The Brights Movement was started in 2003 by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell in 2003 in order to assist in the advocacy of a naturalistic worldview.[1][2] The Brights movement had a media campaign and was announced in Wired magazine (by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins), Free Inquiry (by Richard Dawkins), and on the New York Times op-ed page (by the philosopher and atheist Daniel Dennett).[3] However, according to a 2004 Skeptical Enquirer article the movement the "Brights label reinforced a longstanding stereotype. Atheists already have a terrible rap for being coldhearted rationalists who attend Mensa gatherings and dismiss religious believers as simple-minded fools."[4] In October of 2003 in a article in the Guardian Dawkins associated being a "bright" with being an intellectual.[5]

Notable skeptics and atheists may still embrace the Brights Movement and are listed as "Enthusiastic Brights" at the Brights Movement website.[6] Examples of individuals listed as Brights are notable skeptics/atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Margaret Downy, James Randi, Mel Lipman, Bobbie Kirkhart, Herb Silverman, Michael Shermer, Matt Cherry, and Babu Gogineni.[7] Michael Shermer may not be a "enthusiastic Bright", as he stated in 2003 the following: "However, when it became apparent to me that the vast majority of people most likely to fall under the "bright" rubric would not use the label, I became, well, skeptical that it would succeed. For the time being I continue calling myself a skeptic."[8] Shermer also wrote regarding the Brights movement the following: "The reaction was swift and merciless—almost no one, including and especially nonbelievers, agnostics, atheists, humanists, and free thinkers, liked the name, insisting that its elitist implications, along with the natural antonym “dim,” would doom us as a movement."[9]


Chris Mooney wrote in his Skeptical Enquirer article the following:

..a recent attack on the Brights movement in The Wall Street Journal by the conservative thinker Dinesh D'Souza confirms my worst fears (D'Souza 2003). The article blithely ignores a key caveat that the Brights defenders have explicitly laid out-namely, that the label isn't meant to suggest that religious doubters are smarter than everyone else. But I actually think this misrepresentation ought to be blamed more on Dennett, Dawkins, and the original founders than on D'Souza--for reasons I will explain.

In his original New York Times op-ed announcing the Brights label, Dennett wrote, "Don't confuse the noun with the adjective: 'I'm a Bright' is not a boast but a proud avowal of an inquisitive world view." That's certainly nice in principle. But who did Dennett think he was kidding? How could anyone hear the label Bright and think anything but that atheists were claiming to be smarter than everyone else? As ABC Richard Dawkins commentator John Allen Paulos remarked of the Brights campaign, "I don't think a degree in public relations is needed to expect that many people will construe the term as smug, ridiculous, and arrogant" (Paulos 2003).[10]

According to Mr. Mooney virtually all the feedback he has received regarding the Brights Movement from skeptics and atheists has been negative.[11] Atheist author and columnist Christopher Hitchens expressed his "annoyance at Professor Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, for their cringe-making proposal that atheists should conceitedly nominate themselves to be called "brights".[12]

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The Brights Movement has not been immune from religious conservatives' criticism. Gary Demar the President of American Vision wrote the following:

While the “official” site of “The Brights” espouses “a level civic/civil playing field for all worldviews [that] does not include demeaning the worldview of religious individuals,” Dawkins and Dennett are demeaning and anything but civil when it comes to contrary worldviews. Here are two examples:

Dennett: “ If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods—that the Earth is flat, that ‘Man’ is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being—the well-being of all of us on the planet—depends on the education of our descendants.”

Dawkins: “ It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).”

As one would expect, the co-directors of “The Brights” argued that the views of some Brights do not represent the views of all Brights. But Dawkins and Dennett are not just “some Brights.”[13]

Demar sees the Brights Movement as an attempt to soften the image of secular humanist post the banning of school prayer in 1962 in the United States and other subsequent initiatives and DeMar states the following:

In an effort to repackage themselves, some groups began softening their image. The secular humanists, for example, revised the Humanist Manifesto, replacing its anti-God statements with anti-supernaturalism statements. This was done, interestingly, the same year the Brights movement was founded.[14]

Demar also offers the following criticism of the Brights Movement:

The Brights' Net is peppered with suggestions of second-class citizenship and charges of social discrimination against their ilk, reminiscent of the Civil Rights days. Yet, unlike Dr. Martin Luther King who successfully invoked God and God's law for moral authority, the Brights are without any standard higher than the whimsy of populism or the tyranny of authoritarianism.[15] Or, y'know, that stupid "all men are created equal" crap. Who buys that?"

According to a 2004 Psychology Today article the Brights’ Web site launched in 2003 and has subsequently signed on tens of thousands of Brights from more than 84 countries.[16] The Psychology Today article quotes a founder of the Brights Movement Paul Geisert as stating, "It’s too soon to tell if the movement will really catch on. We just have to empirically wait and see what happens.”[17]

See also

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