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The Young Atheist’s Handbook sent to every school library in Northern Ireland by BHA

Today the British Humanist Association (BHA) is sending every state-funded secondary school library in Northern Ireland a copy of The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God. The initiative, funded entirely by public donations, is part of the BHA’s work to ensure that young people have access to resources that enable them to come to their own decisions about their values and beliefs.

The Young Atheist’s Handbook is the memoir of a science teacher, Alom Shaha, and focuses on his childhood growing up in a Bangladeshi Muslim community in South London, how he overcame the conflict he experienced as an atheist, and how he learnt to live a meaningful and fulfilling life according to humanist principles. The book, which is organised loosely around the lessons Alom learned growing up, has received praise from the magazine RE Today, stating that: ‘Shaha has constructed a charmingly readable journey through some of the most enduring philosophical territory, weaving memories and thoughtful anecdotes into a powerful story of hope and truth.’
Alom’s story has gained wide support, including from journalist Samira Ahmed, comedian Tim Minchin, philosopher AC Grayling, and television personality Stephen Fry. Intended for young people to read for pleasure in their own time, the publication has also proven popular with Religious Education teachers wishing to explain non-religious worldviews to pupils.

This initiative has received particularly strong support from non-religious people in Northern Ireland. One supporter said: ‘This is an outstanding idea. When at Catholic primary and grammar school I had no idea you had an option not to believe in something. This will help young people make up their own minds.’ The move follows on from a similar initiative in April, which saw the BHA send copies of the book to schools across England and Wales.

BHA Head of Education and Promotion Sara Passmore commented, ‘Alom’s book is a fantastic read, and we’re confident it will be as appreciated by young people in Northern Ireland just as it has been by their peers in England and Wales. This initiative is about providing young people access to information about how non-religious people make ethical choices in their lives, and about the values that are shared by people all over the world. In a large number of schools, pupils only have access to religious perspectives on life’s bigger questions, and not to the humanist ones that most non-religious people in Britain share.

It’s important that young people in Northern Ireland know that non-religious people are able to lead happy, confident, and fulfilling lives, and about how we make our ethical choices. We want them to be able to explore the full range of beliefs available to them in the United Kingdom today, and make up their own minds.’



Notes

For further comment or information, contact Sara Passmore by email at sara@humanism.org.uk or 07795 412 765

About the initiative

The initiative was conceived by science teacher and blogger Ian Horsewell, and is supported the British Humanist Association. You can visit The Young Atheist’s Handbook for Schools campaign site at yah4schools.org.uk

About Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God

Through a series of loose lessons Alom Shaha tells his own compelling story, drawing on the theories of some of history s greatest thinkers and interrogating the fallacies that have impeded humanity for centuries. Shaha recounts how his education and formative experiences led him to question how to live without being tied to what his parents, priests, or teachers told him to believe, and offers insights so that others may do the same.

This is a book for anyone who thinks about what they should believe and how they should live. In this powerful narrative, Shaha shows that it is possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling, and meaningful life without God.

The book is also available to buy on Amazon.co.uk. Free lesson materials and videos to support the book can be found on humanismforschools.org.uk.

About Alom Shaha

Alom Shaha was born in Bangladesh but grew up in London. A science teacher, writer, and filmmaker, he has spent most of his professional life sharing his passion for science and education with the public.

Alom has produced, directed, and appeared in a number of television programmes for broadcasters such as the BBC, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) and the Nuffield Foundation.

Alom has represented his community as an elected politician, and has volunteered at a range of charitable organisations. He teaches at a comprehensive school in London and writes for a number of print and online publications.

You can follow Alom on Twitter here: @alomshaha. For further information about the book, visit alomshaha.com.

About the British Humanist Association

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

What people have been saying about The Young Atheist’s Handbook:

‘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)

‘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

‘Not just a scientist and a humanist, Alom is a warm storyteller who, through a series of loose lessons, relates how he discovered that it is possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling, and meaningful life without God or religion. Blending memoir, philosophy, and science, the book is essential reading for all young people.’ — Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association

‘This book will make you think and it’s hard to give a greater compliment than that…  a deeply personal and sensitively constructed exposition of some of the most enduring philosophical questions… Shaha has constructed a charmingly readable journey through some of the most enduring philosophical territory, weaving memories and thoughtful anecdotes into a powerful story of hope and truth.’  — RE Today

‘This is not a book to argue with – it’s a story to listen to and meditate on…it’s an honest telling of one man’s experience that everyone should read, no matter their theological stripe.’ — Thinking Christian

‘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

‘Illuminates the route to a better destination for all those who seek what Alom found, namely, that precious liberty of mind which makes its possessor open to all good things.’ — A.C. Grayling, philosopher and author of The Good Book

‘It’s a very special book.’ — Stephen Fry, author and broadcaster

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