Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

Grace Without God by Katherine OzmentGrace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age by Katherine Ozment
Published by Harper Wave on June 21, 2016
Genres: Memoir, Religion
Pages: 320
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours for review consideration.
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four-half-stars

Meet “the Nones”—In this thought-provoking exploration of secular America, celebrated journalist Katherine Ozment takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion.
Studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Most Americans are raised in a religious tradition, but in recent decades many have begun to leave religion, and with it their ancient rituals, mythic narratives, and sense of belonging.
So how do the nonreligious fill the need for ritual, story, community, and, above all, purpose and meaning without the one-stop shop of religion? What do they do with the space left after religion? With Nones swelling to one-fourth of American adults, and more than one-third of those under thirty, these questions have never been more urgent.
Writer, journalist, and secular mother of three Katherine Ozment came face-to-face with the fundamental issue of the Nones when her son asked her the simplest of questions: “what are we?” Unsettled by her reply—“Nothing”—she set out on a journey to find a better answer. She traversed the frontier of American secular life, sought guidance in science and the humanities, talked with noted scholars, and wrestled with her own family’s attempts to find meaning and connection after religion.
Insightful, surprising, and compelling, Grace Without God is both a personal and critical exploration of the many ways nonreligious Americans create their own meaning and purpose in an increasingly secular age.

 

I don’t normally start off a review by comparing it to another book, but I can’t help myself here. Grace Without God reminded me so much of Rachel Held Evans and Searching for Sunday [review]. When you become disillusioned with religion, you end up thinking at an uncomfortably deep level about what it is you actually believe. Which leads to a whole lot of searching. It was easy for me to see myself in RHE’s memoir. Like RHE, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I do believe in God, but I needed to find a place that encouraged thinking through questions that many others find “blasphemous.” Katherine Ozment, on the other hand, can’t deny that she doesn’t believe in God…but found she needed to find a way to answer her children’s tough questions. Although I’m a Christian, I found Ozment’s memoir just as relatable as I found RHE’s, probably because Ozment makes it obvious that fleshing out “where do I belong?” is a fundamental journey common to us all.

My only complaint—and it’s tiny when thinking about the book as a whole—is I felt “religion” was indirectly defined by conservative or fundamentalist beliefs. When I think about it, though, especially its context in this kind of memoir, it makes sense why.

Ozment’s approach and tone throughout Grace Without God is one that encourages peace and fosters harmony. She’s respectful and nonjudgmental. She doesn’t knock religion or faith; she simply explores options for those who don’t believe. Ozment points out that you can leave religion without rejecting that identity as an important part of your heritage.

I got a lot out of this memoir, and couldn’t stop taking notes [proof!]. It’s intelligent and inspiring. Faith communities of all kinds could learn a lot from Ozment about authentic community, belonging, and radical acceptance. I learned a lot about those things.

If we strip away the layers of religion, most of what we all value most — family, friends, laughter, food — is the same.

 

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Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Check out what other readers have to say about Grace Without God by visiting other stops on the tour.

four-half-stars
  • This definitely sounds like something I’d be into! Is she focused on finding a community for her kids or more on just answering the questions her children have?

    • I think both. Her kids sparked the topic, but this doesn’t focus exclusively on them, if that makes sense. Very much a personal journey for her, with kids as one aspect of her life.

  • Melanie Page

    The title and description of this book immediately made me think of Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich, a VERY famous journalist. Must be everyone’s on the hunt post-religion! –grabthelapels.com

    • I’ve heard so much about her, but haven’t read anything yet. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Melanie Page

        I have a review of her most famous book, Nickel and Dimed, up at Grab the Lapels today if you want a taste. Nickel and Dimed is investigative journalism, but she often writes books that are more like essays. I have a link to Bright-Sided, which is a book about the negativity of positive thinking, in the same review.

  • I really think I would like this one. I’m looking to read a couple of memoirs this year and already have one on my shelf. This might be one I add to it. Lovely review, as always.

  • Nice review, Monika. I think I’ll like this book, from the sound of your review. Think it will answer a lot of my questions I have about religion as well and I do agree with your quote that if you strip away religion our core values are the same (or for most of us). I don’t particularly read memoirs, etc, but I’ll add this to goodreads! (and I just did)

  • HeatherTLC

    I love that you got so much out of this book even though your core beliefs are fundamentally different than the authors. This sounds like a not-to-be missed read for anyone serious about examining his/her beliefs.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  • This sounds like a fascinating and thought-provoking book (I love the picture of your tabs!). I was raised in a Muslim family, but I have a very complicated relationship with religion as an adult.