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
I've written a book, a kind of beginner's guide to understanding the world, and living a good life, without God. It's 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 will be published in the UK and Australia by the lovely people at Scribe Publications. Rights for the US and Canada 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.