Books

Young Atheists Handbook cover (UK)

This is a book for anyone who thinks about what they should believe and how they should live. It’s for those who may need the facts and the ideas, as well as the courage, to break free from inherited beliefs. In this powerful narrative, Alom Shaha shows that it is possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling, and meaningful life without God.

What if no one’s watching?
What if when we’re dead
We are just dead?
What if it’s just us down here?
What if God is just an idea
Someone put in your head?
– Ani DiFranco

About the book

The Young Atheist’s Handbook is a book for anyone who thinks about what they should believe, and how they should live their life. It may outrage some, disgust others, but I hope it will inspire and help many more to make up their own minds.

I grew up in a strict Bangladeshi Muslim community in South-East London in the 1970s and 80s. I was expected to go to mosque regularly and recite passages in Arabic from the Quran, without being told what they meant. I spent my teenage years juggling two utterly different worlds: my chaotic, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic family life on a council estate, and that of a student at a privileged private school set amongst the idyllic green playing fields of Dulwich.

In the years since I realized I neither had nor wanted faith in the religious sense, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the world and how to develop my own moral and ethical compass. The Young Atheist’s Handbook is the result of that thinking.

The roots of my beliefs are based not in the religion of my birth but in the science I learned at school and the books I devoured at home. I was lucky to find a way to think for myself about how the world works, about God and faith and doubt, and how to live my life in the best possible way without necessarily being tied down to what my parents, priests or teachers might have told me to believe.

The book is made up of a series of “lessons”, which explore religion in the context of knowledge from science and philosophy, as well as ideas from the greatest minds in history. Along the way, I’ll tell the story of how I came to question the beliefs that were handed down to me by my parents, how I encountered the ideas that I now hold dear and how I came to define myself as an atheist. Combining factual content with a personal narrative, I’ve created a handbook for others who, like me, may need the facts and the ideas – and the courage – to break free from the beliefs they have simply inherited, and to decide for themselves what they believe and who they want to be.

The Young Atheist’s Handbook is published in Australia by the lovely people at Scribe Publications and in the UK by Biteback Publishing. It is also available in a Turkish language edition. Rights for the US and Canada and other international territories are still available. For any further information, drop me a line or contact my agent Catherine Clarke at the Felicity Bryan Literary Agency.

Check back for updates on the book’s progress and for sample chapters.

Read more about the book

  • carrots May 22, 2011 Reply

    I love you x

  • Mark E J Oct 19, 2011 Reply

    Hi Alom,

    Good to see you’re still in business! This could be a real moneyspinner: required reading for RE syllabi?

    Be interested to skim a few chapters!

    Mark

  • Jackie Potter Jan 2, 2012 Reply

    Wow! I was already looking forward to reading this because you are, obviously, quite brilliant and lovely and someone whose opinion I really respect. But, now that some really amazingly cool people have said just how much they have enjoyed and appreciated reading it, I am going to pester you mercilessly until I get a copy.

    You know that shape you see out of the corner of your eye sometimes but when you turn around it’s gone? That’ll be me, pestering you, until I get my copy.

    But seriously, this looks amazing. I hope Australia is ready for The Shaha and his pretty turquoise & gold companion. Your baby is beautiful & I can’t wait to meet her.

  • Lindsey Jan 17, 2012 Reply

    Hi Alom
    I want to congratulate you on your journey.

    I am really looking forward to the book coming to the UK.

    Can I ask, is this going to be available on Kindle?

    Many thanks
    Lindsey

  • Alom Jan 17, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Lindsey,

    The book will definitely be available on Kindle, yes.

  • Paul Feb 26, 2012 Reply

    Hello alom, just wanted to say a thank you for taking part in the discussion “living a good life without god” at the university of western Australia on Saturday night (26/2/12) A question slipped my mind whilst at the book signing. During your introduction it sounded like you said you didn’t like or think the god delusion was a good book. My question is, why do you Feel this way, as the god delusion is often cited by professionals all over the world, including myself as one of the Best books on he subject.

  • Hi Alom,
    I have not read your book but I still attended your event at Avid Reader, Brisbane – West End – the invitation in the local Afternoon paper; Mx was sufficiently kind for me to accepted.

    I am a believer with Jesus Christ being my God but I am strong enough in my faith and my belief to enjoy your event. While at the event, I have even managed to ask a couple of questions regard not being able to stay longer after the conclusion for singing and more informal talks due to parental responsibilities.

    I have just noticed that your interview is going to be played on 19th March on the ABC national and thought that you might spend more time answering arguing the whole idea of atheism. You might remember my question that I try to recall now. I was asking what is the scientifically based evidence of you not believing God, not stopping at just saying that you do not belief – or that you do not have faith in God. With the other question related to the fact of President of United States reading Publically Psalm at the ann. 9/11 attack.

    I would like to think that the matter of God is far more complex that we can imaging but your book certainly brings this into more open public space. I would also dare to think that as a Scientist you would like to explore the other option of Living God or at least something what I refer to as the Reality of God- the secular reality of God.

    I provided you with my name and the some more information about me you might find at this on my facebook pages;
    Waldemar J. Szydlowski

  • Alom Mar 17, 2012 Reply

    Dear Waldemar,

    Thnaks for taking the time to write. I remember you from the event at the Avid Reader bookshop and I’m sorry I failed to answer your question – I didn’t understand it at the time, and I’m not sure if I do now.

    If you’re asking me what is the scientific evidence for the non-existence of god, then I can only tell you that it is not possible to use science to prove the non-existence of something, it is a philosophical and scientific dead-end.

    I agree with you that the matter of god is complex and I hope I have expressed that in my book.

    Thank you for your willingness to engage with someone like me – I really admire and appreciate it.

    Best wishes,

    Alom

  • Alom

    Now, you have humbled me saying these words:

    “Thank you for your willingness to engage with someone like me – I really admire and appreciate it” –

    but, please just notice how fascinating is the subject, idea of God – take us both talking about it – and how different are our back grounds – we all know your, so if I may just a couple of words about my. I am in Australia for while – an extended holidays, as I would like to think – but originally from Poland.
    One of most Christian Roman Catholic countries and traditions in the world. My personal experiences of faith were more kind then yours. Still being of inquisitive mind, I did my exploration of my faith, belief and tradition by personal prayers and practical means.

    In Australia, I have been a Religious Education teacher /instructor, catechist/ for over 8 years for two denominations, a Roman Catholic and Anglican. And now I am studying Christian Theology at Anglican College of Saint Frances, Brisbane. With the biggest hopes of being accepted into a formation ordination ministry of Anglican Church of Australia.

    As you see, I am hoping to be in “the spiritual business”. And obviously, I would like to believe in “my version of the world”. Still being of an open nature, or and for other reasons I am talking to who I can just to spread the Good News.

    Tonight, March 19 the ABC is broadcasting your event and I hope to continue to share some of the ideas, observations – I am sure to read your book in near future – as for the book itself, even the title is of challenging notion to me, I more think about it as opportunity to present my side of the story and important voice in wide debate of the human spirituality.

    Please, accept my most deep regards and words of admiration for being so open, with so much courage to share your personal life story. The story that was not so kind. Looking forward to continuation of our talk in your convenience,

    Yours sincerely and ;-)) faithful

    Waldemar J.S.

  • Jane Mar 19, 2012 Reply

    Alom
    Ive just caught part of your interview on ABC radio and now very much look forward to getting a copy of your book to read. Congratulations on publishing and I hope you enjoy this next phase.
    best wishes
    Jane.

  • Alom Mar 19, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Jane. Hope you like the book.

  • Robert Brown Mar 20, 2012 Reply

    Dear Alom

    I heard you with Philip Adams in Perth tonight. I also caught snaches in the car last week when you were on ABC radio. I would just like to welcome you to Autralia and to thank you for writing your delightful book. It is what young people have needed for a long time in order to see that one does not have to be a believer. I wish something like it had been available when I was a kid.

    I am looking forward very much to hearing you and seeing you speak live in Melbourne at the convention.

    Again, congratutulations on your book. I have a couple of nephews I’ll be passing it onto.

    (No, I’ll buy them each a new copy)

    Cheers

    Rob

  • Alom Mar 20, 2012 Reply

    Hi Rob, thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words about my work. Sadly, I’m not attending the Atheist Convention in Melbourne but hope to return to Australia at some time in the near future. I hope your nephews like the book too.

  • Peter Ravenscroft Mar 21, 2012 Reply

    G’day Alom,

    Heard you on the blower, great stuff,

    I will try email the details of this but just so-long.

    The least altered religion anywhere is maybe that of the aborigines here in Australia. Vengeful thunder god, etc, can be tracked back via same folk to India, Yemen, Morocco, Brazil. Basic is i: You need to pair off young omen with older men who can support them, but kids prefer kids, Hence the bunyip, yahweh (the yowie exactly), the devil (same critter) will o the wisp, the bogeyman etc. They all enforce marriage, That is why religions always do – they were invented for that purpose. Put the fear of god re some disguised male elder in the kids, and your hunting band may survive. this was the legal system a reign of fear by stealth. Women here were drowned, and never mentioned again, same bloody thing as the ghastly “honour’ killings. Have 1000 page book on same done, lots of fieldwork. Interested?

  • Alom
    Now, you have humbled me saying these words:
    “Thank you for your willingness to engage with someone like me – I really admire and appreciate it” –

    And just updating, ..

    Yesterday at my College Saint Frances Theological College I had a Most Wonderful Lecture by Michael Hardin an author of books The Jesus Driven Life co-editor Peace Be With You , Stricken by God; here is his website,
    http://www.preachingpeace.org/

    ..great speaker –

    just the other side of the same coin –
    God –
    and No God, ..

    Best Greetings and Regards,
    I hope you are all well,
    so I wish for you.

    Waldemar

  • Lesley Mar 27, 2012 Reply

    Hello, Alom:) I am enjoying your book and have reached P 65 where you imagine C S Lewis ‘a bit of a racist’. Having enjoyed all his books and books about his life over 50 or so years, I very much doubt this. Please treat yourself to A.N. Wilson’s superb biography of C S Lewis, and then see how you feel:) Thank you for your book. Sincerely, Lesley.

  • Alom Mar 27, 2012 Reply

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m glad you like the book and hope my comment about C.S. Lewis hasn’t discouraged you from reading the rest. Like you, I enjoyed the Narnia Chronicles and went on to read a number of his other works including “Surprised by Joy”, Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters”. I’ll take a look at Wilson’s biography – thank you for the recommendation.

  • Izzati Apr 12, 2012 Reply

    Hi Alom

    I wanted to thank you for telling your story.
    Thank you is not enough for expressing the gratitude I feel. How much I can relate to your story is ridiculous.It is like reading what I have been feeling, the questions I have always been asking and still does, written in a book by someone from across the world.

    I was also brought up in a strict Muslim family and I am still struggling with my belief and restraints of my family. I am still asking lots and lots of question (since i just recently feel comfortable to voice it out) and I still have a long way to go. Buying your book and commenting here is somewhat like the baby step of bringing home the bacon for me ( but not quite there yet).

    I am from Malaysia but currently living in Australia away from my family (my grand getaway) and I just recently found out and bought your book. It is such a shame I haven’t found the book earlier and met you when you were here last month in Brisbane.

    Again, I want to say thank you a million times. I would still need to find the courage to make my parents read the book because the book has provided me a way to tell them how I have been feeling.

    Many thanks,

    Izzati

  • Alom Apr 12, 2012 Reply

    Hi Izzati,

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to leave a comment. “It is like reading what I have been feeling” is the kind of thing that makes me glad to have written the book.

    Best of luck with everything.

    Alom

  • Caroline Apr 29, 2012 Reply

    Alom, thank you for writing this book. I have to admit, I wept while reading about your experiences of your mother’s death and your brother’s illness. Your comments are insightful and I appreciate your honesty in qualifying that the book is not an atheist manifesto, but about your own experiences. I am certain they are stories shared by many of your readers.

  • Zid Amal May 2, 2012 Reply

    It was a good attempt, but very much based on your emotion as opposed to logic and reason. It’s clear you hate Islam, but that’s not a genuine sincere reason for being Atheist. I come from a similar background. I’m always in and out of faith. But this book just didn’t do it for me. Good read though.

  • B D Hellmann May 12, 2012 Reply

    I’m an old atheist, Alom (it’s called being an assimilated Jew, but that’s nonsense). I’ve got my very intelligent, doubting and questioning 16 yr old granddaughter living with me, and yours is the perfect book to give her. I’m working my way through Spinoza, but she’s not there yet. I’ll try to get back to you and tell you what she says about your book.

  • Alom May 12, 2012 Reply

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to leave a message, it’s a great way to start my Saturday knowing that someone like you thinks my book is worth sharing with the young people in your life. I really hope your granddaughter likes it and I would love to know what she thinks once she’s read it. Have a great weekend.

  • Matt Wertz May 17, 2012 Reply

    I live in Dhaka and learned of your book through a colleague in the educational field. It appears that the book is only available in English. Are there plans for a printing of the book in Bangla? The desperate need for easy access to this book by the masses of Bangladesh cannot be overstated.

  • Robert Hoskin May 29, 2012 Reply

    Alom,
    Thank you so much for this book which I read about 6 weeks ago, shortly after Alain Botton’s Religion for Atheists. Botton came across as a bit of an ‘evangelist for atheism’, almost as though he was starting up another ‘religion’, even though it was done in a most entertaining and elucidating style. You, however, have written a great testament to personal freedom which I enjoyed immensely.
    I’m one of 8 people in our Book Club, and we selected The Beginner’s Guide… as this month’s read. We’ll be discussing it this coming Friday – and it should be interesting as we cover all bases in our socio-political makeup. Also nationalities: 1 each of Australian, Anglo-Indian, New Zealander, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Scottish, British, Indonesian – though all happily Australian citizens. And there are some strongly held religious views amongst our group, too.
    Looking forward to Friday, and thanks again for the book and your illuminating address at The Wheeler Centre here in Melbourne.
    Kind regards

  • Alom May 29, 2012 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    As I think you may know, I am originally from Bangladesh myself and I would be delighted if my book were to be published over there. Unfortunately, there are no plans for this at the moment but I’d be happy to send you an English edition if you want one.

    Best wishes,

    Alom

  • Alom May 29, 2012 Reply

    Hi Robert, thank you for your kind comments. I hope the rest of your Book Club respond so positively to the book.

    Best wishes,

    Alom

  • Lisa Jul 11, 2012 Reply

    The book launch was great, I found the speakers including yourself thought-provoking and highly amusing. Was a little bit star struck! Went home and read the first two chapters. Am blown away!

  • Cristina Sep 17, 2012 Reply

    Dear Mr Shaha,

    Thanks for writing such an amazing book. It came into my life at the precise moment, it made me feel more confident about who I am but most importantly it gave me the courage I needed.

    Thanks again,
    Cristina

  • indonezja Aug 13, 2013 Reply

    It’s one of my favourite books.

  • Gideon Maidawa Sep 2, 2013 Reply

    Dear Shaha,

    I urgently need a copy of your book to strengthen my new position on faith and religion please.

    Gideon

  • Stephen Nickless Jan 2, 2014 Reply

    Congratulations on writing such an engaging,insightful,humane and persuasive book. I have spent two enjoyable evenings reading it. I can identify with much of what you thought and experienced. It took me most of 4 decades and a lot of angst and psychotherapy to find my way from fundamentalist christianity via thoughtful anglicanism to the freedom of thought I now have as a humanist/atheist.

  • Gul Nov 17, 2014 Reply

    Hi Alom ,

    I’ve read your book and you’re right in that atheism should not be based on reason or science but personal taste. I am not a practicing muslim and find sects and worthless demominations which are now the norm in Islam very distateful, but as is narrated by Hazrat Ali (RA), ”people of faith are more likely to bicker than people of no faith”. It is the price of faith but this should not be. Many atheists attack religion with evangelical zeal and this is counterproductive, and I would add that yours and AC Grayling’s stance is right. I am not atheist but if atheists adopted your calm and correct approach it were better for all.

  • Alice Dec 17, 2014 Reply

    Dear Alom,

    I cannot thank you enough for the pleasure of reading your book. I’ve recently ‘come out’ to friends, family and myself that I am an atheist after questioning my religious upbringing for the past few years. I am fortunate that I have such supportive friends and am in a position to be honest with myself and to explore and develop my new beliefs.

    Checking your book out of my school library was quite scary. My librarian is a Christian who goes to the same church as me and I was worried she would think badly of me. Checking out the book was a symbol, like your eating of bacon, that I should not have to repress my views so others won’t be offended. And it was so worth it beacause your book is everything I needed, it seemed to communicate everything I was feeling so well!

    I still go to church as I am in the choir and am part of a community there. Its weird having to sit through services knowing I reject everything being taught in them. I’m basically lieing about what I believe to a church full of christians and I find this disturbing. But If they ever ask me about my faith in god i think i will soon have the courage to be honest: i dont have one.

    Thank you again for writing your book and being brave enough to vocalise your opinions. Also I think it’s awesome that your book has been put in secondary school library’s! Hopefully it will now be found by those who need a young atheists handbook!

    From Alice x

  • Alom Mar 17, 2015 Reply

    Hi Alice,

    I’m sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I hope you read this message – I just wanted to thank you for your kind words about my book and say that I hope your journey forward as an atheist is a happy, fulfilling and rewarding one. Take care, Alom

  • john Mar 17, 2015 Reply

    Alom,
    I read your book several years ago whilst working my way through the school library but I didn’t really get it until I reread it again recently.
    I’ve never really been a strong believer in God but have always hated the concept of religion. I grew up in a generally atheist family until my father got confirmed into the church of England a couple of years ago, which as I’m gay -although not openly- caused me a great deal of anguish. I suddenly couldn’t look past the fact he chose to believe in the bible and its teachings which to me seem like obvious bullshit. We get in lots of fights over this, but he won’t hear of any opinion other than his own being voiced.
    It’s this constant torment that prompted me to return to your book, and I can’t thank you enough for helping me see we’re never all going to agree on one thing, but that it’s ok to believe in your own conclusions rather than someone else’s.

    thanks again

  • Alom Mar 19, 2015 Reply

    Thanks John, not sure you’ll read this, but it means a lot to me that people like you let me know that my book has been of help. Take care.

  • Laura Case Mar 22, 2015 Reply

    i just finished reading the book, and i think it would be great for all generations to read about this. It was a pleasure reading the book and i wanted to say thank you for writing it.

  • Liv Jul 4, 2015 Reply

    I am 14 years old and I am currently reading this book– and enjoying it! It is fascinating and one of the most interesting books i’ve read. Can’t wait for your new book!

    • Alom Sep 5, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Olivia…am hoping to have news on a new book soon 🙂

  • ISRAR Hasan Mar 21, 2016 Reply

    Hello Alom.From an Agnostic cultural Bengali Muslim to another Bengali, Chomotkar boi.Your book is fantastic.Really enthralling.Can’t wait for the next one.Is your next book going to be a novel or non fiction? Tc.

    • Alom Mar 22, 2016 Reply

      Hi Israr, thanks for getting in touch. My next book will be non-fiction, about science, and should be published in 2017.

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