Magazine article Free Inquiry

The Council's Position

Magazine article Free Inquiry

The Council's Position

Article excerpt

Best-selling science writers Richard Dawkins and Daniel C. Dennett have put their weight behind the so-called Brights movement, an effort to unite atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and other nonreligious people under the label "Brights." The term secular humanism, though still sometimes used as a pejorative term by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others, was embraced in the 1980s by those of us who describe ourselves proudly as secular humanists and possess a lack of faith in a divinity, yet who embrace humanistic values of liberty, equality, tolerance, and freethought. We co-opted that once derogatory term and made it our own, and it is properly descriptive of what we are. We are secularists who seek to maintain a strict separation of church and state and reject religious or supernatural sources of morality. And we are humanists who recognize the inherent dignity of humankind and the essential principles of liberty and equality, and who seek naturalistic bases for answering the philosophical and practical issues we face.

While we are pleased with the recent attention that the move to use the term Brights has brought to secular humanism, it should be recognized for what it is: a marketing ploy. Now, marketing is important, and old schools of thought are periodically repackaged and re-branded under new names. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as the ideas and history of those schools of thought are not lost in the attempt.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss publicly the virtues of secular humanism and its historical growth from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment up through to the present day. We are proud that more secular humanists have banded together under the Council for Secular Humanism than any other modern humanist group. But we are concerned that attempts to re-brand the precepts of secular humanism under a new and shiny name smack too much of Madison Avenue and may backfire. …

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