1.) How do you avoid being paranoid when reading it?!? I find the chapter ‘Problems with Islam’ to be deeply unsettling. To the point of paranoia ! I guess I have a tendency to be a bit naïve and gullible, so the chapter is quite unsettling for me. It is not made any less unsettling by the fact that there are two muslims in my study group. (Which by the way seem like really nice people).
If you think the issue is specific to Islam then I think you are missing the point—it isn’t. Don’t become a racist/islamaphobe - recognize the underlying dangers and apply them generally—not just to specific groups of people. There is a difference between pointing to a specific issue and discussing it and over generalizing from it.
If you really want to be paranoid just remember that Christians have done and STILL do equally horrible things throughout the world and Atheists have done and STILL do equally horrible things throughout the world.
And when societies do these things, they generally do them because *ISMs (as in “system, school of thought”, NOT as in “class of persons” - atheism is a class of persons who have a common position on a singular question, it is not a general school of thought) are powerful tools of manipulation.
People allow the *ISM to replace careful thought in determining their actions—they get caught up in the movement and that allows the movement to use them as tools to do horrible things, often to those who disagree with them. Every individual person needs to understand that and guard themselves against it by being aware of it).
Do NOT allow yourself to fall into demonization modes. Human beings who happen to be Muslim, or Christian, or whatever are not the problem. If their actions violate civil behavior then they need to be removed from society for our mutual protection (and if we were decent human beings, their rehabilitation). We need to remember that people who do horrible things are broken, malfunctioning human beings - but they are still human beings who deserve our respect for their personage and our help when we can give it (we unfortunately don’t know how to fix everything that is wrong with people).
Don’t be an ideologist—recognize that human behaviors are extremely complex and no one solution is going to work for all problems nor for all sets of people nor for all time. Don’t make false equivalencies. The economics of cheap, easy to produce, low-barrier to entry commodity items (where open and free markets work well) is not the same as the economics of financial instruments (which work well as private, but highly regulated markets) is not the same as the economics of health care (where a mix of highly regulated public and private controls might work better in our current environment). And in all cases, what works “best” might change as our society changes. I don’t care if everyone has a cordless laser mouse, I DO CARE if everyone has a minimum of preventative and necessary medical care. These are NOT equivalent markets and I reject any approach that says “way X is the only way to run all markets, for all time, for all situations”. This is what I dislike about libertarians—their approach works well for thousands of common items and examples and they take those as false Confirmation that “way X” is the only way that works and will work in all situations. When it comes to basic health and safety where we KNOW we can do better it is not acceptable to allow failures to kill people in ridiculous ways—the market can NEVER correct for having failed in such unacceptable and preventable ways.
Another example is that gun control works well in Japan - it would not work well in Texas in today’s world. Different cultures, different histories, different approaches are required. We need realistic, complicated, evolving approaches to solving our problems.
And also, things like Nationalism are just as bad as fundamentalist extremists. No, your country is not special. You are not special. Your country does horrible things—that is a universal. The US has *#*$#ed up so many things I cannot even imagine what they all might be—and I’m fairly sure some of the worst remain hidden secrets. Iran-contra, Panama, how we treated the Native Americans and the untold millions of them we killed, prohibition, and the on-going drug war… it’s all a nightmare of epic proportions. But it isn’t going away so we have to strive to do better. And it’s not like any other country is substantially better, and many are far worse. The US seems to be a hotbed of extreme, festering ignorance right now. People are starting to hate educated people. I think it’s largely because they are getting absolutely screwed over and their anger is misdirected at education instead of at the people who sold them out—but I could be wrong.
How do you guys handle this?
I remember that life has existed as a continuous, unbroken chain for ~4.6B years and even at our worst it will continue on well after the current homo sapien species has passed away out of even distant memory. If we do well, we might be around a little longer, or replaced by a different model, but we will eventually be gone.
I also read history and understand that in many ways, things were FAR worse in the past. People had extremely limited access to information about their world which allowed sociopaths motivated to exploit others to do so on a massive scale.
I also am motivated by my own personal death—I don’t claim to know what will happen but all the evidence I have suggests that I will simply cease to be. That means I only have THIS life to live and experience and because I have empathy for others I want our mutual journey to be a beneficial one. If it turns out I’m wrong then so be it, but I would rather live as if this was my only opportunity because it is the only one I can be certain of.
2.) The notes ! Aaarrgh, the notes ! I constantly move back and forth in the book to read the notes as I come across them. This is actually disturbing my reading experience. Are the notes of substantial importance to understand the book, or can I happily ignore them without loosing anything in the book?
It depends on how much you already know. Find a system that works for you—perhaps try skimming the notes for a chapter at a time so when you are reading you will already have the context in mind and don’t need to interrupt your reading flow.