In today’s society, labels are political. Feminism, Atheism, LGBT etc. All political.
Sam Harris once said that in a fully rational world, atheists wouldn’t exist, because we wouldn’t need to identify ourselves by things that don’t exist. In the same vein, I posit that in a world of equality, feminism wouldn’t exist, because we wouldn’t need a label to treat everyone equally irrespective of gender.
For now though, these labels are important in the sense that they serve as a quick means of pushing a particular narrative into the public consciousness. A means of letting the world know that there is another way to live, a different way and that it is also okay to live like that.
While this is all fine and good, sometimes we tend to also forget that these labels are simply political tags and we now define ourselves by our labels. Nkechi Bianze is a feminist, therefore every single action or statement of Nkechi is viewed through the lens of feminism. If Nkechi insults a man, it is proof that feminism is just a cover for women to bring down men. We tend to forget that Nkechi is a human first before the tag, Feminist. We have now become so consumed by our political labels that we can no longer differentiate between a person and the political label they identify with.
Another problem with this is also the need to box everyone into one label or the other. When Pope Itodo criticised Christianity in a Facebook post, instead of addressing the points he raised, the topic became whether he was an atheist or not. Recently, Nnanyi Elugo made a Facebook post on the utility of supernatural beliefs, and again, the comments section became an argument on whether he was an atheist or not. It appears that we have now become more concerned about labels rather than tackling the issues these labels are meant to tackle. If someone is a Christian but is in support of secularism and the promotion of proper science education, why is that not enough? If someone says the bible doesn’t make sense, why is it more important to know if the person is an atheist rather than show how the person’s assertion is wrong? Why is it more important to know if a person is gay than whether gay rights are human rights too?
It doesn’t matter to me if Itodo or Nnayi is an atheist. What matters is that these guys are never going to do anything stupid or dangerous in the name of God or religion, and that they are more concerned with equality, science education and secularism.
While a sentimental part of me probably wants everyone to be an atheist, the rational part realises that that is practically impossible and the realistic thing to do is push for a truly secular, prosperous and egalitarian society. I think this is most important.
Labels are a means to an end. They are not an end in itself.
Written by Isaiah Akorita