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You know, I do hate the term atheist. I really hate it as much as the term religious, Christian, Muslim, black, white, Caucasian, Indian, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative. I find though that if I don't apply a label (and in the past I have not), everyone else always does it for me. EVERYONE. It disenfranchises who I am, and also disenfranchises who they are. I am not saying we should ignore what makes us who we are, but need to accept what we are, and not redefine other people's identities. Accept them. I know, you are thinking, But, just don't talk about hot topics of any kind and you won't have the issue of being labeled. First, I love discussion, and even IF I managed to avoid hot button topics, people around me will not be able to help but notice I don't attend church. As soon as I kindly explain I am not interested to a Jehovah Witness or the Baptist missionaries on my doorstep, I am labeled. Either I'm lost, an atheist, or something along that line, but surely not a believer since I refused to talk about it. Still, despite all this, come this New Year (yes I do set goals and keep them), I will try to once again drop the label, and not partake of any giving of them either. People are just that, people. Labels are more than divisive, on some levels I would say they are a form of cruelty. I go so far as to say they are cruel because what happens when you apply a label? You separate yourself from the rest of the world, fellow humanity, and that is an aggressive thing to do. I don't consider myself apart from humanity, really. Even when folks self identify as a Christian or Tea Bagger, etc.., I still am willing to pay my share of taxes to help them get that break in housing, tax credit, whatever. They need a donation, I will help if it is within my power to do so. And by this behavior I get labeled: Liberal, Democrat, Socialist, Communist, Humanist, among other things. It stings, and ten years ago, that sting would have affected me to the point that I wouldn't dare even speak to someone who lived in certain types of neighborhoods or lived in ways I felt were personally inappropriate. Automatically I would exclude them from my life, and disregard their need. See, these labels are not just about words, they are about fear and prejudice. It's about exemplifying the differences between us and using those differences as an excuse to receive entitlements the other does not receive. Instead of addressing their fears, we encourage them to blossom further. When I truly listen, I'm talking about more than words here, but the empathic elements interwoven inside their message, you often will find the solution to the problem at the same time. Labels prevent this process entirely. Further than that, these labels, no, let's call them for what they are -- Divisions -- these divisions breed ignorance, hate, anger, and violence. My bottom line here is that my differences do not define my care and empathy for others, but when I use that label: Atheist? It is assumed I am redefining my empathy based on our differences. Which, if the other party would stop their labeling for a few minutes, they would see, hear, and FEEL that coming from me is not a desire to withhold myself, but to invite myself into their lives further. One thing I am absolutely NOT guilty of is refusing to listen. I know I have my memes on here and hotly written blogs, but if someone wants to discuss with me the issue at hand, I am always here with open ears. I won't always be able to agree, and probably not always be able to understand, but I do try to let the other side of the coin present their side, and I do my best to clear the way for a human level type of connection. I want to know you. I want to feel you. And even if I don't get to, I still care about you. So, come January 1st, I'm not an atheist. I'm not an Independent. I'm just a woman, mother, and ... oh, shit those are labels too, huh.. Fuck it then... I'm human.