The Brights movement is a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic world view. It was co-founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell in 2003. The noun 'bright' was coined by Geisert as a positive-sounding umbrella term, and Futrell defined it as "an individual whose worldview is naturalistic (free from supernatural and mystical elements)".
This created the basis for a civic constituency to pursue the movement's three major aims:
The brights movement has been formed as an Internet constituency of individuals. Its hub is The Brights' Net web site, but each individual has autonomy to speak for him/herself. The Brights' Net's tagline is now: "Illuminating and Elevating the Naturalistic Worldview".
In deciding to attend the "Godless Americans March on Washington" in 2002, Paul disliked the label "godless" and resolved to identify a better term to unite the "community of reason". He sought a new, positive word that might become well-accepted, in the same way that the term "gay" has come to mean "homosexual". In late 2002, Paul coined the noun "bright", but did not announce it immediately.
Working with Mynga Futrell, the co-founders of the brights movement wanted to connect and galvanize the many individuals who were non-religious, but who were not associated with the many philosophical organisations already in existence. To achieve this they created not only the definition of "a bright", but also the idea of a civic constituency that would coalesce through the Internet.
Having tested this idea during the early months of 2003, they launched the Brights Net website on June 4, 2003. The movement gained early publicity through articles by Richard Dawkins in The Guardian and Wired, and by Daniel Dennett in the New York Times.. Within a year, registered Brights numbered in five figures and spanned 85 nations.
The movement has continued to grow and experienced accelerated registrations following media debate around "new atheism prompted by a series of book releases in late 2006 including The God Delusion, Breaking the Spell, God is not Great, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. As of August 2008 over 40,000 Brights have registered from 179 nations.
The Brights' Net recommends project priorities and facilitates the formation of local groups, known as Brights' Local Constituencies (BLCs). There are BLCs in London, Paris, several cities in the United States and Canada, and various other locations worldwide.
However, Brights act autonomously in doing their part for the furtherance of the brights movement. No person or entity, including The Brights' Net Co-directors, can speak for all Brights.
However, "the broader intent is inclusive of the many-varied persons whose worldview is naturalistic" but are in the "general population", as opposed to associating solely with the "community of reason". So persons who can declare their naturalistic worldview using the term bright extend beyond the familiar secularist categories. Registrations even include some members of the clergy, such as Presbyterian ministers and a Church History Professor and ordained priest.
Gay is succinct, uplifting, positive: an "up" word, where homosexual is a down word, and queer, faggot and pooftah are insults. Those of us who subscribe to no religion; those of us whose view of the universe is natural rather than supernatural; those of us who rejoice in the real and scorn the false comfort of the unreal, we need a word of our own, a word like "gay". ... Like gay, it should be a noun hijacked from an adjective, with its original meaning changed but not too much. Like gay, it should be catchy: a potentially prolific meme. Like gay, it should be positive, warm, cheerful, bright.
Despite the explicit difference between the noun and adjective, there have been comments on the comparison. In his Wired article Dawkins states, "Whether there is a statistical tendency for brights [noun] to be bright [adjective] is a matter for research." Daniel Dennett, in his book Breaking the Spell, suggests that if non-naturalists are concerned with this connotation of the word bright, then they should invent an equally positive sounding word for themselves, like supers (i.e., one whose worldview contains supernaturalism). Geisert and Futrell maintain that the neologism has always had a kinship with the Enlightenment, a movement which celebrated science, free inquiry, and a spirit of skepticism; they have endorsed the use of super as the antonym to bright.
Notable brights include biologists Richard Dawkins and Richard J. Roberts, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and stage magicians and debunkers James Randi, Penn Jillette, and Teller. Other brights include Amy Alkon, Sheldon Lee Glashow, Babu Gogineni, Edwin Kagin, Mel Lipman, Air America Radio talk show host Lionel and Massimo Pigliucci.
Similarly, Michael Shermer, who is an Enthusiastic Bright , has nevertheless resisted using the term to describe himself, saying, "I don't call myself a Bright.”
There was also a negative response, largely objecting to the term that had been chosen [not by me]: bright, which seemed to imply that others were dim or stupid. But the term, modeled on the highly successful hijacking of the ordinary word "gay" by homosexuals, does not have to have that implication. Those who are not gays are not necessarily glum; they're straight. Those who are not brights are not necessarily dim.
Dennett goes on to pose the idea that super may serve well as a positive title for those who believe in the supernatural. He also suggested this during his presentation at the Atheist Alliance International '07 convention.