I listen to a few different podcasts in my free time (cause I’m a nerd) which are usually educational in some way. They cover a variety of topics such as science, economics, politics, philosophy, religion, and even the paranormal.
I was listening to one the other day where the guest (a very prominent science advocate) was talking about being labeled as an atheist and how he didn’t like that people have to put a label on him in order to feel like they know what he believes. While he doesn’t acknowledge the existence of God, he feels there are too many assumptions made about how an atheist should or shouldn’t behave or what they stand for. He would rather be viewed as an individual with his own thoughts and beliefs than be thrown into a category in which he may not completely fit.
I think he brings up a good point about our constant need to label people. While it does make it easier for us to feel like we know a person or to remember things about someone, labeling people in these broad categories probably does more harm than good. I mean, how much do you like it when someone makes an assumption about you that isn’t true and it shapes their opinion of who you are or how they think you should act?
There’s a lot of baggage that come with labels, especially certain ones like Atheist, or Liberal, or even Christian. I don’t know about you, but my beliefs and perspective on life is always changing and developing. It’s called growth. I’m not saying there aren’t things I hold as being true, I just acknowledge that life is way more complex than I’ll ever understand at one point in time and I’m okay with letting my understanding develop as I get older.
To feel the need to label myself as one thing or another can be problematic to my ability to learn new things, things that don’t fit neatly into my current belief system. This way of thinking scares a lot of people. And I can understand why. Sometimes it’s easier to not ask questions and just stick with what you know. That’s boring to me though.
It’s one thing to label yourself, but to always try to label others is way worse. How are you to get to know someone if you already think you have them figured out? If you have a preconceived idea of what you think a Catholic is, when you meet someone who attends a Catholic Church and attribute your ideas of that label to that person, you are probably less likely to get to know who that person really is.
I’m not saying labels don’t have their place. Labels and categories can be very useful in organizing things or trying to make sense of things, but they’re not always completely accurate. What’s important is that you don’t let them limit your ability to learn and grow.
Learn and Grow… I feel like I use those words a lot.