October 4, 2006

The Brights: Time to Get Past the Name?

You have no doubt heard of the Brights, a coalition of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and whatever other forms of nonbelievers one can imagine. Many of the authors you have read count themselves among the Brights, including Dawkins, Dennett, Randi, and many others.

I suspect that I am not alone when I say that I have a hard time taking any organization seriously who chooses to refer to themselves as "Brights." Any way I consider the term, it sounds arrogant. I have a much easier time imagining myself telling someone that I am an atheist than I do saying, "I am a Bright." I suppose I should confess that another of my complaints with the Bright label is that it seems like it would be primarily for people who are too afraid to call themselves atheists.

Biases aside, I think there is something to the Brights that is worth checking out. According to their 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
There is nothing here with which I can disagree. If this is their definition, I clearly meet it and can count myself among their members. Moreover, this definition is not synonymous with atheism. When I say I am an atheist, I mean nothing more than that I lack belief in a god or gods. By saying that I am both an atheist and a Bright, I convey additional meaning (i.e., that I have a naturalistic worldview free of anything supernatural and that I base my morality on such a worldview).

This definition does not get me as far as I want to go because saying that my worldview is free of supernatural elements is not the same thing as saying that I deny the existence of anything supernatural. This requires me to add labels such as naturalist, materialist, etc. However, this does not detract from the applicability of the definition of Bright.

What are the goals of the Brights? What is it that they seem to accomplish? Referring again to their website, their aims include:
  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.
Again, I completely support this. As long as I do not use the name in place of "atheist," I think I can get past the connotations. While I cannot imagine referring to myself as a Bright publicly, I agree with their goals.

Tags: , , , , ,