There’s a neologism afoot. Some folks want the noun bright to be used to mean atheist, or “a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view.” Examples of proper use of the new term include “Daniel Dennett is a bright,” “You can register as a bright at this website,” and “I think brights should have the same rights as everyone else.” It would not be correct to say something like “there are more bright people than you might realize,” since bright already has another meaning as an adjective. The movement to replace “atheist” with the nicer term “bright” is modeled after the success of the term “gay” for “homosexual.” It is hoped that it will become more socially acceptable to be a bright, and that closet brights will be able to ‘come out’ without recrimination.
The bright movement brings to mind several questions:
- Are brights a disadvantaged minority group?
- Are there lots of closet brights out there?
- Given the current social atmosphere, do brights have a good reason for staying in the closet?
- Is a social atmosphere that is more accepting of brights desirable?
- Could introducing a new word like bright help brights become more socially accepted?
- Will this movement to give the term bright a new meaning be successful? That is, will this use of the term bright become widespread?
Some of these questions are more GD material, so I’ll stick to the last two. My view is that a term like this could help the bright cause – “atheist” sounds so negative and brights are not unified behind any other term. Also, terms like “secular humanist” are too academic-sounding.
However, I don’t think that the term bright will become widespread. A main problem is that the word bright already has too many meanings & uses. Gay had a fairly limited use as “happy” and was rather expendable in that role, and now “gay” is almost absent from our language outside of its new use. Bright, however, has many meanings which are not likely to go away. It’s bright out. He’s a bright kid. Turn on your brights when you’re driving at night in the country. It’s also a more vivid term than “gay,” – it’s related to light and vision, and has its positive meanings & connotations largely because of a common metaphor associating light with good or truth. People wouldn’t want atheism to co-opt that metaphorical position. Additionally, despite claims to the contrary by its supporters, saying “I’m a bright” sounds an awful lot like saying “I’m bright,” which makes it come across as arrogant.
What do you think?