Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God.

I really enjoyed this autobiographical apologetic for atheism. There is a gentleness and sensitivity in the author's approach that permits a relaxed engagement with the ideas that contrasts with the more strident writings of some other atheists. It's a very personal narrative that wraps within it some of the traditional arguments against theism which provides the book with a seductive pull that enables one to listen to the author rather than react adversarially - at least, that's how I experienced it. A narrow-minded fundamentalist of any persuasion will probably not even read the book given its title. That would be a shame. Even committed theists would do well to start listening to the journeys of non-theists if only to have a genuine understanding of the "other's" point of view.

It is also refreshing to hear about atheism from an ex-Muslim perspective. The majority of atheist writings (I think) deal with the specifically Christian versions of theism. Of course, there are many other forms of theism within which believers struggle and emerge into some form of atheism. This story enriches atheist writings with nuances that would be beneficial for atheists also to read.

One of the most compelling aspects of this book is the way in which it illustrates the power of experience in shaping our beliefs. Very few people are convinced to change their beliefs by argument - even ones that are logically compelling. Our culture, family history, life events, where we're born - all of these and more are more influential than argument in shaping us. The author, by telling his life story, supplemented later perhaps by supporting arguments, illustrates this beautifully.

This is not a book to argue with - it's a story to listen to and meditate on. It's not a handbook as the title implies; it's an honest telling of one man's experience that everyone should read, no matter their theological stripe. 

Book details: Alom Shaha. The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God. Scribe Publications. 2012.

You will probably enjoy this book if you enjoyed The Australian Book of Atheism.

1 comment:

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