Not Such a Bright Idea

Some nonbelievers are calling themselves 'Brights.' But is what they imply about religious people valid?

velmeezee

09/27/2005 12:57:06 AM

My personal views on the terms agnostic & athiest: I'm not a-gnostic because I am not without knowledge. I'm not a-theist because if there is a creator or god(s) in this universe, then I'm here with it/them. My thoughts on the term Bright: I am a Bright because I have a naturalistic world view. I do not seek to dim the awesome-ness of nature by attributing anything I don't understand yet to being super - above,more than - nature. I understand that nature is often beyond the comprehension of man, that man is not the center but just a tiny portion of nature. I'm cool with that. I can deal with it without simplifying it into medieval terms. Some people need to stop being so insecure.

velmeezee

09/27/2005 12:56:54 AM

I find it interesting that some think that calling oneself a Bright is somehow a put down to others. It shows a severe insecurity. Bright is a "team name" for a group of like-minded individuals, of which I am one. Just like the Washington Redskins are not necessarily Native Americans, and the Sacramento Monarchs are not butterflies.

BillThinks4Himself

07/08/2005 01:41:41 AM

There's nothing wrong with the labels, "atheist" or "agnostic." What's wrong is the instant prejudice against people who don't accept any of the competing fairy tales about human existence - none of whom can be proved anyway. The attempt to come up with a more positive, marketing-friendly term for themselves is an exercise in futility. Just as Jews were hated during the Middle Ages - precisely because they didn't come under the authority of the Church - anyone who steps out of the organized religion game is, well, fair game to be demonized from the pulpit. And why? Because they're very existence is a threat to the franchise - and those who have to go to church resent those who can sleep in.

homeboy21

11/05/2004 06:32:14 PM

That is certainly not a fact that only the smartest people reject religion while the dump people accept it. How do you explain Creation Scientists? They are very intelligent and they are not Atheists like what most Secular Scientists are. It is not a proven fact. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It does have alot to do with personal experience and logic.

kolmogorov

06/17/2004 04:28:46 PM

What an awful idea. How can anyone be so politically tone deaf to think you can improve the image of atheists/agnostics by adopting the term Bright? Atheists are already widely disliked and perceived as smug and condescending. Adopting this term will only throw gasoline on that fire. People who use the term Bright should brace themselves for *unending* mocking and contempt. More than that, I believe those who use this term are only adding to the burden of skeptics in an already hostile world. Thanks a lot.

Bogolov

09/26/2003 01:40:38 PM

Hey there, Senility! Somehow, between the two of us, we seem to have totally killed off this discussion. Amazing Powers we must possess... let us try to use them only for Good.

senility

09/18/2003 07:23:32 PM

I had the ICQ program on my computer. I found that if I wanted to communicate with well-informed, decent people (as opposed to sex addicts with limited vocabularies and worldviews), requesting atheists often produced them. Of course other philosophies have intelligent adherents. They’re just so hard to find!

senility

09/18/2003 07:22:36 PM

I'm an atheist, a fact for which I deserve no credit since my parents were also atheists. Like many atheist parents, they didn't tell me what to think...just "Check it out"...which I did. I even attended a religious college for a while. Points that surprised me were 1. I was the only one there whom I knew who had read all the Bible and 2. The required religion courses there were making Christians into atheists by giving the students information in regard to how the bible came to be.

Bogolov

09/18/2003 07:41:42 AM

Hey, someone ought to tell Profs. Dennett and Dawkins and all those other big-time scientists. Of course, it’ll be kind of tough on them, admitting publicly that they were “fools,” but I think they’ll be good sports about it. After all, now they won’t have to burn in Hell for eternity! Bog.

Bogolov

09/17/2003 09:10:05 PM

I appreciate your kindness, Jimmy, but the fact is, these folk nailed me. I borrowed a Gideons from a local hotel and checked the facts. Sure enough, the Bible says God exists! Furthermore, it says that people who don’t believe in God are fools. And that people who do believe are wise! And if there were any other doubts, it also says that it, the Bible, is always true! That settles that old argument, I guess. Boy do I feel silly! Bog.

atheistfreethinker

09/17/2003 08:57:03 PM

And just to shut con-oo up, Corinthians 6:14-15: “Believers must not commune with unbelievers. What fellowship have righteousness with unrighteousness, light with darkness, believers with infidels?” Go crawl back in the corner, close your eyes, and wait for the glorious afterlife, oh wise christian. I think I am much smarter than god, as god has yet to prove her existence, and so may have no intelligence assigned to her.

atheistfreethinker

09/17/2003 08:53:37 PM

I'd like to thank Steven Waldman for bringing the Bright movement to my attention. Without his wonderful piece on NPR I may never have discovered their existence so that I might sign up and help organize. Thank you Mr. Waldman, you have helped advertise a group that encourages a rational view of the world. I hope that was your intention, if not, then I think you were, well, a little dull not to realize it. Now those statistics. So what if 60% of people with post graduate education believe that someone can get pregnant without having sex? That just shows how stupid some “educated” people can be. How about the well known fact (quoted by Richard Dawkins in the Guardian article referenced) that 60% of American scientists and 90% of those elected to the National Academy of Sciences are Brights and do /not/ believe you can get pregnant without sex, or any of the other ridiculous things your above average educated doctor might come up with.

mlyons619

09/17/2003 08:33:15 PM

I am prepared to accept that athiests are smarter than Christians - BUT - are atheists smarter than God? For even our wisest are fools when compared to God.

jimmyrow

09/17/2003 05:41:55 PM

Dear Can-oo, I think you "can do" better than this as a response to Bog and atheists in general. Calling him stupid is not nice and I write this as a Christian. One that believes in God because he/she read it in the Bible is no better than an atheist. Please consider that - "we gain more in examining the questions than we do in knowing the anwers." One finds their truth in the heart. Only that person truly knows their truth. Jimmyrow

con-oo

09/17/2003 12:33:39 PM

atheism is for dumb people, as a fool saith in his heart there is no God. That makes them fools. Christians are wise, as a wise man hears the word of God and heeds it.

con-oo

09/17/2003 12:30:21 PM

If they don't believe in their own creator they aren't too bright at all, but actually stupid!!

Bogolov

09/17/2003 08:46:53 AM

Loveis.. “not all educated people are atheists. Indeed some are Christian leaders: Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Charles Stanley...” No kidding? Christian leaders are religious? And some of them have doctorates? In theology, among other things, oddly enough. Darn, next thing you’ll tell me the Pope’s Catholic. But a majority of scientists who actually know something about how the universe works, i.e. mathematicians, physicists, biologists, geologists, and so forth, are in fact agnostic or atheist. See references in earlier posts. Bog

Bogolov

09/17/2003 08:35:02 AM

Jimmyrow: Actually the science of erections is pretty well understood. Try a google search on the phenomenon – hours of fun for the whole family! I don’t accept your premise that because certain things (such as emotions) are not well understood, we must therefore accept non-naturalistic explanations for them. As science advances, the areas allowed to the supernatural decrease. Before Ben Franklin, it was thought that lightning strikes were actually bolts (arrows) hurled by an angry God. Things such as “much unseen like dreams, imagination, consciousness, feelings that we can't measure or explain” are perhaps better understood than you think by modern psychology. And those things that are not explained may be explainable in the future. We don’t need another dimension – we just need to understand the one we have better. Bog.

loveisforever226

09/17/2003 03:56:05 AM

P.S. I would like to add that not all educated people are atheists. Indeed some are Christian leaders: Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Charles Stanley...

loveisforever226

09/17/2003 03:53:21 AM

Hi Paulathiest, You said: oh and i'd like to back up the statisics on the believers in the hard sciences, I have a bs (with honours) in computer systems engineering, and sorry but you wont find any believers in the coffee areas of my uni, I say: I believe many educated people make the mistake of replacing God with learning and education. The bible comments on this: "Professing themselves wise, they became as fools".

jimmyrow

09/16/2003 11:46:50 PM

Bogolov, Not everything you know and enjoy is scientifically verifiable. If you've ever loved another person or even a pet, you'd be hardpressed to scientifically verify how that feeling was created or where your capacity to love comes from. Or how about erections? You have erections, don't cha? Sure the biologists can explain neurons firing in the brain causing a flow of blood to the lower region, etc. But what actually triggered the neurons? Now I'm not saying it takes an act of God for you to have an erection but it does appear to entail something mysterious and unseen. Please forgive me, I'm just having a little fun with this discussion. Explore and believe what feels right for you.

jimmyrow

09/16/2003 11:06:38 PM

Well, we're back to square one here. I can't prove to you, or myself, with hard facts that a Higher Unseen power exists. My earlier e-mails simply suggest there is much unseen like dreams, imagination, consciousness, feelings, that we can't measure or explain. It's not irrational, then, to assume there might be a fourth aspect to our reality beyond time, space, and matter. Call this fourth aspect whatever you want - spirit, God, Conscious Energy, Light, etc. I can't prove Spirit but I can feel it. I observe nature and I see purpose in all of it. If there's purpose, we, and our reality, must be expressions of a Higher Consciousness. So I suggest that we look beyond the 3-D box.

MadyGirl1987

09/16/2003 11:02:43 PM

Athiests are not smarter then people who practice a religion. They are just as smart as everyone else.

twinkiedink

09/16/2003 10:45:16 PM

If a group of people with a "naturalistic worldview" feel that calling themselves "The Brights" improves their image, I say, "Go for it." I personally think calling myself "Goddess" improves my self image! Each of us are so much more than a label and a petri dish.

Bogolov

09/16/2003 09:22:47 PM

Say, Jimmy, whimsicality is all very well, and I certainly agree that ideas are fun to play with. But the ideas have to make rational sense, and they have to be scientifically verifiable before I’d dignify them with any significant amount of Belief. One doesn’t want to just go around believing any old thing just because it feels good. In fact, be especially suspicious of ideas whose sole recommendation is their feel-good factor. Go around with a mind too open for too long, someone’s bound to toss some rubbish into it, as someone once said.

jimmyrow

09/16/2003 10:03:06 AM

Why be limited to what is known? That's no fun. Where's the adventure in that? The adventure is tapping into and exloring the vast consciousness within us, from where we came. That's where original ideas come from. I'm not saying become religious and go to church but rather be as a child and be whimsical. Explore and feed the Light within. Everything we need to know about the Divine is reflected in nature. The world is a much friendlier place than we realize.

jimmyrow

09/16/2003 09:35:35 AM

To "thefish" - thank you for your kind words. I just started posting on Beliefnet a few days ago and I'm enjoying the lively discussion here. Hope and Light, JimmyRow

jimmyrow

09/16/2003 09:30:24 AM

To "cusidh", yes, I agree, being spiritual or religious does not mean ignoring or discounting one's rational mind or intellect. Achieving balance in mind, heart, and soul seems to be the goal. As we become more aligned with our Higher Self, the quality of our thoughts rise. We become more aware of duality. With this awareness, we begin to discern between artificial/ego fear and real fear. Real fear warns you of something truly harmful or threatening. The rational intellect, like a scientist, is limited to the known data set. God is beyond that - so we have to use the heart as well as the mind to find God. Man's greatest works come from the imagination applied through the rational mind. I see imagination as limitless. I see love as limitless. These channels link us to a Higher Power. Thanks for letting me use your post as a reason to ramble on this subject.

paulatheist

09/16/2003 07:34:15 AM

lol we probably have a lower murder rate because we dont have guns on us when we get drunk, but yes although the uk is not very religous we are a very moral society, and very welcoming, we allow all types of people into our culture and treat them as equals, it can go to far when we stop our butchers displaying pigs (which we have done for centurys) so that we dont offend some ethnic groups, but yes on the whole we dont need religion to make us "good people" stiff upper lip, and well you cant do that thats just not cricket ole boy, seems to do us just fine.

Cusidh

09/15/2003 11:53:16 PM

Good point, Jimmyrow. Of course, not all religions are anti-rational or expect people to disbelive what their intellects tell them.

thefish

09/15/2003 07:21:56 PM

"here in the uk, hardly anyone goes to church," and you have one of the LOWEST murder rates in the WORLD...WITHOUT the "benefit" of the death penalty...keep up the good work. Peace and Love to ALL

thefish

09/15/2003 07:20:25 PM

damn, jimmyrow, you're in my head. We think the very same things. Keep on rocking, bud. Peace and Love to ALL

jimmyrow

09/15/2003 07:07:43 PM

Truly I find atheists very interesting because they are evidence of the true good nature of humankind. Without a religious belief system, nearly all atheists still choose to act with love and kindness and do so in the spirit of purely executing their free will. Free of religious rules and fear of damnation, they act as their own highest moral authority and choose to be kind. I'll never forget watching C-Span one day and watching a Christian minister arguing for the death penalty citing the Bible while the atheist argued against saying he felt in his heart that life was precious and that killing was wrong. Thus, while I believe in a higher power and am a Christian, I admire that atheists choose and act solely on the basis of free will and take total repsonsibility for their decisions.

jimmyrow

09/15/2003 06:49:28 PM

I believe God cannot be found through the intellect alone. An individual finds God in the heart, imagination, feelings, and in dreams. The scientists can measure, explain, and rationalize nearly everything in the universe but they can't explain where ideas come from. They can't explain or measure dreams or emotions. Aren't these immeasurable things evidence of consciousness or an unseen aspect of our existence? A spontaneous random explosion of energy may explain matter but not the consciousness within. Scientists have measured a galvanic response in plants threatened with destruction. If it's only innate matter why would it react? Isn't a mother's love for her child evidence of a Higher Power. I'm not advocating religion, I'm only suggesting that we may be an expression of a great unseen force. Put the ego aside for a sec and check in with your heart.

paulatheist

09/14/2003 06:52:24 PM

oh and i'd like to back up the statisics on the believers in the hard sciences, I have a bs (with honours) in computer systems engineering, and sorry but you wont find any believers in the coffee areas of my uni, the furthest you would find someone to go would be to say "well maybe god made the laws set the ball rolling (created laws of physics evolution and then made the big bang) and watched" but nobody believes in the bible, as all inteligent people understand what a tiny part of the universe we really are, and how we arnt special, certainly not enough to warrant the universe being created for us clever monkeys.

paulatheist

09/14/2003 06:43:30 PM

From the posts i've read it seems america is a very scary place, you all seem obsessed with religion, here in the uk, hardly anyone goes to church, certainly no young people, personally i think religion in modern times is damaging, esp if you combine it with politics, in the past it was the only kind of politics, now we have proper laws, which arnt enforced with threats of mumbo jumbo reward or doom, any inteligent person has to say the bible is utter hogwash, relgion was created by simple people in the past to make them feel better about dieing, to make them behave, and to explain the "then" unknown, if you still believe in it you must be simple or very insecure about dieing,

paulatheist

09/14/2003 06:42:59 PM

sorry but its very arrogant to believe that we have souls and nothing else does, or that we are the centre of the universe etc. lol time you all grew up sniffed the rosies, and just face the fact that your a inteligent monkey, and when you die your organic computer (brain) switches off and prompty turns into plant fertiliser. read the bible then read a science book, see which you believe deep down.

free4all

09/12/2003 05:39:17 AM

(cont.) I believe our minds our really too small to understand that God may go way beyond the structure we have attributed to Him. There is no institutionalized place in America where people gather to challenge Christianity, only places to help it grow. How could agnosticism or "Bright-ism" have a chance to flourish while disoroganized?

free4all

09/12/2003 05:39:03 AM

The statistics provided in the article do not prove anything other than Christianity is very pervasive in American society. The pressure to participate in church is enormous. Proslytization and mediatization maintain the strength of the institution. The fact that a doctor or lawyer believes in the devil or God does not carry with it the assumption that they have confronted and challenged their faith. It just means they have faith. Being a doctor or a lawyer is not proof of great intellect, rather proof of succeeding within a highly structured system of input and output. Christianity is primarily a European creation and has been used for years to control and inspire the evolution of mankind. In its early days, it was as violently imposed and threatening to individual freedom as Islam is now, giving evidence that religions have a developmental pattern. (cont.)

sqwerty

09/12/2003 12:10:49 AM

Agnosticism is rational to those of us who find no evidence of a God but no evidence to confirm that God doesnt exist. God is rational to those of us who have evidence of God. I think it requires information and not necessarily high intelligence to embrace oneself as either agnostic or not.

wildlifer

09/11/2003 11:56:50 PM

" Whats wrong with Atheist and Agnostic? I was an Agnostic for most of my life, and though I've got my own Ideas about God from personal expereice, I still most likely would be put in that category if someone pinned me down and wanted to file me someplace." There are still atheists and agnostics and freethinkers and humanists et al, it's just that some of us have joined under the umbrella of a naturalistic worldview in an effort to have collective influence behind our lone voices.

Long-Tailed_Cat

09/11/2003 09:20:03 PM

Although I have to add if you talk to an adamant athiest, his foaming at the mouth against the idea of God won't be that much different than the foaming at the mouth of a fundamentalist Christian against the idea the bible isn't inerrant. So different, yet so alike; and neither one particularly brilliant, no matter what thier IQ is.

Long-Tailed_Cat

09/11/2003 09:14:16 PM

Whats wrong with Atheist and Agnostic? I was an Agnostic for most of my life, and though I've got my own Ideas about God from personal expereice, I still most likely would be put in that category if someone pinned me down and wanted to file me someplace. I think "Brights" just sounds stupid, though I can't say as I will loose sleep over the implication that religious people aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

Bogolov

09/11/2003 06:31:17 PM

imagoodperson says: Personally, and this is just MYopinion, I think the 'Brights" are going to be very surprised at the moment of death when "Bright" turns to "Dark" for all eternity. God bless you all. Goodperson: Isn’t it a little sad, a bit weird, and possibly a little wicked to worship a God Who would condemn someone to eternal punishment for a wrong opinion? A theological error? I don’t think I want that particular blessing, thanks anyway.

Bogolov

09/11/2003 06:04:09 PM

Don’t waste your time, Wildlifer. Psalm 14:1 is not argument: It is name-calling. It is beneath contempt. Yes, raindog. I went to the site. I read everything there, googled about some. I hate to say it but it kind of makes sense. (Not a conversion really, just a realization.) Yes, I am a bright. It still sounds silly to me, but if Richard Dawkins thinks it’s ok, it’s worth a try.

wildlifer

09/11/2003 04:58:14 PM

" Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart there is no God." Well of course it does. How else can the masses be subjugated w/o quoting pagan scripture? It's the establishment of anthropocentric bigotry. All those whom believe differently are fools, infidels or doing the work of satan. So indivuals are forced to "fit in," or ostracized.

RBB

09/11/2003 04:40:38 PM

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart there is no God.

raindog

09/11/2003 02:23:04 PM

I'm glad to see that some of you are actually visiting the Brights website. From the sound of it, you have all done more research on the subject than Mr. Waldman.

Bogolov

09/11/2003 02:17:02 PM

Here's the ref. for Prof. Dennett's original NYT article: http://the-brights.net/dennett_nyt.htm While I agree with most everything Dennett says, honestly, as a name, "brights" is just silly, and won't be widely accepted. But maybe I'm wrong. I thought the adoption of the word "gay," meaning homosexual, was stupid and would never make it either. I homosexuals call themselves "gay," does it imply that heterosexuals are glum?

Bogolov

09/11/2003 01:35:06 PM

I don’t know, the term “smarty pants” has a certain edginess to it. But smart people can believe some awfully silly things. Most politicians are lawyers (post-graduate degree, as the man said) for example. And there are lots of people with degrees in the so-called “soft sciences” who write and think the most frightful malarkey. Mr. Waldman does concede that, generally speaking, more educated people tend to be more skeptical than less educated people. And, to play the statistics game, in the “hard sciences” the tendency towards disbelief is overwhelming. A 1998 survey of the members of the National Academy of Science “"found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality)." Ref: http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

minimalist

09/11/2003 10:45:20 AM

I did point out that many homosexuals prefer the term "gay" for the same reasons some unbelievers now wish to be considered "bright." ...and precisely the same reasons why conservative Christians wish to consider "the vast majority" of this country as "Christian" when only about 20-25% (or less) of it would fit the narrow boundaries of what they consider "saved". Its about manipulating the statistics to suit your needs at any given moment. So your point is that people use semantics and language to play political games?....And this is a news flash? Its just spin. Everybody uses it on some level...including you and me. min.

Venthony

09/11/2003 10:10:24 AM

Dear Minimalist, I did NOT compare homosexuals to terrorists. That would be absurd and hateful, and I am neither. I did point out that many homosexuals prefer the term "gay" for the same reasons some unbelievers now wish to be considered "bright." Best wishes, Tony

hermanvonpetri

09/10/2003 09:30:27 PM

An excellent point, Colonel K. If the Brights had chosen to call themselves the Happy would people be complaining that it makes everyone else seem "sad"? Min, I was quite disturbed by that comparison as well. Of course in one of Ventony's next statements he seems terribly upset by the possibility of polygamists being normalised. I guess he just glossed over all of those revered biblical icons of family values who maintained several wives, concubines and slave girls yet continued to enjoy God's blessings generation after generation... This is also the same person who rejected the idea that believers in the Christian god should be collectively referred to as "blessed" despite the fact that the Christian bible already refers to the believers in the god of Abraham as blessed above all others. Or consider the fact that the faith of Islam proclaims all others to be "infidels". Clearly a derrogatory term. Organised religion wallows in enough hypocracy to be pointing fingers.

minimalist

09/10/2003 09:16:06 PM

Ventony, Your comparison of homosexuals to terrorists was totally uncalled for. If your point was to prove that people can use spin for political gain then don't forget how conservative Christians who would otherwise call liberal and moderate Christians and Catholics "deceived by the devil" when arguing theology will turn around and claim this is a "Christian country" because the vast majority believes in God (in spite of all the back biting and accusations of this vast majority not being "real Christians". EVERYONE uses spin Ventony, even conservative Chrtistians....maybe even those who attempt to sensationalize a discussion by including homosexuals in the same sentence with suicide bombers. So what exactly is it that the "Brights" are guilty of that conservative Christians aren't also guilty of?

Colonel_Kernel

09/10/2003 05:46:49 PM

For the record, I'm a Bright and here is what I have to say - The word, "bright" is just that, a word, just as the word "gay" is just a word. But the homosexual community chose that word because of its positive meaning and borrows from it intentionally. But it doesn't say anything about anyone else. It doesn't mean that everyone who isn't Gay is angry. In the same way, that I call myself "A Bright" does borrow intentionally from that word. But it in no way means that all Brights are bright. I'm sure there will be many stupid Brights, just as there are many angry Gays.

hermanvonpetri

09/10/2003 05:25:23 PM

It's merely a term. A label that means nothing. Kind of like the term "Christian". When people like Roy Moore or Pat Buchanan want to paint America as a "Christian nation" they group all of the various Christian sects under one sweeping umbrella term "Christian". Never mind the fact that when Christians disagree with each other over things like how many Christians supported slavery, lack of womens rights, anti-Semitism and all sorts of ills - well, those people weren't "real" Christians in that context but their numbers were certainly used to lend credence to whatever cause was "Christian" at whatever moment. Just another way of cooking the books.

cknuck

09/10/2003 05:14:44 PM

Was not Atheist, Humanist, and Freethinkers enough titles, serving to separate folks. "Wildlifer" the umbrella of the Brights have only served to bring an added shadow of separation. This country, this world needs to find ways of coming together, especially now, not new arguments, new separations. How can we clean up what we have messed up if we are not together. Man, it would be really great if we, right here in this column could come together and find one social solution. blessings <

wildlifer

09/10/2003 03:34:51 PM

Tony, The American Indians killed men, women and children in the defense of their homeland. The Palestinians are no less victims of genocide than the indigenous populations of the Americas were. Palestinians were relegated to concentration camps, or reservations if you will, and are denied the human rights, all peoples deserve. Cities grew out of those settlements, but Palestinians are still second-class citizens in their own country. Islamic terrorism feeds off of the US support of Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian lands. Our government's policies in the Middle East makes us all complicit by our silence. The American Government is still paying for the atrocities European immigrants committed. Should less be expected of Israel? If someone came and took my land, I would use all methods at my disposal to discourage them. Would you not?

wildlifer

09/10/2003 03:32:48 PM

Once again by stating the obvious falsehood, you insert the strawman. Tony, Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers and those with likewise marginalized worldviews have chosen to gather under the umbrella term as The Brights. We have made no such declaration we ARE bright, despite the blatant lies to the contrary. It is just another attempt to once again marginalize and ignore our views. *more*

Venthony

09/10/2003 03:07:10 PM

Dear Wildlifer, Yes, it was off-topic, and I apologize. Though I still think the point is germaine. People who marginalize themselves have much to gain politically by placing whatever it is they believe in or do under a morally, socially or legally acceptable umbrella. Thus the polygamist becomes "alternatively spoused," or some such nonsense. And now those without faith -- I rather prefer unbeliever to athiest -- have declared themselves "bright." It would be as if I tried to gather all Christians -- in a secular and political sense -- under the rubric "blessed." Can't you imagine the newspaper stories? "Blessed spokesman Tony Brown today called for a general boycott of all businesses and corporations perceived as serving the Bright population." As for the American Indians, I guess my best answer would be that victims of genocide can hardly be considered terrorists. Islamic nihlists who blow up school children and skyscrapers, on the other hand ...

wildlifer

09/10/2003 02:05:19 PM

Venthony, A little off-topic, but due to your freedon-fighter terrorist comparison ... were American Indians freedom fighters or terrorists?

hermanvonpetri

09/10/2003 01:23:58 PM

Venthony,??? BTW you comparing homosexuals to terrorists highlights the ability many conservative Christians have of grouping everyone they don't like into one big ball of evil. Of course having been compared to child molesting, rape, bestiality, and incest (only from Christians I might add) I guess it's only natural that homosexuals should be grouped with suicide bombers next. Like a typical Christian so far every Christian on this board has applied THEIR OWN interpretation to that single word and hasn't bothered to truly consider the statements by the one person who actually has real info about the Bright groups, wildlifer. Of course it is written into all of the holy books of Jews, Christians, and Islam that they are the only "true" believers and all others are doomed. That they are special above all others. I guess it kind of gives you the feeling that you can make up anything you want to about others just so you can feel superior.

wildlifer

09/10/2003 12:53:34 PM

Norm, The noun Bright describes its members as having a naturalistic worldview. It does NOT assign any meanings whatsoever to persons with other views. Once again this is a strawman that does not address the issue. The Bright Community cannot be described as being a religion anymore than a PAC or lobby group can.

Venthony

09/10/2003 12:13:15 PM

Yes, and homosexuals are so much nicer now that they're just gays. And isn't it wonderful that the children who blow themselves up in Palestine are talked into it by freedom fighters instead of terrorists. In the brave new world, it seems, we will all be equally bright, but some of the animals will be equally brighter than others. Tony

wildlifer

09/10/2003 12:03:44 PM

gil1, At no time was the Bright movement ever meant to mean superior intellect or as an automatic insult to non-Brights. The attempts to state as much are strawmen designed to ignore the issue and attack the messenger. There is currently no opposite to being a Bright, as there is none for American. Here is some explanation of its genesis. http://www.the-brights.net/our_civic_umbrellas.htm " Saying or implying or even thinking, "I am a Bright because I am bright" ignores that high levels of intellect and aptitude are not qualifications for having a naturalistic worldview. Brights can vary across a wide range of intellect because worldviews are shaped as much by inclinations and experiences as by brainpower. The noun is a new meaning altogether. "

rbethell

09/10/2003 11:40:11 AM

When the sample theists presented for ridicule our Jerry Fallwell and other easily lambasted figures, I suppose it is easy for the nonbelievers to fancy themselves as "brights." On the other hand, when one considers the depth of intellect possessed by the great apologists for Christianity of the last century, such as Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton, and the brilliance of Martin Buber in defending Judaism, then the "brights" look perhaps a tad tarnished.

wildlifer

09/10/2003 11:18:18 AM

gil1, In my part of the country an Atheist is about on the same level as the Muslims who flew planes into the WTC. But as part of the Bright Community perhaps my voice can be heard on the issues. harpist, That was uncalled for. I have not come here and called people names because of their beliefs.

harpist4him

09/10/2003 10:47:55 AM

How can one be bright and still be part of the darkness? Another Fool

Venthony

09/10/2003 10:35:16 AM

In a way, the "Bright" tag fits. Christians must be comfortable with the notion that non-believers are often more successful and respected within the circles of this wicked old world than those who follow God. One could even say, as Jesus often did, that the "Bright" do better in the world because they are in thrall to it. They have their reward. They're, er, "Bright." Me, I'll just goof my way happily being a fool for Christ. Tony

tlyte01

09/10/2003 10:23:22 AM

With no disrespect. Maybe they should be called the unknowing.As for myself and those whom do have a personal relationship with God it is known that there is nothing more luminescent. To be called Brights is almost comical if not contradictory.

gil1

09/10/2003 10:09:34 AM

wildlifer- I'm going to apologize for my last post. I didn't mean for it to sound as snotty as it did. Although what I really meant might not sound much nicer. What I really mean is that I don't buy the attempt to distance the term Brights from a position that implies that being a Bright means you are smarter. I think the term was coined, and then people found out that they didn't like the backlash. So this word spliting began. I'm sure it is uncomfortable to feel that others look down on your beliefs. But in a big way, that happens to everybody. I'm a Liberal Christian. Some Liberals think if I'm Christian, I must be Right wing. Some understand me. Some Christians think I should be Right wing. Some understand me. Some people who follow Islam hate Christians, some don't. I'm a white male. Some people think white males are ruining the world. (Some are) But I'm not. Still, I'm missunderstood in many ways every day. I think we all are.

gil1

09/10/2003 09:47:22 AM

wildlifer- "So in being lifted from the "dark shadow," we are Brights" That sounds like "The recent articles describing Brights as thinking we are more intelligent or wiser than the rest of our fellow citizens were CORRECT."

Norm_uk

09/10/2003 07:51:26 AM

wildlifer: Thank you for your definition of 'Bright'. According to that Brights would feel that the rest of humanity (darkies perhaps?) are clouded by a dark shadow of belief in some kind of a supernatural power, regardless of form, name or system. Isn't that a bit like Christians thinking all non-Christians are not 'saved' or Muslims saying non-Muslims are 'infidels'? Sounds like another religion to me - albiet a non-supernaturally based one.

hermanvonpetri

09/10/2003 03:37:29 AM

Don't Christians have anything better to do than to jump to conclusions based on feeble interpretations of a single word? Oh wait. Witch, Pagan, Satanist, homosexual, evolutionist... all groups of people who have been relentlessly slandered by conservative Christians because the CHRISTIANS are mostly ignorant about who those people are and what they do so they make stuff up about them.

wildlifer

09/10/2003 03:11:06 AM

The recent articles describing Brights as thinking we are more intelligent or wiser than the rest of our fellow citizens were incorrect. I am a Bright and Bright is a noun, not an adjective. "Bright, refers to a person whose worldview is naturalistic--free of supernatural and mystical elements." By definition, we are not necessarily bright, or brighter, we are Brights. The "meme' was not chosen out of some misguided intellectual superiority, but for relief from current thinking. "Having this term in the lexicon and using it in the public sphere lets us break free from the "comparative terminology" of the dominant culture, which so capably casts a dark shadow over those who do state publicly their naturalistic beliefs ..." So in being lifted from the "dark shadow," we are Brights. Most of this is explained on the website: http://www.the-brights.net/ Good day

Norm_uk

09/10/2003 02:03:00 AM

An intelligent or wise person would never call themselves such....knowing the resentment and perception of arrogance such statements can bring. A 'Bright' claims to have found the truth and looks down upon others who still believe in something else - in many respects this is no different from religious fundamentalists, the very thing Brights claim to be seperate from. When we consider people like Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Farraday and Einstein all professed belief in something during their lives we can see belief really has little impact on intelligence - unless we allow belief to replace rather than work alongside reason

ElGabilon

09/09/2003 11:59:53 PM

We do not know about others, however, for ourself, we are not adopting the term "The Brights". As an agnostic, we simply say that it is impossible to know whether or not a supreme being exists or does not exist. Therefore, the atheist is just as dumb as the believer. Both make assumptions and act upon them our of belief, not fact.

hermanvonpetri

09/09/2003 11:36:46 PM

- should read I believe that NOT bearing false witness is one of your commandments...

hermanvonpetri

09/09/2003 11:35:59 PM

If you are ignorant of the beliefs and practices of others and accuse them of things they do not do or believe is irresponsible as best. To accuse them of these things if you have knowledge to the contrary is called lying - I believe that bearing false witness is one of your commandments is it not?

hermanvonpetri

09/09/2003 11:31:52 PM

I just explained why someone would call themselves a Satanist. Were you paying attention? According to the myth of the Garden of Eden in the Christian bible Satan was responsible for encouraging Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Thus the character of Satan (to them) is an icon of knowledge. And that's about as far as the correlation between the name and the belief goes. Everything else you hear about Satanists was made up by Christians to make other people look bad.

cknuck

09/09/2003 11:00:02 PM

Satan operates best when we believe in ourselves and don't believe in him or God. Why would someone call himself an Satanist anyway? Why would you call yourself Brights if you were bright? Seems to me everyone else would call you bright and you wouldn't have to. blessings

hermanvonpetri

09/09/2003 10:40:28 PM

Jumping to conclusions based on a single word? Happens all the time. Can anyone tell me what a Satanist is? Think you know? Did you know that most Satanists don't believe in Satan? Did you know that sacrifice, witchcraft and supernatural worship of anykind has nothing to do with Satanism? Did you know that they believe that the power of knowledge to be the ideal motivation for humanity? This is why the term Satanism was chosen because in the biblical story it was Satan who persuaded Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge giving people the power of discerning right from wrong. What does this have to do with "the Brights"? Be careful about jumping to conclusions about an entire group of people based on an ignorant misinterpretation of a single word.

hermanvonpetri

09/09/2003 10:31:23 PM

What's the big deal? Christians have been teaching for centuries that people who believe as they do are favored above those who do not. The Christian version of the bible has been used among other things to treat blacks, women, Jews and homosexuals as inferior to others. AND it's an institutionalized belief system. The entire sum of atheism is "there is no supernatural god". That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Atheism is not a moral code. It is not a rule book. It is not a belief system in so much as one rule doesn't qualify as a system.

karm

09/09/2003 10:29:40 PM

The obvious purpose of this movement's chosen word "bright" is the implication that non-brights are, well, not too bright. In this they are addressing intelligence, of course. But is this the issue? Perhaps the underlying issue could be something more fundamental. The bottom line is that the issue is NON-FACTUAL and, therefore, will always be a matter of belief. I say to the "brights": you're not special (no matter what your momma told you). So quit cryin'. Go home.

cknuck

09/09/2003 07:04:11 PM

Highly educated does not necessarily mean highly intelectual. There are some people in my neck of the wood (Pennsylvania) who don't ascribe to any of this non-sense. They don't believe in making their mark on the world, leave the earth as they found it, ride in horse driven carts, call everyone friend, and love the Lord. They are the smartest people I know. You would have to measure their education with a different measuring stick.

kittylitte32

09/09/2003 06:39:21 PM

Who gives a shit? Really. I don't give a rat's butt what anyone thinks about my religious beliefs or if they think I am stupid.

jimiraj

09/09/2003 05:50:24 PM

No not really! Why because they don't believe in a God, or Goddess? because it would seem to me they are those ones who are limited in thinking it all starts and ends with them.

prof_ronco

09/09/2003 05:23:49 PM

It's too long to put here, but some of you might be interested in the (negative) commentary I have posted at god.ozrock.net. I'm not a big fan of the bright idea, but Waldman's critique is, in my view, pretty weak. Give the commentary a read, if you're interested.

Dutchkid

09/09/2003 04:02:46 PM

I agree with this guy. I dont believe in God and I dont run about being a snide @## hole about it. That's be as bad as being a unaccepting Christian Radical or Jewish extremists. What a bad idea these people had...

paulatheist

09/09/2003 03:37:51 PM

lol read the post i made begining with "you cant say someone is stupid" where do dinosaurs fit in with the bible? the world was not made in 7 days and is proven not to have been so, the earth is not the centre of the universe, evolution is a fact, proven by the fact we have artificially evolved plants etc, by selective breeding, etc etc, if even one fact from a book such as the bible is proven to be false then this "book of truth" is proven to be a nice work of fiction with some historical data chucked in. its a moral code inforced by fear that was usefull to keep the masses under control, it has no relavance in todays times, fine if you wish to believe in a god, but base him upon proven knowledge, ie say he created the big bang etc or that he designed molecules to arrange themselfs as they do, but to base any belief on a piece of out dated junk written by people who didnt know better 2000 years ago, is a bit silly

paulatheist

09/09/2003 03:37:05 PM

just ask your self was earth made in 7 days? and were people created in there present evolutionary status then? if so how did they run from the dinosaurs that were made an hour or so before? and if so how come you dont find human bones as old as dinosaurs lol, theres no way you can answer these questions without tearing up the bible and re writing it (not the first time)

kxqmate

09/09/2003 02:59:22 PM

how has the Bible been ripped apart by science, paulatheist?

paulatheist

09/09/2003 01:49:21 PM

but surely the bible with its concepts of heaven and hell, its belief that us humans are the most important beings in this universe, is no longer defendable in these times of knowledge, religion was a very important set of rules without which civilisation may never have surfaced, yet we now know better, so yes if you trully believe every word of the bible, you must be stupid, for you are ignoring proven and tested facts, but then some people refuse to see the truth if it means they have no way of removing the fear of death if they do, ok maybe not stupidity maybe selective insanity to reason and truth.

paulatheist

09/09/2003 01:49:12 PM

You cant say someone is stupid for having spiritual beliefs, but i change that opinion when i meet someone who believes the earth was made and was habitable within 7 days, or that believes dinosaurs where made a few hours before humans, along with the rest of the animals, or that evolution is not a fact, or that the earth is the centre of the universe and no other planets can support life, the bible has been ripped apart by science, utterly, fine i believe it is possible that a higher being instigated the big bang, and put the laws of physics into the universe,

akbusch

09/09/2003 12:40:30 PM

Waldman shows himself to be a bit defensive/touchy. That said, the fact is that plenty of atheists/agnostics DO say that believers/religious people are not as smart as them, if indeed they acknowledge that religious people are smart at all. Bill Maher goes so far as to say that religion is a "neurotic disorder". In his latest HBO special, Maher said that when people ask him what happened to make him reject religion (he was brought up Roman Catholic), he tells them, "I graduated from the 6th grade!" I think that well-educated, intelligent people who have a strong religious/spiritual faith tend to be people who are smart enough to know that science/rationalism doesn't have all the answers, and never will.

futurealberic

09/09/2003 12:09:48 PM

Oh no...here comes a sports analogy. Just when you thought we were 'brighter' than that...I've read postings by atheists and religious people alike on various sites, and many have touched both my heart and my intellect with their thoughts. But then there's a few that remind me of football fans. Last fall I saw a major college conference decided by one 'crucial' game. I also saw several drunk fans on both 'sides' beating their chests and alleging their own superiority, as if they had something to do with the outcome of the game, as if the game really decided anything substantial. Many went so far as to get in fights about it. The real players were unaware at the time, and when told later they were embarrassed and apologetic. Meanwhile the rest of us were there just to enjoy a good game.

theeternalspiral

09/09/2003 12:00:14 PM

To say someone is smarter, because they don't believe in a God is stupid. I know some bright Christians. The religion limits what they could be, but they are bright. I am not a Christian and many call me an atheist, but to say someone is smarter because they don't believe in God is stupid. Just my 2 cents.

lucilius

09/09/2003 11:36:12 AM

I think Waldman is deliberately choosing a limited definition of "Bright" in a desperate effort to find a subject for a column. "Bright" can mean many things, as one or two have noted below. I have nowhere seen the assertion that its preferred meaning for those who choose the label (I am not among them, by the way) is "smarter than you theists." I think Waldman is trying to stir up conflict where there is enough already; atheists and agnostics have long enough been decried as evil, foolish or wilfully contrary. And yet, for trying to escape those labels, Waldman criticizes them again.

brigid

09/09/2003 11:28:43 AM

These "Brights" have non-religion as a religion. They have all the zeal and arrogance of those recently converted to any cult. As a religious person, I don't like being included with the evangelicals who seem to have taken over the government recently, because I think that they will be out to get any non-evangelical Christian religion as soon as they don't think they need the single issue "pro-life" and/or anti-non-Christian-immigrants voters anymore. Actually these "Brights" sound a lot like most of these evangelicals, only the names are changed. The trouble is that the people in the middle keep getting shoved into one category or another even if they don't totally agree with that particular viewpoint.

kaveh500

09/09/2003 10:10:07 AM

Something about the polls that are listed in this article--the ones about highly educated people still affirming belief in the supernatural/spiritual in high numbers. I have an Ivy League degree myself and I often used to give the same answers--that is, that I believed in the Devil, an afterlife, etc. But after a while I realized that it wasn't that I actually believed in these things--I just was afraid of being punished by God for saying I didn't. It's the same as America's supposedly huge religious observance numbers: something like 2/3 of all Americans SAY they regularly go to churhc. Except that on Sundays, the same numbers just ain't THERE!

kaveh500

09/09/2003 10:04:45 AM

Norm, you may be right but I also have to point out the over-generalizing that religious people put non-believers through. Whenever I have overheard a religious person confronting an atheist, I often hear them [the believer] imputing total hatred to the atheists. The believer is often heard to say, "Don't believe in God, huh? You must not believe in love then either!"

tenzo

09/09/2003 09:18:42 AM

Norm, let me try and help you see the other side here. I usually attribute my happy feelings about the religious (the open-minded tolerant kind) to the fact that I was raised by Atheist parents. I never had to *rebel* against anything. My parents on the other hand, had to deal with all sorts of family fall-out when they decided to stop going to church. That can really embitter a person. I think a lot (but not all) Atheists have a lot of personal bitterness associated with things like not being able to see certain members of their families anymore, not being able to have a nice dinner with their parents without the topic coming up for the umpteenth time, etc.... You try being a religious minority on for size and see how full of love and fuzzies you are at the end of the day. It takes a certain kind of very strong and very rare person to come against adversity and not be at least a little angry about it.

Norm_uk

09/09/2003 02:03:06 AM

Atheists are no smarter or dumber than anyone else of any belief. The problem with most Atheists is that the basis for the 'believing in nothing' is some deep rooted distain for people who do believe in something. Few atheists I have met have been respectful enough to allow others to believe in their own faith. Many take delight in belittling religios people and making out that they are backwards....so backwards that many are simply trying live better lives. Beleiving in 'nothing' does not seem very bright to me. As Einstein said, "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame" - he was a bright chap.

shvegas

09/09/2003 12:55:25 AM

JPF311, What about optical illusions. There is a perception that is not real. What is the difference between optical illusions and belief in god which cannot be proven and thus is a perception in your mind. If god is such a reality Why no proof and the plethora of belief. Maybe because they are all just creations of the human mind.

imagoodperson

09/08/2003 11:19:30 PM

Personally, and this is just MYopinion, I think the 'Brights" are going to be very surprised at the moment of death when "Bright" turns to "Dark" for all eternity. God bless you all.

PathQuest

09/08/2003 09:07:51 PM

Unless I missed it, Waldman doesn't include any explanation, by The Brights themselves, as to why they chose that specific name. If one looks up the word "bright," there are many definitions. In fact, as I am writing this, I decided to check their website and see if they explained their reasoning behind their name. They list three characteristics associated with the word "bright." They include "refreshing," "hopeful," and "definitive." Huh. It's my goal, on most days, to feel pretty bright too. Is it OK for me to use that word?

jhoulgate

09/08/2003 04:59:39 PM

I think calling oneself a 'Bright' is not going to go far in persuading people to one's view. Perhaps they can come up with a better word.

nightngle

09/08/2003 03:47:56 PM

Pretty typical of Beliefnet is to give an article that Steven Waldman says that the term "Brights" implies something about religious people. Nowhere is a link to find out what the Bright movement is about or more about atheism. Perhaps the folks here might want to learn more before calling anyone arrogant, stupid, or closed minded. Those names are especially ironic when they come fron those saying that anyone with views different from themselves are going to hell. Putting things in perspective, isn't calling oneself "Bright" better than telling someone else they are going to burn in hell? If calling themselves bright makes you feel un-bright, isn't that a personal problem, not necessarily what is implied?

catholicseeker

09/08/2003 03:41:10 PM

The choice of name is not too "bright" at all. The only thing this will accomplish is to turn up the volume in the screaming match between atheists and the religious right. As in politics, I think the only truly bright people in America reside somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of belief.

Foust77

09/08/2003 12:54:44 PM

Ok, many of my views fall in line with the "brights", but I wouldn't be caught dead actually applying that word to myself. How smug and arrogant can you get? And stupid?

truthshines

09/08/2003 12:16:11 PM

"The enemy of mankind is one fixed idea." ? Don't the "Brights" have their own fixed idea.

hopewithoutdogma

09/08/2003 11:59:07 AM

"Brights" are just the natural reaction to the idiots trying to convert the world to a particular narrow point of view. TheMadOne is right. The enemy of mankind is one fixed idea.

truthshines

09/08/2003 11:46:58 AM

There are various kinds of religions. Some pose themselves as global, others are more ethnic centered. There is both (general)truth and fiction in religions. I believe there is a purpose for religions for those who want it. Native Americans had not only their land taken away but the culture, language and religion attacked. That is not right either to happen to anyone. Atheists and Agnostics have a harder time in some religions - in Buddhism and Hinduism and probably others you can be atheist. However, I always thought that A&As belonging to no religion would be an alternative to religions who promote themselves as the one and only, and the believers as the chosen - in the way that they would be not arrogant. To see some A&As belonging to no religon be just as obnoxious is sad, and I think self-defeating. All this does is give obnoxious religious people more ammunition.

Kimrdhbsms

09/07/2003 08:58:41 PM

I just want to remind everyone that one other thing "bright" people are known for is lack of common sense. this may explain the statistics the author quotes about the number of believers, or not. I think the exact wording of the question makes a big difference - I am not an atheist, and have a strong spiritual side, etc., but I don't believe in the Big Daddy in the Sky type God. so, depending on how the question is worded, I may or may not say yes to "do you believe in God?"

TheMadOne

09/07/2003 04:59:30 PM

Brights have the same problem that dogmatic religionists have: they take themselves too seriously. This is ironic, because atheists are not reacting to faith, they are reacting to the imposition of faith, the claims of proprietary truth... i.e. dogma. TMO

jpf311

09/07/2003 04:30:38 PM

Re: Our brains are susceptible to magical thinking and if religion is introduced a similar infection occurs A poor analogy. After all, where do religious ideas come from? Either they arise from something that exists in reality (and one can make an arguemnt from natural selection that our brains would not be succeptible to religious "infection" unless religious entities actually exist outside ourselves) or else they come from human beings, in which case one can hardly call religion an "infection" Since it is a natural part of human existence.

yaknyeti

09/07/2003 03:34:05 PM

This article raises an interesting question for "Brights", though. Most of the responses I've seen here imply that intelligent people can hold religious faith because even the most rigorous education can't overcome our egos/ upbringing/ idiosyncratic views. Fair enough. But doesn't that mean the same effect could be blinding the Brights to what the truth really is? I think that line of argument is actually more favorable to Christianity / other religions than to athiests/ agnostics.

yaknyeti

09/07/2003 03:33:54 PM

It's tough to deal with the effects of labeling. Though I, as I Christian, see myself as saved, it's nothing to give myself airs about. It's only after I give up on thinking my abilities or actions can get me to heaven that I can accept God's redemption. The term, "Bright," however, associating intellegence with a choice one has made, seems to unavoidably put down those who disagree with that choice. So perhaps it's a little worse... Depends a lot on the people using such terms and hearing them, I guess. I do wish that other Christians would accept the limitations of what anyone can know about the eternal destiny of another. That, perhaps, is what causes most of the trouble.

tenzo

09/07/2003 01:43:03 PM

I think that this is simply a reaction by certain fed-up atheists and agnostics to being constantly told that they aren't Saved, Chosen, Blessed or otherwise counted among the Good and Righteous by thousands of the Religous, who don't get called smug or arrogent. So, if we're not Righteous or Saved we can at least be Bright, no? I've been an Atheist from birth, raised by Ahteist parents. Over the past 29 years I myself have gotten pretty darned sick of being labeled as Evil, Immoral, Antichristian (which I'm not--some of my very best friends are intelligent tolerant Christians), Satanic and all sorts of other really not very nice adjectives. I can definately understand the temptation to lash out similarily and see if those who dish it out can take it as well as they expect us to.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/07/2003 09:50:16 AM

Cinorjer said: "Some very intelligent people are believers, true. No one's perfect." I would say that all people are "believers", in that they believe in things for which there is no absolute proof. The question is one of attachment to beliefs and whether a person is able to disgard their present understanding as events demonstrate its insufficiency. For theists this involves recognition that a representation of God is not God. For non-theists, it is a recognition of that what can be known is limited, that whatever is or is not in itself is beyond the ken of rational definition. We live as a mystery within a mystery. Sometimes the process of living brings awareness of intrinsic ineffability. When it does, it is usually best to simply experience and avoid the tendency to create "i"dols.

cinorjer

09/07/2003 08:36:30 AM

A few nonbelievers (some with tongue firmly planted in cheek) choose to call themselves "Brights", and that's seen as egotistical. Believers call themselves the "Chosen of God", the "Saved", the "True Believers", and that doesn't merit a comment? That makes nonbelievers the Discarded, the Unwanted by God. Talk about ego! I'm not a big fan of the label "Bright", but I'm tired of people acting like there's something wrong with a person because they choose to look the Universe in the eye and demand that beliefs be based on something more than tradition or a desire for a cosmic daddy to punish the evil in the world and reward good behavior. Some very intelligent people are believers, true. No one's perfect.

ariadne1

09/06/2003 03:30:49 PM

I don't believe in the Devil, hell, the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection; however, I do respect those who do. Some are very bright people. Does anyone really want to call the witty and erudite C.S. Lewis dim just because he was a believer? I do, however, believe in God and in an afterlife (reincarnation). I don't believe that I'm a dim. I can hold my own in a rational argument on the existence of God with any atheist. I know this because I have done so with a beloved uncle who happened to be an atheist until the day he died. He was also one of the kindest, most respectful and compassionate of people. I don't believe that the particular group of atheists who have taken to calling themselves "brights" are actually more intelligent than their religious counterparts. But they are certainly as closed minded, intolerant and arrogant as any fundamentalist.

shvegas

09/06/2003 10:47:57 AM

The human intestines are predisposed to illness if salmonella is introduced. The human lungs are susceptible to illness if Pneumococcal bacteria are introduced. Our brains are susceptible to magical thinking and if religion is introduced a similar infection occurs. Like the other infections, a person’s intelligence has nothing to do with whether they are infected or not. The fact that majorities of people believe is related to biology and has little to do with the value of the belief. Just like infections a person may live their whole life with a benign form of religion and in some cases it may be helpful to them individually. Just like I don’t care if someone has herpes, I don’t care what their religious beliefs are as long as they don’t spread their disease. Personally religion is like pneumonia, something I can live without. I may be capable of contracting it but it isn't necessarily good.

brightmoon

09/06/2003 10:46:52 AM

wow ... people started the same silly nonsense back-in-the-day when the (so-called) Negroes wanted to call themselves Black or African-American ........doesn't this guy Waldman have a life? and as far as that is concerned .....most atheists and agnostics are fairly intelligent and have at least actually thought through the implications of why they dont believe in a God......i can't say that for most believers who just accept what daddy told them. BTW im neither an atheist nor an agnostic

tarrantf

09/06/2003 08:56:49 AM

I wish Waldman had distinguished between religious observance and modern concepts of "belief." I personally believe the basic assertions of Christianity in the sense that I follow them, and give my heart to them. When I say I "believe" them, I'm not in any way implying that I think their realities are based in literal fact. Religious truth is not based in verifiable fact but in the timeless realities of myth and metaphor. Historical fact has little to do with religious truth. One may believe in a deep way without giving assent to any of the supernatural myths of our various faiths. That is the prime way I believe intellectuals remain believers, and Waldman missed the boat in his commentary.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/06/2003 08:10:31 AM

The dragons are the projections of the ego onto spaces unknown and at least in some measure unknowable. To tame our egoistic fears, we invent images, icons, and myths. Not all of this is bad. Myth unfolds the inherent mystery and places it in a context to the culture and the individual. Exploring myth is a means of delving into the unconscious. The difficulty and danger comes when myth is solidified into fact by the ego. Existential terror is born of the ego's fear of annihilation. From that place we can and often do project terrible harm. A deep faith allows the ego to diminish, dissolve and face the emptiness. Being unmade in the face of God as God, (to use theistic language) is an act of ultimate faith. It is surrendering through death to what is, without qualification.

Zero-Equals-Infinity

09/06/2003 07:56:52 AM

Fiat lux! But then let us not forget that rationality has emerged through evolution only recently. It has still not been determined that our great intelligence is a survival mutation. I look at all the harm that our intelligence enables us to inflict upon the biosphere, and I have to wonder. Also, rationality and logic, while useful also have axioms that are taken, (at least tentatively), on faith. It is only through employing empiricism that the deficiencies/limits become evident. Faith in God, can be restated as faith in the basis by which what is becomes. The a-gnostic (meaning without knowledge) knows that he cannot know. He or she understands that there come points which like on the mariner's maps of old, one can only say: "Beyond here there be dragons".

edelphi

09/06/2003 12:50:31 AM

I'm an agnostic/atheist, I agree that the "Bright" label is terribly arrogant and that belief and intelligence are quite compatible. It is true is that a larger proportion of scientists are atheists than the general population; from a strict rationalist perspective theism is basically unsupportable and unnecessary. But I think that can be an idiosyncratically constricted way of thinking about the universe.

shvegas

09/06/2003 12:38:13 AM

All of the reasons Waldman gives for belief in smart people probably held true 3000 years ago but the belief was about Apollo and Zeus. The same can be said for the overwhelming belief in the Middle East for a totally different god. They were incorrect 3000 years ago and all of the different beliefs today will be left behind in the same way. Smart people perceive optical illusions too but it doesn't make them true. If what you believe is only based on faith and indoctrination you should at least admit that your belief is nothing more than wishful thinking. The bottom line is smart people are not above deluding themselves. Religion is a lot about the ego of humans and the need to feel above the rest of the animal kingdom. Smart people lust for this too.

ElGabilon

09/06/2003 12:07:18 AM

There is no corelation between intelligence and religous belief. One could equally argue that it was the most intelligent who fell for the ability of certain individuals to contact their dead relatives. The belief in the existence or non existence of a supreme being has equal value. There is no "proof" either way. Equally there is no "scientific" or "religious" evidence. Both fields are in their infancy regardless of how much they think they have accomplished. The facts are that man, through science has not produced a single item that is beneficial to the universe. Nor has religion which has created more horror than a sane individual could ever imagine. The question of a supreme being will always remain a question. Whatever choice one makes should be respected and not ridiculed which usually means the ridiculer needs others to suport his weak positioin.

revinpitts

09/05/2003 10:44:13 PM

As a person with a graduate degree from a school that is known the world over as a top academic institution, and whose IQ is in the 98th percentile of all Americans, I thank Steve Waldman for pointing out that sincere religious belief and commitment are not anti-intellectual and that there are many religious folks whose faith is tempered and toughened by intellect.

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