Alom Shaha grew up in a strict Bangladeshi Muslim community in South-East London in the 1970s and 80s. He was expected to go to mosque regularly and recite passages in Arabic from the Quran, without being told what they meant. Alom spent his teenage years juggling two utterly different worlds: a chaotic, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic family life on a council estate, and that of a student at a privileged private school set amongst the idyllic green playing fields of Dulwich.
In a charming blend of memoir, philosophy, and science, Alom explores the questions about faith and the afterlife that we all ponder. Through a series of loose ‘lessons’, he tells his own compelling story, drawing on the theories of some of history’s greatest thinkers and interrogating the fallacies that have impeded humanity for centuries. Alom recounts how his education and formative experiences led him to question how to live without being tied to what his parents, priests, or teachers told him to believe, and offers insights so that others may do the same.
Aloma Shaha explained to The New Humanist magazine why he wrote the book. Below an excerpt from his story "No More Lies":
So why am I so open about my atheism? Is it because, as some seem to think, I am brave? No. The simple reason why I’m open about my atheism, when others like me are not, is because both my parents are dead. My mother died when I was 13 and my father did not play a large part in my upbringing following her death. It seems perverse to say it, but I may have been lucky in having had little in the way of parenting as a teenager. I suspect that, had my mother lived, I would not be so open or outspoken about my atheism. I loved my mother deeply, and, had I thought it was something she wanted, I am sure I would have made more of an effort to be a Good Muslim, or at least kept up more of a pretence of being one. But with my mother dead and a deep lack of respect for my father, I was relieved of the reason why many atheists I know, particularly ex-Muslim ones, continue to pretend to be religious – I no longer had a desire to “protect” my parents from being upset, or from being “shamed”. I was freed of the pressure to believe what my parents believe. But this is a pressure that most people, especially, I would suggest, from communities such as the one I came from, have to live with well into adulthood.