Rationalists' Frequently Asked Questions
Look here first for questions about being rational in general, or the Society of Reason in particular.
Critical thinking is carefully considered and informed judgement about what to believe or what to do in response to observations, experience, or arguments. Critical thought must be honest about potential flaws in the assumptions and information upon which it is based, and recognize that if new data or better supported assumptions come to light, all positions taken must be reconsidered, taking the new information into account.
While in common usage skepticism usually denotes a questioning attitude toward some claim or generally accepted fact, in a philosophical sense, skepticism is a mind-set that questions all assumptions before accepting them or their implications. A skeptic takes nothing for granted, and requires all claims to be well supported by evidence.
A worldview is the set of assumptions a person applies to his or her interactions with and understanding of the rest of the universe. A theist believes in the existence of a divine creator that takes part in the daily lives of its creations, and sees the world filtered by that worldview. A naturalist sees the universe as a big machine that goes its way with no supernatural intervention, and sees the world filtered through that worldview.
In it's purest definition, atheism is simply the lack of a belief in a god or gods. It has no inherent belief system of its own, and encompasses numerous non-religious worldviews.
In the real world, most atheist fall into one of two categories: positive atheism, in which a person specifically believes that there are and can be no gods, and negative atheism, in which a person simply has no belief in gods, either for lack of evidence or interest.
Agnosticism is the belief that is is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of non-material beings by material means. Agnosticism does not imply a position on the existence of gods or other supernatural beings, only that it is impossible to produce proof one way or the other.
"Bright" is a term invented to serve as a new, collective reference to people who reject superstition of all kinds, not just religion. A public action group called The Brights has been founded by the creators of the term. The Brights define bright as:
* A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
* A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
* The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview
Deism is the belief that a supernatural entity created the universe, but does not interfere in its operation or development. The Deist god is like a watchmaker, who designed and started the machinery that is the universe, as opposed to a theist god or gods, who not only created the universe, but also intervenes in the universe's operation and/or communicates with its occupants.
Naturalism is a worldview that denies the existence of any supernatural elements or phenomena in the universe. It proceeds from the idea that is a thing exists, it is by definition not supernatural, and lends itself to rational inquiry. It encompasses many other worldviews, such as Deism and Atheism.