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07.18.2003

i'm just not that bright

From a post at Random Neural Misfirings, I've discovered a whole can of worms. There's some great undercurrent here sweeping me up with it; whether that's just a way for me to think of these coincidences or not I don't know. "Brights" is a term, coined by someone, I'm sure (there's a website I haven't fumbled through yet), which is supposed to be an umbrella term for people with a naturalist worldview, including atheists, agnostics, and all the rest of us godless folk.

What really got me thinking about it was an article by a writer who I've always been fond of, Daniel Dennett (he wrote The Mind's I with Douglas Hofstadter, which is a great collection of essays regarding consciousness.) In the article he talks about having "outted" himself as a Bright.

My problem with this (as opposed to my problem(s) with everything else,) comes out of his opening paragraph, of which this is an excerpt:

We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny -- or God. We disagree about many things, and hold a variety of views about morality, politics and the meaning of life, but we share a disbelief in black magic -- and life after death.

I'm an agnostic to the very hutch of my stump; I've got the word "skeptic," in a caligraphic font, tattooed across my forehead. There's an exclamation point after it. But I freaking hate that Dennett just said that this group of people shares a disbelief in life after death. To me, in order to truly disbelieve something, there'd better be some goddamned evidence.

I think I understand the point of this Bright thing. I have myself, especially since 9/11, felt overwhelmed by the feeling that it's not okay to be logical anymore. Politicians, and the people in this country (at least the ones talking) bring God into every discussion about what's going on in the world. Everytime I hear it I'm hearing nails on a chalkboard. Dennett makes a good point when he says, "Politicians don't think they even have to pay us lip service, and leaders who wouldn't be caught dead making religious or ethnic slurs don't hesitate to disparage the 'godless' among us."

So there's a worthwhile goal here, as far as I'm concerned. It would be a good thing not to feel bad about being agnostic. But it seems to me you're shooting yourself in the foot if you try to do this by pretending all of us who fall under this broad, ill-defined term share much of anything. The beliefs of an atheist are just about as alien to me as the beliefs of a godperson. My head just isn't built to be able to rule anything out. To me believing there isn't a god is like believing there's not a red square on the other side of the card I'm holding up. A naturalist, anyone who's using logic is going to say that there's no way to know WHAT isn't pictured on the other side of that card. The chances are pretty damned slim that it's a red square, but they aren't null.

(Since I was blathering at the start of this about coincidence and "some great undercurrent," here's some other stuff I've been reading in the past couple of days: Battleground God, from the Philosopers' Magazine online, tests your belief systems relating to God for logical consistencies. The thing about the Creationist Science Fair I already linked to last night. Somewhere else on that Philosophy site there was mention of Daniel Dennett. I think. A whole fucking undercurrent, man.)

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