No more labels

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The word 'atheist' on a red label.

We shouldn’t be labeled because of our beliefs. (Photo by Jason Michael)

Recently I came to the well-thought-out conclusion and decision to no longer label myself. I will no longer consider myself as a member of a particular religious denomination or of any particular religious philosophy or even consider myself as being non-religious or atheist. I have what I believe to be the truth—my truth—truth as I see it. If someone wants to label me “Buddhist” because I meditate and live by the five lay precepts, that is their label. If they want to call me an “atheist” because I don’t believe in divine intervention, creationism, the divinity of Christ, or any of the fundamental concepts of the Abrahamic religions, “atheist” is their label, not mine. Do I believe in the concept of an omniscient God who is all-knowing and all-seeing? Clearly not. Do I believe in the various dogmas, rituals, and exclusionary practices of organized religions? No. So why should I be labeled? I shouldn’t.

Even though I don’t believe in organized religion, I do believe in human spirituality. There is an unexplained energy in our lives that has been labeled the soul, spirit, spirituality, or whatever. I think organized religion comes from this as a way of trying to explain it.

Nevertheless, the Dharma has offered me an alternate explanation of what this energy is and has shown me a different philosophy. The Dharma is the closest that any religious writings have ever come to fitting with the way I feel inside. No, I don’t believe in most of the ritual (even though it is there as representations of things) or in the religious dogma. But the concepts of impermanence and the goal of loving-kindness are two of the things that fit me like a glove. Due to Dharma, meditation, and introspection, my mind and thought processes have changed. Maybe I’ve matured too? Then again, maybe the Dharma, self-awareness, and meditation have been the reasons I’ve matured.

Out of the many things that Dharma has shown me, two that are especially important are perspective and impermanence. I think and feel much differently than before. My perspective has been radically altered for the better, and my understanding of impermanence influences my life everyday. I’ve never claimed to be a full-on, hard-core Buddhist, but I am an adherent to the Buddhist philosophy. It has changed my life. I tell people not to label me a Buddhist, but to call me a man. I am not a label; I cannot truly be labeled. But I am a man, at least in this life. And I intend to be a good man, a good person, for the remainder of my stay in this incarnation. The Dharma has helped me to be able to be who and what I truly am: a person who cares about many things and intends to help others.

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