I’ve just started reading Alom Shaha’s The Young Atheist’s Handbook, and it’s wonderful. Gripping, moving, funny, thoughtful – all the good things.
In the introduction he talks about “things in primary school which made me suspect that I had gotten a raw deal in having been born Muslim.” Other kids didn’t have to go to a religious building after school; they didn’t have to fret about being “good Christians”; their lives didn’t revolve around religion – plus Jesus sounded like a lovely man.
I couldn’t even read ‘our’ holy book because it was written in Arabic and, according to our local imam, all it seemed to say was that we should be really, really scared of Allah and that anyone who was not a Muslim was going to burn in the fires of hell for eternity. [p 13]
Not an attractive takeaway for a child, or for anyone.
There was a lot of Christmas stuff at school, and it was fun –
…a general having of the kind of fun that Muslims never seemed to have. The Ayatollah Khomeini once wrote, ‘Allah did not create man so that he could have fun’, and at times it felt to me like this was the dominant theme of Islam – the forbidding of fun. [p 13]
In chapter 2 he mentions being brought up, like many children,
with the notion that there is an invisible, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful supernatural being who would reward me if I was ‘good’ and punish me if I was ‘bad’. There was surely a period in my childhood where I believed this… [p 45]
I love that ‘surely’, because it’s something I puzzle over, too. I can’t remember ever really believing it, so I have to suspect I didn’t. I think if I had ever really believed it, it would have been a big enough thing that I would remember it. Instead I remember things like Howdy Doody and Clarabelle.