Free copies of The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God have been sent to every school in England and Wales by The British Humanist Association (BHA). The news, which first emerged in the TES, comes at a time when the former Archbishop of Canterbury has called Britain 'Post-Christian', as the debate about British religious sensibilities drives on.
The Young Atheist's Handbook was written by Alom Shaha, a science teacher, who relays his story as a child growing up in a strict Muslim community in SE London. It's description tells:
Shaha 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...
The report suggest the idea is inspired by Michael Gove's 2011 decision to send copies of the King Jame Bible to schools - marking the book's 400th anniversary. Yet the idea clearly carries a significant additional point.
BHA's Sara Passmore has said the organisation wants to provide a "bit of balance", and that, "Alom's book will help schools to be places where pupils can encounter the broad rangeof religious and non-religious worldviews in modern Britain.”
We can't help but think that healthy representation of British religious and non-religious beliefs within schools is fair regardless of belief. Yet Trevor Cooling, professor of Christian Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, told the TES he thought the sending of the book was unnecessary:
The evidence suggests that most children’s understanding of science is already largely atheistic. The BHA itself says that most children have non-religious beliefs, so why do they feel it is so important to send out this book?
The BHA's chief executive, Andrew Copson, explained his thoughts about the decision by saying title could help young people "think critically about the world around them", while making it clear it is "possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling, and meaningful life without God or religion.