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Who are the Brights?

By: Justin Wishart

A friend just gave me a news article from The Olds Albertan. (Tuesday, November 20, 2012, pg. 5) The title of the article was, Various religions tackle free speech at conference. The opening line summed up the event: “Various religious viewpoints tackled the issues of freedom of speech and respect for religious sanctities on Thursday evening at the Olds College Alumni Centre.”

Ironically, among the presenters was Guillermo Barron. Barron represented the “religious viewpoint” of Atheism, or as was also mentioned throughout the article, the “Brights”.  Think about this for a second. What is a non-religious person doing talking at an event that proposes positions FROM religious perspectives?

The article gets weirder. “Barron said atheism espouses equal time for all viewpoints…” Really? Where does atheism espouse any such thing? For example, Christians can point to Scripture as something that can objectively express our position on this subject, but what can an atheist point to?

There is no unifying belief within atheism except the non-belief in any god. To put it another way, there is no perspective from which an atheist can begin to talk about this issue in a unified manner. Which then brings us back to why a representative of atheism was invited to this talk and why someone would accept the invitation attempting to represent a group that simply cannot be represented on this issue? A quote attributed to him highlights this problem. “My perspective is that I really believe in free speech, but I also agree in a self-imposed sense of respect for other people, and not to do things needlessly that would offend someone. I think that other people’s beliefs who disagree with me are wrong, but… I can’t really make a good argument that there should be some prohibition on those people saying those things.”

It’s all well and good that Barron talks from his perspective, but why should I care if he is only representing himself? This is about a “religious viewpoint” and Barron cannot possibly have anything meaningful to say here. Anything he says on this subject will be either subjective or arbitrary. If Barron is in possession of some agreed upon fundamental atheistic moral code, then he might be able to say something objective. I would love to see such a list myself. But, as far as I know, nobody has such a list. 

This brings us back to the beloved self-title of many atheists: “Brights”. They seem to like this self-designation because they feel it connects them to the Enlightenment. Get it? To be people of the EnLIGHTenment is to be bright. They will predictably ignore the fact that it was Christians who ushered in the Enlightenment. But, the self-title also makes them feel good about themselves; they feel superior to theists. Atheists are the “Brights”, which I then suppose makes theists the “Dims”. But, it is only the theist position, in their verities, that can have any chance of saying anything here. It is therefore the atheist, on this issue, who cannot shed any light. This seems to make atheists the “Dims” and the theists the “Brights” when it comes to positions on free speech. Who are the real Brights?
  • Good read. Isn’t the belief that their is no God, in itself a belief? If Christians agree that everyone operates from a belief system, isn’t that a religion?

  • Good question, I would answer this by saying that this would depend on how you define “religion”. This is a notoriously difficult word to define.