About the Book

YAH_Cover_UK.jpg



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





'A very special book' - Stephen Fry

'A touching personal account that makes for a courageous and compelling read. This is among the most powerful and convincing arguments against religion that I have come across, and it is written in a way that is never patronising or trivialising.'

- Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, physicist and broadcaster

'If the style is a guide to the man, he is gentle and persuasive - the type of teacher you would have loved to have had educate you. '
- Nick Cohen, in The Observer

'A book that destroys the cliche of the atheist as joyless rationalist and shows the humanity, love, and concern that often lies behind godless thinking.'
- Robin Ince, writer and comedian

'More than just a great handbook, this is an honest and often very moving story about valuing truth over hope, even in the face of grief.'
- Tim Minchin, comedian

'Like an intelligent, frank conversation with a vibrant teacher ... Shaha's talent for raw, lucid narrative makes this an uncommonly moving contribution to debate.'

 - Sydney Morning Herald

'Like many bright and curious children before and since, kind teachers, books and school provided the young Alom Shaha with a ladder out of inner city poverty and an escape from his abusive, feckless father. But The Young Atheist's Handbook is no anti-Muslim misery memoir. Rather its strength is the way he explores his life and faith scientifically, through a series of thought experiments. From its taboo busting opening, when, in a simple experiment he eats pork for the first time, Alom Shaha's rational exploration of the corrosive power of religious indoctrination is refreshingly down to earth, heartfelt and deeply moving. It combines a raw personal story of his Bangladeshi Muslim background with the understated and carefully researched honesty of a scientist seeking the truth, and of a teacher wanting to free young minds. An inspiring and brave book that speaks for thousands who dare not admit their atheism.' 
- Samira Ahmed, Journalist and broadcaster (BBC Radio 4, ex-Channel 4 News)

'Alom Shaha's The Young Atheist's Handbook is moving, heartwarming, and thoughtful ... Many today are despairing, grappling with doubt, or fearful for their lives for wanting to leave Islam and religion. Apostasy is still punishable by death in a number of countries worldwide. Alom's honest journey of why and how he has freed himself from religion's hold will be essential reading for many of them, and it will surely empower and inspire.'
- Maryam Namazie, human rights activist 

'Insightful, conversational, intelligent, enlightening, intimate, and just plain eye-opening. Shaha opens his life, his heart, and his mind to us in a compelling journey towards unbelief.'
- Dr Leslie Cannold, author of The Book of Rachael

'Frisbee your skullcap, grill up a bacon sandwich, and enjoy The Young Atheist's Handbook.'
- John Safran, documentary-maker and broadcaster

'Alom Shaha has shrugged off the shackles of poverty, racism, and, most of all, religious superstition, to begin to fulfil his potential as a human being. In this wise, compassionate, honest, and often heartbreaking book, he tells of his remarkable journey from a tough inner-city council estate to the rejection of the Islamic beliefs of his Bangladeshi immigrant community. It took a lot of guts to "come out" as a nonbeliever, but Shaha did it to show others who harbour severe doubts about their faith that they are not alone. This is an important and courageous book that needed to be written.'
- Marcus Chown, author and broadcaster

'Alom's circumstances will be shared by many young people from Muslim backgrounds growing up today. His personal account of his own experiences will be an indispensable source of comfort for them, and a movingly written insight for any reader.'
- Andrew Copson, director of the British Humanist Association

'This is all very annoying. While most of us struggle to put two coherent sentences together, Alom Shaha seems to have knocked out this beautifully written and important book at the same time as teaching physics, and making films. Atheists and religious people alike should read this to see that the path to enlightenment is not always easy, especially if you come from a culture in which being faithless is derided. But more importantly, young people who are working out their own path should read it to see that you can be free to think for yourself'.

- Adam Rutherford, science broadcaster


'This is a celebration of a life well lived with heart and mind at work...Those who want clear arguments about the impossibility of belief, as well as those who enjoy a well told and illuminating memoir, will be pleased with this book' - Folly Gleeson, writing in the Newtown Review of Books



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 editionRights 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.







32 Comments

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

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.

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

Thanks Lindsey,

The book will definitely be available on Kindle, yes.

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

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.

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.

Thanks Jane. Hope you like the book.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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!

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

It's one of my favourite books.

Dear Shaha,

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

Gideon

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.

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