Liberating and life-enhancing

Ghaffar Hussain talks to Alom Shaha in The Commentator. Alom’s book The Young Atheist’s Handbook launches tomorrow, or launched yesterday, or last week (launches get confusing – they migrate).

Alom points out that he’s had different experiences from the horsemen, and he wants to show that atheism isn’t just for horsemen. Why promote atheism?

I believe that lots of people only follow a religion because of parental and cultural pressure and that they would be happier if they could be true to themselves and lead godless lives. Belief in god is not something that comes naturally to all of us; many of us find it impossible to believe in god and it can be liberating and life-enhancing to fully embrace this lack of belief and live our lives without religion.

Open the door.



  1. says

    “I’ve had a really positive reaction from lots of secretly atheist ‘Muslims’ – people who have felt very alone in their lack of faith…”

    Alone in lack of faith; not alone and in the faith. These are two sides of the one coin. Belief, or at least subscription to the doctrine, is the key to belonging. The people of the faith become one’s extended family, with the unseen God as the father of them all.

    “One Muslim friend has said that he feels the book is really about the journey everyone should go on to find their true self, and I think he’s right about that.”

    I think he’s right too. Except that those the explorer leaves behind have also found their ‘true selves’: as subscribers and belongers. Of course, they may not articulate their discovery in those terms, but they can hardly be ignorant that they are insiders to something, and that there are a whole lot of ‘others’ out there who are not. Particularly growing up in a Muslim community in London.

    “One of the most depressing aspects of writing this book is the fact that I’m now repeatedly told how courageous and brave I am. I find this very condescending, as if someone from a Muslim background couldn’t write and speak openly about being an atheist.”

    Shaha might find this ‘condescending’, but it is a brave thing to cut one’s ties with group identity in this way. There are also Islamic traditions and hadiths relating to how Muslims should treat absconders. “The majority of Muslim scholars hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death or imprisonment until repentance, at least for adult men of sound mind.” ( )

    Shaha again: “I think there is an insidious prejudice at work here – a prejudice against Muslims that has been encouraged by an Islamophobic media that presents all Muslims as Islamists or fundamentalists who cannot bear criticism of their religion. It saddens me that so many people have a negative view of Muslims based on the actions of a few extremists who have, admittedly, carried out atrocious acts.”

    Yeah, right. A little bit of bombing goes a long way.

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