A Bright New World

A growing group of atheists, humanists and freethinkers answers to a new name, and it’s not “heathen.” They call themselves the Brights, and their aim is to refurbish the image and broaden the civic influence of those who don’t believe in God.

The brainchild of California educators Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, the Brights’ Web site (the-brights.net) launched in 2003 and has since signed on tens of thousands of Brights from more than 84 countries. Intellectual heavyweights including evolutionist Richard Dawkins and philosopher Daniel Dennett have publicly lent their support.

What holds the Brights together? A naturalistic worldview that rejects supernatural and mystical thinking. Syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon, who has slapped the sobriquet “Godless Harlot” on her business card, puts it this way: “Our country is run by [religious] fundamentalists in so many areas that it’s important to come out of the closet.”

Some Brights also like the idea of promoting a morality not founded on religious indoctrination. Others are just tired of labels that frame their views in the negative—nonbeliever, atheist, godless. “Were not anti anything,” says Geisert. “We’re pro certain things,” like a firm separation of church and state. It’s too soon to tell if the movement will really catch on, says Futrell, adding in typically rationalist fashion, “We just have to empirically wait and see what happens.”

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