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The Brights

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Noggin
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The Brights

#1 Post by Noggin » July 23rd, 2007, 3:24 pm

I know we've talked about them before elsewhere but that was a long time ago and there are lots of new people so I wondered what people's opinions were of the concept and if people have any experience with them?

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Alan C.
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#2 Post by Alan C. » July 23rd, 2007, 3:46 pm

Aren't they just Humanists with a different name?
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Bryn
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#3 Post by Bryn » July 23rd, 2007, 9:22 pm

I think the Brights umbrella would include humanists but it would also include non-theists who don't describe themselves as humanists, for whatever reason. From the Brights website.
One would find the "umbrella" (of the Brights) extending over a large proportion of persons who claim as their philosophical or worldview identity one or more of these: skepticism, atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, objectivism, rationalism, igtheism, naturalism, secularism, Humanism, scientism.
I think it raises an interesting question of why people would choose to be a Bright but not a humanist; why for that matter, would someone choose to be an atheist or agnostic, but not a humanist. Is it that humanism conjures up some unappealing image? Is it that humanism, being described as a philosophy, is too 'deep' and people want something simpler?

I've no personal experience of the Brights but sometimes browse their forum and find it interesting though it reinforces the question I've already asked - why not just be a humanist?

Moonbeam
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#4 Post by Moonbeam » July 24th, 2007, 3:10 pm

Bryn wrote: why not just be a humanist?
I think you could address that question to any non-believer who doesn't embrace humanism and prefers to describe themselves simply as atheists, freethinkers, naturalists or whatever. Isn't the whole point of the Brights to rise above the differences and embrace everyone of a naturalistic world view whatever otherlabel they choose to pin on themselves. It seems like a fine idea but unfortunately the name is off-putting because it sounds arrogant and thereby reinforces religionists' stereotypes of atheists.I think the name was adopted without sufficient market research or thought. Yes, I could describe myself as Bright by their definition, but I wish they had picked a term without the implications that Bright seems to have.

On the plus side, they have quite a nice on-line image. I really like the website - but without reading everything on there, can anyone tell me what Brights actually do?

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#5 Post by Titanium Wheels » July 24th, 2007, 4:19 pm

I quite liked the idea of a new name for atheism which made the concept positive rather the negative character of atheism. However, whilst it gives a tlking point for others it really does not link into the concept of atheism like Humanism does.

It was a great idea but the wrong word; though I can't tlk, I cn't think of anything better!
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#6 Post by Moose » July 24th, 2007, 4:36 pm

To be honest, I've never found out much about them because the name make me cringe :(. I just can't imagine describing myself to someone as that. Have they ever thought of changing the name to something a little less .. self-satisfied?
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#7 Post by Maria Mac » July 24th, 2007, 5:11 pm

Moonbeam wrote: can anyone tell me what Brights actually do?
The Brights that I know have very pleasant informal social evenings in a Glasgow pub that I go to whenever I can because I have no other social life in Glasgow.

This is in stark contrast to Glasgow Humanist Group, which often had (and presumably continues to have) very interesting speakers at their Sunday afternoon meetings, but the very formal structure of the meetings was off-putting to me. Social events happened twice a year: some sort of Christmas social and a summer outing, neither of which appealed to me.

For me, the Brights have simply proved a nice way of putting like minded people in touch with eachother. I agree with all the comments about the name but find it bothers me less as time goes on.

If anyone in Glasgow is interested in coming along tomorrow night, we meet at Waxy O'Connor's pub, 44 West George St Glasgow G2 1DH in the area called the Dargle from 7.30 pm.

Noggin
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#8 Post by Noggin » July 25th, 2007, 11:51 am

Oh well, I'm too far from Glasgow, alas.

It's interesting that the Brights fulfil a social function which the HG fails to fulfil. And it's a shame.

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God
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#9 Post by God » July 25th, 2007, 1:04 pm

It's a problem for me 'cos the Brights seem to always meet in pubs, and I'm not safe to go into pubs - yet. Except with Mrs G, then its OK. But she wouldn't be interested in the Brights.

I like the idea though. Isn't the name about being enLIGHTened?

I must check out their website again - I've looked but it must have gone straight through.

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#10 Post by Maria Mac » July 26th, 2007, 12:03 am

I don't think I'd be bothered going to a Brights meeting if it wasn't in a pub. Do try and get along to one and take Mrs G. with you - they're very sociable occasions, it's not like going to a meeting as such.

Yes, the name is to do with the enlightenment, IIRC.

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#11 Post by God » July 26th, 2007, 1:04 am

Maria wrote: - they're very sociable occasions, it's not like going to a meeting as such.
That's the problem. I am used (very used) to socialising with a drink (or three plus some) and daren't risk it. Not yet. It hasn't been a year yet since my last drink. The time will come, I'm sure.

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#12 Post by rabedo » July 26th, 2007, 1:48 am

As the nominal organiser of the Brights Meetups in Glasgow and Edinburgh I think I should say something in defence of the Brights concept, although in many ways I have misgivings about the whole thing.

To start with, I’m not keen on the name. I agree with Christopher Hitchens that it comes over as conceited. On the other hand, I like the concept - that is, bringing people together under the umbrella of having a naturalistic viewpoint.

However, I have to be honest and say that my primary interest in the Brights is a social one. I’m not as interested in the Brights as a label as I am in the function it serves of bringing people together with a shared identity. A common complain I’ve heard about humanist meetings is that they are too lecture orientated and too formal. I think lectures and talks have their place, but they are can be restrictive for many people, and some folks I’ve met have said they feel intimidated by the intellectual atmosphere. They might have some questions, but don’t want to appear uninformed or ignorant. This seems to me to be a weakness of humanist organisations, which is why they have limited appeal. Several people who are members of the Humanist Society of Scotland have told me they’ve had more fulfilling experiences at Brights meetings than they’ve had at HSS ones simply because they’ve had the opportunity to engage with the arguments in a way that was not allowed by the more formal structure.

The Brights is egalitarian. Everyone can chip in without feeling they have to have gone through some intellectual initiation rite or completed a course in philosophy. Meetings can just be a blether between equals, rather than an event where an intellectual superior dispenses wisdom to lesser mortals (with time for two or three questions afterwards). If humanism in its many aspects is to have broad appeal it has to shed its intellectually elitist persona and become more appealing to the man/woman in the street.

So, for me the Brights movement is more to do with lessons in ‘marketing’ and less to do with definitions.

The venues for Brights Meetups currently tend to be in pubs, because they lend themselves to informal gatherings, but there is no reason for them not to be in other venues, and no reason for anyone to feel they have to partake of alcohol.

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#13 Post by God » July 26th, 2007, 3:00 am

... and no reason for anyone to feel they have to partake of alcohol.
Just to say that I would find it extremely difficult not to partake of alcohol in the kind of situation described, in a pub. No fault of the Brights, it is simply to do with my own particular situation. Hence, no Brights for me at present. :)

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#14 Post by Maria Mac » July 26th, 2007, 11:37 am

Wow, Paul, that was a pretty impressive post for that time of the night and after that number of pints.

:clap:

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#15 Post by Nick » July 26th, 2007, 1:19 pm

IIRC in an article right at the start of the Brights, there was a direct comparison with 'Gay'. In the same way that these days the first definition one thinks of for 'gay' denotes sexuality not joix de vivre, it was hoped that 'Bright' may evolve in the same way. It's obviously got a way to evolve yet!

I must say that a meeting on a Sunday afternoon would be pretty unappealing to me- too polite and twee. Its smacks of tea and cakes, and old biddies in sensible shoes and not being out after dark. that's probably unfair, but as said above, it's a question of marketing.

There are no humanist or Bright groups near me, so I can't speak from experience, but for atheists, compared to christians, the discussion of their beliefs would be somewhat short. Whereas the christians can devote centuries to their medieval text, all we can do is say " You too? I don't believe in god either!" What more is there to talk about?

Interestingly, when I meet business colleagues, we generally have a formal agenda to discuss and agree various matters. But we always have some free time in the pub, which is completely without structure, and it is in those times that the creative and most useful discussions take place.

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#16 Post by Miisanthrope » July 26th, 2007, 3:44 pm

I have more problem with the name "Humanism" than with "Bright". Both come off somewhat conceited, but at least I have a btter idea what "Brightness" stands for. With Humanism, I seem to find as many differing descriptions as I do references.

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#17 Post by Malcolm » July 26th, 2007, 4:02 pm

Miisanthrope wrote:I have more problem with the name "Humanism" than with "Bright". Both come off somewhat conceited, but at least I have a btter idea what "Brightness" stands for. With Humanism, I seem to find as many differing descriptions as I do references.
I can understand the confusion about what humanism stands for but not the 'conceited' part? Why do you think that?

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#18 Post by Miisanthrope » July 28th, 2007, 9:36 am

Well, the idea that "Humanism" is somehow more human, humane or humano-centered than other philosophies. In my case, that is probably the main reason I shy from it, but for most people it just comes off as concieted, as if other philosophies who chose a more specific name are less involved in the human morality issues and such. It doesn't mean it's true, any more than the Brights think they are "brighter" than non-Brights, but it is the unfortunate side-effect of the name.

Besides that, and the confusion surrounding what "Humanism" is, is the tendency for Humanists to want to put everyone under the Humanist umbrella. "You care about human issues? You care about people? Are you human? Then you are a Humanist!" (not exactly verbatim, but that is the feel people have got). They may be right (or wrong - I have yet to figure out what it includes either), but it just comes off as too vague and forced.

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#19 Post by AntonyR » July 29th, 2007, 9:58 am

As previously mentioned by someone above, I thought the term Bright was meant to be a umbrella term for all those people who do not believe in the Supernatural.....and that would include people that call themselves Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, etc.

This discussion seems to imply that you would call yourself a Bright, but not a Humanist. If you call yourself a Bright you are saying that you are effectively an atheist, freethinker, humanist, etc. A Bright believes in a naturalistic world view - that is all. There are no further policies over and above that, so anyone who does not believe in the supernatural or superstition can be classed as a bright.

At this level Bright is no more of an improvement on the name Atheist, in that it is narrow.....Bright says I accept a natural world view and and explicitly rejects the supernatural, whilst atheism says I reject the supernatural, which implictly therefore accepts the natural world view. But beyond this statement, there is nothing more that can be said about the names other than that.

I have spent many hours discussing on the Brights forum, trying to understand the definition of a bright and there is no definition other than believing in a naturalistic world view.

Humanism, on the other hand, offers something over and above the lack of belief in the supernatural. It explicitly rejects supernatural beliefs but is able to offer alternative non-religious ceremonies, campaign against religious privilege in society and to support causes that are good for society and the planet as a whole.

I also don't think you can say that for most people humanism comes off as conceited. I can think of nothing more conceited that calling yourself a bright, implying that others are not bright. Both terms, bright and humanist need explaining in terms of what they are and what they are not. I do not believe there is any confusion around what humanism is, but there certainly is a huge amount of confusion around what is to be a bright....go to their forum and see if for yourself. Humanism is defined as follows (taken from the British Humanist Association):

"Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good."

In what way is that conceited, confusing, vague or forced? And if you come up with some reasons, I'd be interested in an explanation as to how the definition of a "Bright" improves upon this?

Richard

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#20 Post by Maria Mac » July 29th, 2007, 12:17 pm

Miisanthrope wrote:Well, the idea that "Humanism" is somehow more human, humane or humano-centered than other philosophies. In my case, that is probably the main reason I shy from it, but for most people it just comes off as concieted, as if other philosophies who chose a more specific name are less involved in the human morality issues and such.
I think what you're suggesting, Miisa, sounds more like arrogance than conceit, though I've never heard anyone make this criticism before and to me it does seem a bit strange. The use of the word 'humanism' in its modern sense dates back to the mid 19th century and, given its emphasis on the abilities and responsibilities of human beings rather than faith in the supernatural, it seems to me a straightforward and reasonable term to use. The far more common reason I've heard for people to shy away from the term is because they actually don't know what humanism is and they think it is some kind of cranky neo-pagan religion. I don't know where this idea comes from but I do know that people who hold it have never made an effort to find out what humanism really is, which is very easy to do in the age of the internet. The website of the International Humanist and Ethical Union with its Amsterdam declaration is a good place to start and there are pages and pages about it on the BHA website.
Besides that, and the confusion surrounding what "Humanism" is, is the tendency for Humanists to want to put everyone under the Humanist umbrella. "You care about human issues? You care about people? Are you human? Then you are a Humanist!" (not exactly verbatim, but that is the feel people have got). They may be right (or wrong - I have yet to figure out what it includes either), but it just comes off as too vague and forced.
I know you say your quote isn't "exactly verbatim" but I would suggest it is actually nothing like what humanists say when we are trying to pin the humanist label on others. What we are more likely to say is that non-religious people who believe it is possible to live a decent, moral life without religion (or who generally agree with the BHA definition that AntonyR has pasted above) are humanists whether they self-identify as such or not. The most common remark people make when joining a humanist organisation is that they've been humanists for years but they just didn't know it.

The tendency to try to put everyone under the same umbrella isn't, of course, limited to humanists. I don't like the term 'atheist' because it's negative and defines me by what I don't believe in but people will insist that if I don't believe in god, then an atheist is exactly what I am. I have often been frustrated by women who wish to disassociate themselves from the word 'feminist' even though their views are feminist in every sense of the word. It's no different to suggest that those non-believers who try to live good lives and would seem to support the aims of the humanist campaigning organisations are humanists whether they choose that label for themselves or not.

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