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Richard Dawkins endorses the term "brights" for rationalists

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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:22 AM
Original message
Richard Dawkins endorses the term "brights" for rationalists
In the current Free Inquiry, Dawkins compares the term "brights" proposed for rational secularists by a pair of Californian academics to the term "gays" for, well, gays. He admits to having been annoyed when he first heard of this proposal, but he says he was one of those grammatical sticklers who was annoyed by the term "gay" as well when it first appeared. He argues that therein lies the beauty of the term. It gets under the skin and promotes the cause insidiously, and he foresees a day when people will refer to brights as unflinchingly as they now refer to gays, thereby normalizing a previously unspeakable subculture.

For those who aren't up on human secularism these days, in the last few years, the movement has developed a persecution complex, believing that the culture at large is intolerant of it. And there's good reason for this paranoia. Not so long ago, George HW Bush felt free to state that the only faith perspective he believed to be outside the pale for a US president to hold was atheism, which he labeled un-American. Now we all know that Bush I would say anything to pander to the rubes among his base, but it isn't likely that he would have dared to say such a thing about Jainists, for instance, or even gays. But atheists are fair game. And while not all "brights" are atheist, all secularists have a much higher degree of tolerance for atheists than the Republican base--and possibly the American people at large do, according to a survey that showed atheists doing very poorly compared to every theistic group in terms of public acceptance.

I myself haven't warmed to this term yet. I wonder how my fellow DUers feel about it.
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Maple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:25 AM
Response to Original message
1. I've been a member
for some time.

It's worth a shot.
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wtmusic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:38 AM
Response to Original message
2. Pretentious
Labeling oneself 'happy' (gay) is one thing; labeling oneself 'smart' (bright) is too self-congratulatory

The manufactured ones never stick
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Ladyhawk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:47 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Perhaps
I prefer the term "freethinker."
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Maple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:47 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. I never thot
'gay' would stick, but it did,and it's manufactured as well.

I don't know that 'bright' will catch on, but it's worth trying.

None of the other labels have worked. People can do 20 pages on the meaning of 'atheist'...60 on the meaning of secular humanist.
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lazarus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 02:39 AM
Response to Reply #2
8. I'm with you
Surely a better term could be chosen. Personally, I liked "freethinker", but they seem to want to hijack a single syllable common phrase.

Keen or Sharp would have worked better, I guess. Personally, I prefer to just tell people I'm an atheist and watch them try to figure it out.
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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 09:38 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. One good thing about "bright" as opposed to "keen" or "sharp"
is that it refers obliquely to the Enlightenment. It doesn't necessarily mean intelligent, but can also mean "in the light."

One should also note that the advocates for this word demand it be used exclusively as a noun: "I am a bright."

Finally, people were initially annoyed by the cooptation of the word "gay," but have since adapted to it. "Gay" had the advantage of being an out-of-fashion word given new life with a new meaning. One of the drawbacks of "bright" is that it is in wide use in another sense.
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Ladyhawk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:45 AM
Response to Original message
3. I went into a support chat room on IRC the other night
when I was in a lot of emotional pain. Somehow the topic came up and I said I was an atheist. One of the people there called me a moron and left. I guess Einstein, Mark Twain, Carl Sagan and Thomas Edison are morons also. *shrug*

Have a look at this. It kind of brings it home:

Life in Our Anti-Christian America
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wtmusic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:52 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. People look at you like you're filth
I used to lie and say I was agnostic just to avoid that look.
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Maple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 12:56 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Great website
Thanks for sharing!
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nemo137 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 02:47 AM
Response to Original message
9. i don't like "brights." (the term)
speaking from outside that particular subculture, i think it's a bad idea. as someone before me said, it sounds self-congradulatory. also, if you're looking to increase acceptance, you would do well to get away from the high school atheist "i can't consider you to be a remotely intelligent/rational human being because you hold a belief in a higher power" mode. i don't think that's the point of dawkin's neologism, but it sure feels that way, you know? it just sounds smug.

that's my .02, sorry if it tweaked anyone.
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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 09:40 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. It is self-congratulatory.
But then so is "saved," "chosen" or "born again."
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nemo137 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 09:47 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. i'm not disagreeing with you.
but i'm also not saying that any of that kind of term, for any group, is a good idea.
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Fenris Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 10:39 PM
Response to Original message
13. Apologies beforehand, but
I don't think 'brights' is a good way to identify yourself as a secular humanist (which I consider myself to be), because it is to a degree arrogant and, like other posters have mentioned, self-congratulatory. I have known a lot (a LOT) of people in my 19 years on this Earth who openly derided the beliefs of others and declared themselves to be the crown of creation. Much like an earlier post stated, it's that highschool mentality of automatically denying the validity of someone's arguments or observations because they don't think the way you do. That's intellectual intolerance. I've known since I was in the seventh grade that I wasn't a theist, but I never, ever considered myself intellectually superior to anyone who believed in a God or Gods. Because if I had treated people like that, I would have been no better than the fundamentalists who deride nonbelievers and think themselves greater.

I agree with you, BurtWorm, that America is not extremely tolerant or accepting of agnostics/atheists/humanists. But I don't think a term like 'brights' is going to improve their (or our, I suppose) standing in this heavily theistic nation.
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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-22-03 10:55 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Just to be clear, I'm not crazy about the term either
I'm making an stab at being open-minded about it, though. My main objection: it's too PR gimmicky.

I'm over thinking it's too self-congratulatory and arrogant, though. I think of it the way I think of my light bulb avatar. I picked it without thinking too hard about it. I just liked the way it looked. But I've come around to thinking of it as a symbol of rationality. I'm not claiming to be brighter than anyone. But rational enlightenment is an ideal of mine. I don't always live up to it, but the avatar does remind me where I want to be.
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