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There have been a spate of articles recently about the “crisis” in teacher recruitment. Such pieces cite a number of factors which might be responsible, but one that stood out to me was the suggestion that there is a “trend for middle-aged teachers to become private tutors” which is “stripping the profession of experienced people”. I’m […]

Circular motion can be a tough topic to teach because some aspects of it are counterintuitive. This is a really simple and elegant way to get across some of the key ideas needed to grasp the physics of what’s going on when an object moves in uniform circular motion. The film was shot and edited […]

I know I will cry when I eventually leave the school where I’ve worked for the last decade or so. I won’t be able to help it – I’ve cried on my final day at every school I’ve ever belonged, as a student or teacher. The last time was when I left my second teaching […]

“Our ability to understand the universe and our position in it is one of the glories of the human species. Our ability to link mind to mind by language, and especially to transmit our thoughts across the centuries is another. Science and literature, then, are the two achievements of Homo Sapiens that most convincingly justify […]

It’s been a while since The Young Atheist’s Handbook was published but I’ve continued writing about Atheism and Humanism in New Humanist magazine and elsewhere and I have become a trustee of the British Humanist Association. However, I’ve been focussing on my work in science education and am proud to announce that Demo: The Movie, […]

“Love songs have been a majority of all songs ever written” and “Love in music has been expressed in all cultures and among all gender, race, and age groups” are claims made by social scientists who study this sort of thing. I suspect no-one reading this will be surprised by these statements or find them […]

The Government is currently carrying out a consultation on the draft criteria for GCSE Science. Physics textbook writer David Sang, who I’ve worked with in making a number of physics demonstration films, has some concerns which he’s allowed me to share here: I have specifically commented on the Physics sections as I feel unqualified to […]

I remember the first time I saw my name in the credits of a TV programme – it was for the BBC’s Blood of the Vikings. It felt awesome. A few years later, I was lucky enough to see the words “A film by Alom Shaha” on the big screen at the Ritzy Picturehouse, where […]

A little reading around the subject reveals that some of the Biblical stories featuring the Abrahamic God are almost certainly loose adaptations of earlier myths. Noah was not the first character in a story who had to deal with a massive flood, and Jesus was not the first to be born when a woman was […]

Scientists often get annoyed, or even angry, when creationists claim “evolution is just a theory”. It’s often unclear whether creationists are deliberately using a widespread confusion about the use of the word “theory” in science to their advantage or whether they genuinely believe that the theory of evolution is simply a guess, an idea, that […]

I’ve been delighted to find that The Young Atheist’s Handbook is being used in schools by teachers like Laura Cooper who wrote to tell me: “I recently read your book, The Young Atheists Handbook, and would just like to say as a teacher of Religious Studies how useful I have found it. It is exactly […]

積ん読 This is the Japanese word “tsundoku”, meaning “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with such other unread books” (amazing that such a short word can mean such a thing, but I’ll trust that the internet isn’t lying to me on this occasion). I have such a […]

I received the following email from a Turkish reader of The Young Atheist’s Handbook. She has kindly let me share it here: Dear Mr. Shaha I read your book in Turkish some time ago. When I read your statement that you don’t know if your book can translate into your mother tongue or not, I […]

The Turkish edition of The Young Atheist’s Handbook was published a few weeks ago. Over there, the publishers have gone with a different title, Tanrının Öldüğü Gün (“The Day God Died”), taken from chapter one of the English edition. Here’s the introduction I wrote for it: There is a Turkish grocery store in my neighbourhood […]

What’s the point of Atheism? That’s the title of a panel discussion I’ll be taking part in at this weekend’s “Battle of Ideas” at the Barbican, organised by the Institute of Ideas. The blurb on the event’s webpage asks “how relevant is [atheism] in a society where fewer and fewer people are being raised with […]

Lots of lovely people have asked me to give talks about the book so I will be travelling round the UK hoping to meet readers over the next few months. The list below provides details of the events I’ll be speaking at: 31st July Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub (SitP) 9th August Book Barge, Barton […]

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I give over quite a few pages to the significance of bacon in my life. Here’s a short film made by my friend Barry Gibb which explains why eating bacon for the first time was, for me, a liberating rite of passage:

As you’ve probably gathered if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ve been relentlessly trying to build up interest in my book over the last few months in the hope that people might buy it when it’s finally released in the UK on July 19th. Not sure how successful my efforts have been (I […]

It’s Father’s Day in the UK today, and I suspect many people will spend at least a few moments thinking about, and being grateful for, their dads. It feels like today is an appropriate day to share this short film, which encapsulates what I think is probably the central “lesson” from The Young Atheist’s Handbook.

It’s still a couple of months until my book will be published in the UK (July 17th), but Biteback have decided on this beautiful design for the cover of the UK edition and the lovely people at the British Humanist Association have organised an event to launch the book with A.C. Grayling, Samira Ahmed, Robin […]

  • Philip Sherer Jul 9, 2012 Reply

    Good luck Alom – sorry I can’t make the launch..
    Best wishes

  • A lot of us in England were brought up respecting the law and having to go to church and Sunday school and when performing our military service as I did, starting in 1938, on Sundays were labelled C of E or Roman Candles. Failure on either count committed you to the cookhouse to peel spuds. And spud bashing is a powerful religious persuader. This lip service continues throughout life and in many ceremonies such as masonic rituals is perpetuated through practice rather than conviction. Some of us are able to ‘see the light’ at an early age and many a time I have perambulated round the Rose Croix temple wondering what in the world all this mumbo jumbo has to do with the real world with its discovery of neutrinos and now, the dear leader’s particle.
    We question. We don’t know. We progress and become agnostic; then atheist and eventually real―as a humanist.
    Problems arise when you have to combine reality with religious mythology. One of my students this year completed the research for his PhD by investigating the adoption of the Islamic Work Ethic (IWE) by the 3,000+ government employees of one of the Arab countries.
    Any structured work ethic is a fine model for developing job satisfaction and organizational commitment (as well as State control) and I suspect that xWE would produce similar results to IWE. An utterly indoctrinated Muslim, he was disappointed to find that a proportion of the younger government employees were not as committed to the IWE as they should be. I pruned his tortured thesis of as much unnecessary religious comment as possible and he saw the moral value of my advice not to exclude the adverse responses. However, he had to defend his dissertation at a panel of European professors, not one of Islamic persuasion, but he was awarded his doctorate.
    It was not my university and, frankly, I think the panel was wrong. To test the efficacy of a work ethic, xWE, the correct research procedure is to search for organizations that had adopted the xWE but whose employees had little job satisfaction and no organizational commitment and to search for those that did not embrace the xWE but whose employees reported high job satisfaction and showed considerable organizational commitment. Only if one failed repeatedly to find either, would the arguments relating the claimed attributes to success be valid. The candidate went straight for the good old confirmation-bias and looked chiefly for evidence that supported his initial assumptions about the IWE.
    The embarrassing situation for me is that he has accepted my quite scathing criticisms and has recommended me to other Islamic PhD candidates. Is there no justice?

  • Caroline Davies Jul 15, 2012 Reply

    This debate and life experience is difficult for me to imagine as I was brought up an atheist by committed socialist parents. For me religion was merely a quaint anachronistic gig with some rather lovely elements (music and architecture) and a depressing history!
    As a student at Oxford University I was drawn to Ethics in my Philosophy course and have now come to the conclusion that there is much that is sound in ‘religions’ – Jesus said ‘Love is God’ (in effect) and I have a suspicion that he was actually trying to wean people off the deity business and give them a simple guiding principle. He was clearly a fan of the KISS approach and always recognised that it was the terrible dimness and immorality of many ‘men’ that presented his great challenge (hence all the drawing in the sand!) And of course there have been others like him in many lands and throughout history (and Rowan Williams is of this school I suspect).
    Not having the guilt or hangups about defecting from a ‘religion’ and being educated as a thinker I continue to observe and ponder the swirl of contemporary human existence and the path we are on and I find that it is the practical (utilitarian?) aspects that have come to concern me most. What is the point of being ‘right’ if no-one actually acts this way? When making moral decisions we cannot know the outcomes and have to use our best informed guess and do a risk assessmenr! Above all we need to act – like Alom to ‘put our heads above the parapet’ – if we are to have any chance of improving the human lot in this world of ours.
    The issue of death has never bothered me for some reason and I think its hold on modern people is lessened as our lives have improved and lengthened. Sherwin B Nuland’s inspired book ‘How We Die’ should be required reading – and he was brought up by first generation immigrant Jewish parents and made the journey to humanism like Alom.
    As a historian I believe that we are today witnessing the death throes of organised religion and that for many the ‘void of purpose’ will need to be filled with an alternative – hence I have ordered Alom’s book on Amazon and look forward to sharing it with my teenagers!

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