Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Fallacy of Labels - Part Two

Atheists still rank as bad people according to an article released on March 21, 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution. Not surprised, but more importantly, really just tired of still being categorized.

Friendly Atheist thinks we should still be vocal and continue to speak out against people who claim the atheist label is an automatic given of 'badness'. And he's not wrong, but what I disagree with is that we should stand behind a label as if that is what represents us, as in "Hey man, you got the wrong idea about us atheists! We're good!"

Labels are simply many descriptors of who we are as individuals. Labels that we identify with tell people how we live, what we think, what role we play in a situation, what we pursue, where we come from, how we align politically, it gives others around us a general idea of our ideology and thought process; to name just a few.

Labels suck... I've said this before and this recent post brings me back to the original reason for my posting about it to being with. Labels, in and of themselves, suck. Claiming that atheists (the label) are good, is wrong. Atheists, like any other group or label, have the potential of being good people, and some just do not rise to that descriptor of being 'good' people. Their actions would speak otherwise.

We shouldn't be furthering the idea that atheists are just better people because the 'other people' got the definition wrong. No, we should be telling those people they need to stop buying into a descriptor they got wrong and in some cases we might actually have to say "Yeah, he's a bad person AND he identifies as an atheist." Teach those that would knock the label the difference... THAT is what we should be promoting.

It's cool if we want to identify as atheists (it's a great descriptor for not believing in a god), but if we want to show the world that we are 'good people' then we should damn well act like it, too! We should be demonstrably showing the world what kind of people we are through our actions. And this goes for any group - agnostics/non-believers/christians/hindus/catholics/muslims... you get my point.

We will never truly get to a place where stereotypes, labels or groups go away and we will continue to be dismissed, discriminated against or marginalized if we don't stop valuing a group rather than individuals and their contributions and efforts. If we continue to reduce the people to labels, that is all they will only ever be.

These studies and, honestly, the continued approval needed by any community from these kinds of studies only goes to show that we value a label more than we do the actions of the individuals who happen to identify with that label.

I just think that sucks.

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