex-Mormons and ex-Pentecostals (and other sorts of “ex-es”). Clergy in and out of practice include several UU ministers, Presbyterian ministers, a Protestant (unspecified) pastor, a Church History Professor/ordained priest, an ex-Benedictine monk/priest, an ex-Lutheran minister, ex-Catholic priest, and an ex-Baptist minister.

Can anyone here think of a label that is so broadly inclusive, or should we just stop niggling over the issue and get to work on matters of civic importance--such as demilitarizing the discussion?
"So the word Brights totally fail here in Sweden. The word come through as very arrogant."

Is there possibly a translation issue? Nuance is often lost that way. A couple of our Forum members are German; they were recently engaged in a debate about how best to translate the term, and I don't know that they found resolution.

A million! Ambitious! Has any naturalist group grown so large there? Has the total membership of all naturalist groups?
Fred Werther: "Did not Dennett or maybe Dawkins admit that the word bright did give this impression in one of the books that created the term the New Atheists?"

I think you must be referring to the infamous Guardian article, often quote-mined by adversarial people. I don't know that Dawkins made this argument in the books published after 2003.
Geisert and Futrell are very insistent that their word is a noun and must not be an adjective. "I am bright" sounds arrogant. "I am a bright" sounds too unfamiliar to be arrogant: it is puzzling, enigmatic, tantalising. It invites the question, "What on earth is a bright?" And then you're away: "A bright is a person whose world view is free of supernatural and mystical elements. The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic world view."

Note the grammatical distinction!

Dennett mentioned the backlash in Breaking the Spell, but in order to correct misunderstandings about the usage: There was also a negative response, largely objecting to the term that had been chosen ... :bright, which seemed to imply that others were dim or stupid. But the term, modeled on the highly successful hijacking of the ordinary word "gay" by homosexuals, does not have to have that implication. Those who are not gays are not necessarily glum; they're straight. Those who are brights are not necessarily dim. They might like to choose a name for themselves. Since, unlike us brights, they believe in the supernatural, perhaps they would like to call themselves supers. It's a nice word with positive connotations, like gay and bright and straight.

Fred Werther: "But that is not how language works. The word is already giving the connotation to say that I am clever while the believer is dull and dim."

That only tells me that we must be resolute in our message discipline! As was noted above, it takes ~20 years to re-task a word; we've only been at it for 7.
"Dare I say that the Brights remind me a bit of "True Believers in the Word. "

It's possible somebody will come up with a better word someday, in which case, I'm sure people will reconsider. Meanwhile, it is what it is, and I for one don't think worrying about it is helpful. We should be figuring out how to use it!
"Well this is the Brights home on AN so I should not go on about the word."

Um, a belated point of order: This is not an official communications vehicle of the Brights Network, that I know of.
The name Bright, like illumination, reminds me of Illuminati.  The only things I know about them are from Dan Brown novels, but I think they were intelligencia who were against the Church, and so probably atheists, certainly heretics.  So Brights could be modern day Illuminati who no longer have to hide underground for fear of being murdered by the church.

Ah, "the power behind the throne".  Wouldn't that be nice?  ;-)  Alas!


The (Bavarian) Illuminati certainly were interesting figures, and most definitely were Enlightenment rationalists--radical rationalists, some have said--whose purpose was the abolishment of all monarchical governments and state religions in Europe in the 18th Century.  As they formed a secret and secretive society whose methods involved setting up a complex, cellularized network of spies and counter-spies to work against the Powers that Were, they certainly have been the inspiration of many a great conspiracy theory.  But as Thomas Jefferson wrote of their founder, "As Weishaupt lived under the tyranny of a despot and priests, he knew that caution was necessary even in spreading information, and the principles of pure morality. This has given an air of mystery to his views, was the foundation of his banishment.... If Weishaupt had written here, where no secrecy is necessary in our endeavors to render men wise and virtuous, he would not have thought of any secret machinery for that purpose." 


Weishaupt was a bit of a back-to-nature anarchist, and no friend of the Church, but as he himself wrote: "I did not bring Deism into Bavaria more than into Rome. I found it here, in great vigour, more abounding than in any of the neighboring Protestant States."  Weishaupt was interested in using education to bring about "illumination, enlightening the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice".


The Brights certainly draw on Enlightenment imagery, and our endeavor most definitely has an educational focus: "Enbrightenment! This rhetorical expression hearkens to a once promising time on earth when it looked as if science and reason would offer a key to the future. During the period many call the Age of Enlightenment, it was possible to envision a world wherein humankind itself might acquire understanding of nature, gain insight into humanity, make meaning of life, and work for a better and brighter future for all."  


Thankfully, many of us, especially here in the West, have little need anymore for secret handshakes and back-alley meetings.  Instead, we encourage brights to speak openly about their worldviews, to abolish inaccurate and unfair stereotypes and work toward a world where the items on offer in the marketplace of ideas are fairly priced:

  1. Promote the civic understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, which is free of supernatural and mystical elements.
  2. Gain public recognition that persons who hold such a worldview can bring principled actions to bear on matters of civic importance.
  3. Educate society toward accepting the full and equitable civic participation of all such individuals.

I agree completely.  I joined the Brights, but I also hate the name.  It is cocky, and implies that we are smarter than everyone else.  While I find religion foolish, I also find it condescending when they start a conversation with me from their high and mighty pulpit.  Is not starting a conversation from the position of "Bright" a similar high place?  I like the goal, but not the name.




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