Recently I have been involved in a community known as http://www.the-brights.net. They are a group of people who are ‘raising awareness and acceptance for people with a naturalistic worldview’. They claim a naturalistic worldview is anyone who does not accept supernatural and mystical elements and that they are a social action group, not a philosophical group. Therefore you are a bright by self identifying as a bright, and if you call yourself one you can get involved in promoting this worldview.
They are initially very odd! People like me, who do except the supernatural (sort of) are called ‘Supers’. For fun I asked the question ‘Could a fully normal orthodox christian be a bright? For now I thought I should just copy a post I posted on their forum onto my blog. You can check the thread out here.
Here is the original post:
I thought I’d post this as a list of intentions and reasons why other Supers might join me in supporting the Brights. Also you could tell me if these are reasons you’d support.
1) Dialogue is the best way to get to the truth. The truth is Jesus and that is evangelism.
I think it works with the brights because dialogue is two way.
Personally I think many people would agree that dialogue is one of the best ways to get to the truth. If you take 2 people with opposing views who both think others should think like them, dialogue is fantastic because the same act brings together both their contradictory purposes. If A is right about something and thinks they can convince B, then they would want proper constructive dialogue with B. But if B also thinks they are right about the same thing (with a contradictory view) they would also want that same dialogue with A, for their own purpose. Seeing as they both believe they are right they both will never have a time when they feel it needs to end.
In fact I think dialogue can be fun for the two concerned. The same is true of an atheist and a theist, or a Muslim and a Christian, etc. Real dialogue can be something that they both want.
Now in general the ‘supernaturalism vs naturalism’ public debate has involved things that end dialogue. Many times it descends into rants on why the other side is ‘evil and without morals’ or it turns into merely public shouting and lobbying contests. The fact that many supernaturalists seem intent on ending dialogue and forcing legislation is something I think the brights are against. Well as a Super I’d be against that too.
Does that mean I’ve joined the Brights to subversively try to convince and convert everyone here? Well no, that wouldn’t be dialogue that would be me trying to convince you. Dialogue involves 2 parties listening, learning and ‘convincing’ each other. No, my presence here is not for evangelism to you, but I do believe the Brights does help with ‘evangelism’ towards others. You wouldn’t believe the acceptance for a discussion about Jesus at university since the God Delusion and the atheist buses. I do believe Dawkins’ book will go down in church history as the thing that saved christianity in the UK.
2) There are non-biblical reasons why one would support equality and freedom of speech
I do not believe the bible demands freedom of speech as a political ideal. In fact one thing I love about christianity is that it can work in most political systems and philosophies. A Christian can maintain their integrity in a capitalist system with their charity, but also maintain it in a communist system with their diligence. However the bible is not against freedom of speech nor equality either. So for different reasons as a Super I would still believe strongly in equality and freedom of speech as a political ideal. Though I would not believe some of the things a Bright would believe, I would defend strongly their right to believe it and be accepted for those beliefs. (On a personal level I might talk about why I believe the contradictory beliefs that I do)
3) The brights (and dawkins) bring these discussion into relevance, which encourages dialogue
As I mentioned previously, the importance of encouraging further dialogue. I believe Christianity is true, and therefore if someone attacks its truth I think it should be defended (if it can’t then that is a serious issue). However it is much more difficult to defend against the claim that Christianity is irrelevant. The God delusion and the show ‘the root of all evil’ essentially said “Christianity (or theism) is incredibly important, people should be more aware of its importance because it is both wrong and potentially dangerous/evil”. The second part can be defended against, the first part supports our aims and support our aims it has. So many people are interested in talking with me now and usually it is because that book. (Even my flatmate who was a big evilbible reading socialist anti – theist 16 year old activist, though he doesn’t like the book anymore was literally counting down the days to that book coming out on his calendar).
Now with this point I think it is more the ‘new atheists’ who I would support. I don’t think the brights have quite the same aim as Dawkins with this respect and would be happy if christianity was relegated to irrelevancy. But I think they are similar enough for this point to still stand.
4) The brights (and dawkins) seem to attack the aspects of our religion that need to be attacked (for example blind faith)
This is one which again I don’t think the brights inherently stand for but many of their members probably will. There are bad aspects of our faith. I remember a conversation about calvinism with 2 teenagers. One was engaging with the discussion, whilst the other was finding it hard to keep up and understand the concepts. At the beginning of the conversation he was just saying “I don’t understand”, by the end he started trying to justify himself to make himself feel better and the comments subtlety changed to “I don’t NEED to understand because I just believe”. I could imagine, if he were around different people who thought like him (instead of us) in a little christian clique they would have given each other Christian Kudos. Soon the more crazy ideas that you can adhere to without explanation becomes their definition of ‘more faith’. There is nothing wrong with not fully understanding the things you believe (imo), there is nothing wrong with not being able to rigorously explain and defend your views. But there is something wrong when you use your lack of understanding to claim superiority over someone else.
And its just plain stupid to approach people outside the church with this kind of misguided arrogance. This is one example of an aspect of some people’s belief that Dawkins challenges well. I would prefer it if these challenges came from within the church, but would still welcome it from outside.
5) I really dislike the way some Christians treat those who want abortions and people who have a homosexuality disposition
Take the Christian Voice in the UK for example.
My belief is this, the bible makes a strong case against sexual impurity. It makes a really big deal about it, it also makes a big deal out of murder. In fact both these things should warrant a stoning. Jesus comes along and changes things a bit, although the stoning is no longer the correct treatment of these issues, he makes them even more difficult to satisfy. Lust constitutes sexual impurity and Anger constitutes murder.
Now politically I think I’d like more education on why sex with one partner is good. However these Christians seemed to have realised that if they tried to fight against sexual promiscuity or serial monogamy they would be fighting a losing battle (the cynical person in me thinks they would probably be fighting against those in their own ranks anyway). So instead of dealing with the issue the bible spends a lot of time dealing with they attack the smaller minor issues that the bible deals with. I might write more later on what I think about the whole abortion debate and maybe homosexuality but the reason why I think they spend so much time on those issues is because venerability.
People with a homosexual disposition have been made venerable by all of our culture. Historically this may be due to religion but presently is not, in England the BNP is very openly homophobic for example so they are easy for christians to attack. And people who have had an abortion or feel a need to are usually fairly venerable about it anyway (from my knowledge) so they are easy to attack. I think these christians target easy wins so they can feel good about themselves. By closing the Jerry Springer show they have fought a ‘win’ for their Lord. I don’t think this kind of protest is inherently wrong. I just think in most specific cases (such as with christian voice) they are just pathetic.
The Brights have their own reasons for opposing organisations like the Christian Voice and the political ‘fundies’ of America and as a Super I have my own reasons for joining arms with you.
6) Doubting and coming to an understanding is essential to maturity (including christian or spiritual maturity). This should be encourage by christians and is welcome from outside the church
I’ve talked before about the ‘ridiculousness of christianity’. I think it is very important that people doubt their beliefs then overcome their doubts. This is true, imo, of almost everything and is especially true of Christianity. If Christians think that the theory of evolution is damaging to children’s faith, by withholding information about it they are killing it, imo. So where as the brights will try and promote naturalism and challenges to supernaturalism for their reasons, I’d support almost all of those challenges for my own.
So there you go. As you can see, I’m not pretending that I’m a Christian and a Bright. I’m definitely a Super! But I think almost all the tenets of the Brights I could support for reasons that I think also push forward the Super’s agenda (Not in contest with the Brights but alongside).
I apologise for the typos, as I read this thread a bunch of times I’m sure I will slowly edit them out.