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on 4 September 2012
I really can relate and understand Alom's view on religions and atheism; I know many Bengali's have had the same experiences as Alom. I really felt the heartache when he went through with the dilemmas he faced in life; going through questioning and the confusion in trying to make sense of things especially god and religion is ultimately really really frustrating and mind boggling!

I must say it is a very courageous book and can imagine all the hardship the writer must have gone through to give him the courage to write this book with brutal honesty too, especially on the author's personal story. Four of my relative are atheist and one is a spiritualist, all of Bengali origin and was Muslims by religion, all went through the same questioning. However I believe in God but not in any religion, I am not sure what that makes me...Hmmm...maybe half religo-theist or something! However I would recommend this book for anyone who find religion confusing and are looking for other open views. Overall this book is certainly a thought provoking read without any offence on religion itself, and also quite heartbreaking on some parts of the personal story. Liked the read very much, once I opened the book i had to finish the book that day, there were no boring parts.
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on 19 July 2012
The Young Atheist's Handbook is a delightful book that takes the reader on a thought-provoking journey from the peculiar certainties of an indoctrinated childhood, through the philosophical questioning of adolescence, to the intellectual liberation of adulthood.

This is essentially a coming of age story that originates in the oppressive confines of abuse and religious absurdity and ends in enlightenment and joy. It's a journey that this reader never made, being raised in a nonreligious family, but Alom Shaha is such a charming host and his story so captivating that the book offers insights to all of us.

The book gently prompts the reader to apply the same everyday logic and scepticism that they use in all other parts of their lives to the religious texts, claims and 'truths' that they've been given. To question the things that their religion discourages them from questioning, and so reach a mature conclusion about whether the religious stories they've been told and the rules they've been ordered to live by stand up to scrutiny and, frankly, common sense.

Shaha, who was born into a Muslim family, came to realise the contradictory, illogical and unfair aspects of his and the other major religions, and to find happiness and honesty through atheism. He details this story, but also looks beyond to the emotional crutch offered by religion, and finds those, too, wanting. One by one he uses intelligent reasoning to blow away the supposed supports promised to the faithful, by showing through his own life's examples that real human relationships are the most reliable source of comfort, moral guidance and help during life's trials.

In a world where billions of people restrict their lives to the prescriptions of ancient fairy tales, I wish even a fraction would read these important pages of good sense. Give this book to a teenager and change a life.
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...now, and wouldn't have spent years being at odds with my parents' beliefs, actions and traditions, which didn't tie in with me being a British-born Asian. Looking back, it seems as if I was brainwashed into a way of thinking, via a dominant parent, who should have read this book instead of being so close-minded and so intent on doing 'the done thing because others/the community/the religious book says so'.

This is an excellent book that I identified with in many ways, and weirdly, it's come at a time when I've been questioning myself, asking myself if I'm a cold-hard-noun-for-a-female-dog (sorry for the confusion, but it's to avoid the review being pulled) for not believing what I was taught by my parents (supposedly our first 'Gods'), for not being into my supposed culture and for not giving in to emotional blackmail and for not being a good little Asian girl. This book has restored my faith in myself, has made me understand my non-Asian atheist husband's attitude a bit more.

It's a book that should be found on shelves at schools, especially in heavily multicultural areas, where kids wanting to be 'cool' and 'in' are at odds with what their parents/communities/religions say they should be. It could make us more tolerant of each other, more open-minded and fair. It's just logical, factual - and it lets the reader make up their own mind, and doesn't influence or denigrate any beliefs - it just points out that what you start off with isn't necessarily correct (religion is, of course, subject to personal interpretation, and more often than not, incorrect/too literal interpretation) or right for you as an individual.

Well done, and thanks, Mr Shaha.
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on 14 July 2012
I love this book. It feels like a conversation. There are moments of wry humour that made me grin, some utterly heartbreaking bits that had me in tears and as a whole it is never less than warm, compassionate and intelligent in the discussion of why someone might choose to identify themselves as an atheist and the strange feeling of freedom that comes from accepting sole responsibility for one's own happiness and fulfillment.

You do not need to be an atheist to enjoy this book, and it would be a real shame if people of faith were put off reading this because the word "Atheist" appears in the title. You also don't need to be young, but the title makes sense in that anyone who is questioning their belief in the god they have been raised with will find understanding and reassurance in it's pages. Reassurance that it is not necessary to have faith in order to live a good life, that atheism does not make you a bad person and that following any religion should be an informed choice, made willingly and not imposed.
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on 16 December 2012
This is a brilliant book. Easy to read and enjoyable too. Very informative and helpful for those who are trying to make up their minds about their values and what they believe. Would be particularly helpful for those who are doubting their religious upbringing. Great addition to any book shelf for young or old. There is now also a campaign being run by the Humanist association that is seeking to get a copy of this book into ever school library. I think this is a great idea as all people should have the right to make up their own minds about what they believe or do not belive in, no child should be labeled with their families religion. Link to campaign is [...]
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on 16 July 2012
In this book Alom Shaha shares stories from his life as he grew up and away from the religion of his family. In doing so he presents a real and personal example of how someone may be atheist and lead a good and happy life. The key to this book is that while it includes scholarly and philosophical aspects, it is first and foremost a personal story. It is not instructing the reader how or what to think. Shaha is stepping forward, inviting the reader to look at him and understand him and his motivations. This book will be an enjoyable and useful read for anyone new to atheism, but also anyone - religious or otherwise - who would like to understand the atheist perspective.
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on 2 September 2012
Part memoir, part manifesto, Alom Shaha tells explains his journey from Islam to atheism. A very personal account, told with great candour, and thankfully missing the vitriol and smugness of other works on the subject of atheism.

I wish I'd bought a paper copy rather than the kindle edition, so I'd be able to lend it to everyone I know.
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on 28 July 2012
Alom's journey from his strict Muslim upbringing to his adulthood of compassionate and joyous atheism is one it's a privilege to read about. A welcome addition to the atheist landscape, often dominated by intellectuals from the judeo-Christian world, alom's story is personal and friendly. There's no shouty preachy lecturing, just honesty and real bravery. An often heartbreaking read for people of every faith and none.
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on 14 July 2012
This is a gem of a book.

Don't be misled by the title: this is not a handbook. At least not in the sense of being a manual or guidebook for atheists. Rather Alom Shaha, a physics teacher who was born in Bangladesh and raised as a muslim in south-east London, has written a completely candid account of his life and his journey from religion to atheism.

The Young Atheist's Handbook is moving and insightful. At times the story is raw. With an unflinching eye Shaha examines how his experiences, especially in his early life -- the untimely death of his devoted mother, the brutal punishment at the hands and belt of his neglectful father, the inspiration of his teachers and his own encounters with students in his physics classes -- have shaped his world view. As he recounts the story of his journey away from Islam, a religion that he entered through an accident of birth, he reflects on the profound questions that occur time and again to young people who amass the courage to question their faith, the questions of free-will, of motive and morality, of evil, of heaven and hell, of life after death.

These questions are explored with a determination that is at the same time respectful and firm. The author strikes a modest tone that I am sure will draw readers in, even if, as people of faith, they find the text uncomfortable.

The book leans on extensive reading. It feels solid but is not trying to be scholarly. This is the story of someone who is on a personal journey and makes no claim to have all the answers.

The Young Atheist's Handbook is written with an elegant simplicity -- I didn't stumble once over the prose. Though created with teenagers in mind, it also deserves an adult audience.
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on 14 July 2012
This book is certainly not just for the young, for the godless or for the undecided.

It is hard to say which aspects of this book confounded my presumptions more but I hope you will be pleased when I say that it is beautifully written, is genuinely funny right from the beginning whilst remaining heartbreakingly honest and raw in its lucid description of one person's road to acceptance of them self and the world around them.

Its thoughtful, relaxed prose never comes between the reader and the tales Shaha relates and yet you will find yourself re-reading passages, simply for the enjoyment they bring.

The story is not an easy one to read at times but you will feel better for having heard it.
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