Copies of Alom Shaha’s ‘Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God’ donated by the British Humanist Association
After Michael Gove gave copies of the King James Bible to every school in England, the British Humanist Association is this week sending out copies of The Young Atheist’s Handbook to secondary schools in England and Wales.
Subtitled Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God, the book is by science teacher Alom Shaha and tells of his upbringing in a Bangladeshi Muslim community in south-east London, “how he overcame his inner conflict surrounding his atheism, and the lessons he learnt in leading a good life, full of awe and wonder, based on humanist principles”, said the Association.
The BHA raised more than £11,000 to send the book to schools through public donations from “thousands of people” at Justgiving, and hopes the initiative will give young people “access to resources that enable them to come to their own decisions about their values and beliefs”.
A spokesperson for the BHA said it had received “loads of lovely responses”, but that a couple of Catholic schools had said they would dispose of the book if the Association didn’t provide a stamped addressed envelope to return it.
“Which we think is a shame, as we only sent the books to state schools and we think all such schools should want their young people to be exposed to a variety of views and to make their own minds up in a spirit of free inquiry,” said Sara Passmore, the BHA’s head of education.
The Association points out that the book was “well received” by RE Today – the magazine said that “this book will make you think and it’s hard to give a greater compliment than that” – and says it “has been welcomed by RE teachers”.
The scheme was suggested to the BHA by the science teacher Ian Horsewell, who got in touch with the Association after it helped launch the title. Horsewell has said that he was “amazed by the evocative prose in [Shaha’s] book and the challenges he faced moving from nominal believer to outspoken freethinker”.
“It made me realise how fortunate many of us are to be able to take for granted our own freedom to believe, or not, in the faith of our parents. It seemed to me that the very students who needed to read Alom’s book would find it hard to buy for themselves, so instead I wondered if we could place a copy in every secondary school library,” said Horsewell.
BHA chief executive Andrew Copson added that “in a large number of schools, pupils will have access to a number of religious perspectives on life’s bigger questions, but not to what most non-religious people believe and how they find happiness and satisfaction in their daily lives”.
“We believe schools should be places where pupils are free to encounter the full range of philosophies and world views available to them in modern Britain,” said Copson.
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