I love labels…REALLY???


by Kenneth Justice

~”Oh, so you’re one of those

Ever hear that before? In the Western World we love to label people;

—) ‘You’re a conservative’

—) ‘You’re a liberal’

—) ‘You’re an atheist’

—) ‘You’re a fill-in-the-blank’

Is it just me or does it seem that more often than not people have a tendency to mislabel each other. If someone finds out that you don’t completely agree with them on a particular issue then they have the propensity of labeling you as the ‘enemy’.

The blogging world is no different than any other facet of life. When people find out that you don’t ‘preach the party line’ then they immediately go on the attack because surely you must be against them if you don’t 100% agree with them….right???

Yet the simple fact of the matter is that there is no perfect ideology, no perfect religion, and no perfect political philosophy; because humanity is involved in these realms we know there are going to be flaws.

One of the great failures of the modern era (and perhaps past era’s as well) is our tendency to build walls around our ideologies that prevent us from having positive interaction and communication with others. If you’re starting point is that your beliefs about everything are perfect; then you’ve successfully prevented any positive conversation from occurring that you could have had with others.

One of my close friends has jumped ship. He and I used to have very similar views on religion, economics, and life, but he has exchanged his views for a new way-of-thinking. I’m okay with it…..I’m not offended or mad that he now views life very differently than he had in past years. Unfortunately, his new beliefs have prevented him from continuing to have any positive interaction with me; because ‘his views are right’ and ‘Kenneth’s views are wrong’; any dialogue we have tends to break down because he has surrounded himself with people that ‘only agree with him’. The most bothersome aspect of my friend’s devotion to his new beliefs is his entire lack of study and reading on the issues; he doesn’t hold to his beliefs because of well researched study….he holds to his beliefs because he has been influenced by others to believe them.

When we put ourselves into an isolated sub-culture it causes us to be disconnected from the rest of the world. In fact, it seems that more and more ‘sects’ of society would be better referred to as ‘cults’ due to the excessive level of devotion people give to their ideologies.

Historically a cult has been used in a religious connotation and defined as, “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object“…..yet, with so many various sects holding to such intense devotion to their non-religious ideologies….in recent years I’ve been using the word ‘cult’ as a way of better expressing their devotion.

As a Christian I have had to face my own share of problems within my own subset of fellow Christians. Too often I will hear Christians say, “The answer to every problem in our culture is that people need to become Christians and put their faith in Jesus”….sound familiar? Unfortunately this overly-simplistic way of thinking is not only disconnected from traditional Christianity, its also a very destructive attitude to society.

If ‘believing in Jesus’ is all that a society needs to be perfect than what the hell is wrong with Christian Churches where we find;

—) Divorce rates higher among church goers

—) Promiscuity higher among church going teens

—) Pornography use extremely high among youth pastors

—)  the Church’s almost total inability at making a positive impact in helping the poor, single mothers, widows, etc.

…..and many many more problems.

However, this article is not meant to bash my Christian faith; but merely to point out that in being a Christian; I  can’t pretend that the religious elements connected to my faith are perfect….because they are not. Otherwise I would be guilty of being just another ignoramus who is locked into a sad way of thinking.

I have to also be willing to have an open and honest dialogue with people of other faiths and religions and if at any point I begin to believe that ‘my particular church’ or ‘my particular denomination’ is the only perfect one….then at that point I have stopped participating in a sect and I have clearly entered into the world of cults.

Labels can be good because they can help us to fast forward conversations; I can say ‘I’m generally a moderate’ which helps to give the reader a ‘general’ view of where I’m coming from….

However, if we label people only to be able to attack them, accuse them, or confuse them…..then we have used ‘labeling’ in a disrespectful manner.

For now I think I’ll have another coffee


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

36 replies

  1. I am not a big fan of labeling people… unless that are happy to do it themselves, we shouldn’t do it

  2. Spot on and wonderfully written! About what you said about your friend? I have always hypothesized that two people can share a lot of the same beliefs and views, but it all it takes is one minute difference to come between them… This is sad… 😦 I have an atheist friend here on wordpress, we don’t always agree with each other’s views, but we have the unique ability to overlook those disagreements and seek out the positive and humanity in each other. 🙂

    • Hi culturemonk,

      Happy October to you! And SoundEagle agrees with spiritualphilosopher2013!

      This is an excellent post, and you have obviously put in a great deal of thoughts and distillations. Well done!

      Regardless of whether there is right or wrong, how one should adjudicate them, and whether one comes to realize that many people, rightly or wrongly, often believe that they have the truth, let us beware of rampant moral relativism.

      SoundEagle can demonstrate with the story of three blind persons probing the elephant: one probing the leg insists that the elephant is like a pole; the other probing the tail insists that the elephant is like a string; and the one probing the ear insists that the elephant is like a fan. Only the person who has probed the most or who is sighted can be regarded as the most informed, enlightened and correct about the elephant, which symbolises the reality or truth. And only this person is in the (best) position to judge, discern, decide, choose and understand.

      In addition, there are evolutionary bases in people’s sense of morality and in their behaviours. You will find a great deal of new understandings in multidisciplinary fields such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and behavioural sciences, epigenetics, brain and cognitive sciences, gene-culture coevolution, and many more. . . . .

      It is very unfortunate that too often even those who claim to believe in and adopt the scientific method still cherrypick the data and refuse to examine contrary evidences. They fail to understand and address many valid points, perspectives, domains and dimensions, and hence it is impossible for them to evaluate and change their standpoints, approaches and behaviours. You might have heard of this quote:

      For those who do believe, no proof is necessary.
      For those who don’t, no proof is possible.

      All in all, it is important for, and also courageous and admirable of, us to confront these sensitive and polarising issues amidst social prejudice, ignorance and bigotry, to have lived an examined life, and to be inquisitive and open-minded, such that “On this blog: All forms of commentary are welcomed and published.” Perhaps some of us could take comfort in the fact that in recent years, the Catholic Church has had to accept evolution, though on a theistic basis.

      For one of the most recent takes on atheism, visit http://www.thesixwaysofatheism.com.

      As for the pitfalls and fallacies of the design argument, visit the following:

      It will be nearly or altogether impossible to claim or prove that (the theory of) evolution is wrong or invalid, for it has been estimated that if evolution (both macro and micro) were wrong then more than 99% of all scientific disciplines would be wrong too due to the high degree of cross-collaborations and confluences of data. That is not (just) my claim; and it is from some scientists who have made the interconnections and stocktaking of disciplines and knowledges. When creationists try to debunk certain parts and/or the whole of the findings of evolutionists or evolutionary scientists, they have cited certain problems with some scientific claims and/or techniques which rely on or are founded on mathematics, measurements, instruments, various disciplines and so on in very interconnected ways, and have been reliably used for a long time. For example, many instruments rely on the veracity and reliability of quantum mechanics, electronics and electrical engineering, which in turn rely on other disciplines such as physics, mechanical engineering, optics and so on . . . . It is a very highly interconnected web.

      By “cross-collaborations” (whether by design or by accident, whether independently or co-dependently, and whether concurrently or not), I meant the cumulative results, benefits and synergies from the convergence of evidence from diverse disciplines and researchers who may or may not be collaborating and/or aware of each other’s findings and activities in the first place; and I also meant that research(ers) on/in evolution and evolutionary sciences have relied and benefited, both directly and indirectly, fertilizations, findings, paradigms and techniques from diverse disciplines. Let me quote Michael Shermer from his essay entitled “A skeptic’s journey for truth in science” as further examples:

      To be fair, not all claims are subject to laboratory experiments and statistical tests. Many historical and inferential sciences require nuanced analyses of data and a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry that point to an unmistakable conclusion. Just as detectives employ the convergence of evidence technique to deduce who most likely committed a crime, scientists employ the method to determine the likeliest explanation for a particular phenomenon. Cosmologists reconstruct the history of the universe by integrating data from cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics, spectroscopy, general relativity and quantum mechanics. Geologists reconstruct the history of Earth through a convergence of evidence from geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Archaeologists piece together the history of a civilization from pollen grains, kitchen middens, potshards, tools, works of art, written sources and other site-specific artifacts. Climate scientists prove anthropogenic global warming from the environmental sciences, planetary geology, geophysics, glaciology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, ecology, among other disciplines. Evolutionary biologists uncover the history of life on Earth from geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, genetics, and so on.

    • A lot to think about there 🙂

    • Indeed, CultureMonk! May you enjoy your Sunday and have a great week!

    • Hi culturemonk,

      Here is an integrated approach to studying not only culture but also society and environment as well as humans and nonhumans:

  3. I have several friends that have very different beliefs than me. I like being around people that think different than me. I think they keep me open minded.

  4. I hate labels (those used to discriminate against particular groups of people), because people who use them tend to think they’re better than everyone else… I believe everyone should be accorded their own respect, regardless of what faith they profess, their culture…etc. About Christians trying to show the rest of the world that faith could be the solution to all problems, it’s true/untrue depending on how people practice it. Christians and believers from other religions must drink the same water they preach. personally I’m a christian and I believe faith only works when we allow it to work; faith without actions is dead. so naturally, faith will not be a solution to anything if we do not back it up with our actions. for instance, it doesn’t make sense if a pastor/priest preaches against fornication…etc, then hook up with a woman he’s obviously not married to backstage. Faith fails to prevail when hypocrisy takes centre stage. From my own experiences, I know that true faith solves many things.
    People don’t have to be necessarily Christians for them to find lasting solutions to their problems; Jesus Himself said some pagans are better than Christians because many Christians fail to realize the real essence of being believers.
    I agree with you; we all must be open-minded when dealing with everyone else. We were not meant to be similar, and it is our differences that make us beautiful and unique.

  5. I’m not sure what would happen to people if they stopped labeling others – spontaneously combust I should imagine. I certainly have to deal with labels given how short I am. People seem to have issue with the idea that I am JUST a short person; it’s automatically assumed I must be a “little person” (aka someone with dwarfisim/midget) but I am not. I do not have dwarfism, I’m just short but people can’t seem to accept that. There are other labels also but those tend to not be as bad in terms of my having to deal with it. I think it’s ridiculous and completely absurd that we (as in humans in general) feel it necessary to label people. Labels is why it’s so hard to “deal with” or “understand” transgendered people or even homosexuals. They challenge traditional “labels” and people can’t handle it. It’s sad really. People are people – get over it. Move on and focus on your own life instead of worrying about others (at least in that sense).

    • I was at the outdoor market today shopping for vegetables and this dude was working one of the stalls…he must have been at least 7’1 with a huge afro….I noticed people giving him second looks, sometimes life isn’t fair; if youre taller than average or if you’re shorter than average people can be rude and obnoxious….not much else to do except have a positive attitude like yours 🙂

    • well thank you! I try 🙂 yes sometimes that really is all you can do – it’s as Ron White says – you can’t fix stupid lol.

  6. This post is eye opening. Sadly, I can honestly say I have labeled people. One in particular, that I labeled “an atheist”,.. (following peers) ….
    As I got to know this person, I realized I could not have been more wrong. There HAS to be a special place in heaven for this man. He visits nursing homes daily; he has no one there that is a living relative…he does it for love. Visits shut ins weekly. Sings hymns, takes food or groceries and pays out of his own pocket.
    No one has ever asked him about God. I did.
    He simply said that he is not a fan of organized religion. He was not aethieist. He did believe in God.

    I realized I had judged him. ME. Being a Christian.

    I was only attending church.

    HE was serving God.

    There is a difference.

  7. Love that you point out that Labels can be used in a disrespectful manner. In that context Labels are just weapons being used by hateful people.
    In psychological realms labels are “maddening”. A child Labeled as having “oppositional diasorder” was denied Department of Vocational Rehabilitation services after 6 months of testing because she said “Fuck You” once.

    • U nailed it: because my background is psychology….labels were a MAJOR part of my college experience and counseling work…whether we agreed with them or not we were taught to label behaviors

  8. You’re right, labeling others and believing in those labels IS a “sad way of thinking” that only leads to more sadness in our culture. You’d think at least some us labelers would wonder why their narrow-mindedness left them feeling sad and discouraged, and then act to correct it.

  9. A thousand times yes. The dichotomies of the labels you speak of have put me in the crosshairs of some folks who come down hard on opposite sides. For them, I’m “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” because I may be seen as betraying allies or comforting enemies if I speak to all the facets that is me. In person it is not too bad, but on the Internet, it can be intensely bitter. Sex and religion can be VERY bad– people yell at me online because I happen to be of bisexual orientation, yet I go to church and do my best to live my faith of choice. So much cognitive dissonance for them! Yet I remain me. Ah well.

  10. Reblogged this on the tao of jaklumen and commented:
    Kenneth writes passionately about a subject I have touched on: labels and the dichotomies they exist in (us vs. them, etc.) As my Sifu-of-Sorts said to me, why cannot people accept people as unique individuals? That is, can we simply just embrace the wholeness in a person, rather than trying to pick out what seems to fit our paradigm/worldview?

  11. Labels are used to much in everything we do or read. And to often used to proclaim to be better or used as discrimination.
    Putting faith in Jesus. And walk his path, means to love all equally as he done, criminals, lepers (modern version is the gay community being casted out) he embraced them all. Never using labels. Unlike what you hear a lot from church these days. Not attacking faith and not saying every one is like that.

  12. Labeling things and people is natural and understandable, if not always excusable. We humans need to categorize things. Consider the specialty of Cladistics and Taxonomy from Biology. Biologist need to classify organisms into groups. They do this because it is a powerful tool for studying organisms and their environments. We Geologist love to classify and codify rocks and their environments. We need to do this to simply the problem. You can work on a very complex problem more effectively if you can make accurate and useful simplifications to the system by classifying things. This is human nature. The problem occurs when over simplify something or we erroneously file something into a category it should not go into. Racial stereotypes jump to mind, as do stereotypes based on religion and other human characteristics. We can do harm with this practice, but we also do a lot of good with it as well. Let’s not toss the labeling baby out with the bathwater. It is a tool, and like any tool it can be misused, that doesn’t make it in and of itself bad.

  13. someone labeled me an enigma once . . . I liked that . . .

  14. I enjoy your views on culture, religion, and especially…coffee!

  15. Way to label people who label people.

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