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.
Nonplussed by her young son's question "What are we?" when they saw a Greek Orthodox procession, secular writer Ozment answered, "We're nothing." She writes, "I decided then and there that I would seek a better answer for my son, for myself, and for my family. I knew that we were something, but what?" In this wide-ranging book, Ozment, a journalist and former senior editor at National Geographic, skillfully weaves together interviews with cutting-edge academic experts, her personal story, helpful statistics, and her experiences attending gatherings across the U.S. where she talked with many others on the same quest. Detailing the sense of loss she and others have felt without the benefits of traditional religion "identity and belonging, rituals, shared stories, moral authority, and belief in God and the afterlife" Ozment then delves into the many ways secular Americans are trying to build community and shared meaning, with a keen eye for the paradoxes and hazards of those efforts. Her focus throughout is finding ways to raise honest, kind, and compassionate children outside of a religious framework. The author includes extensive resource information for others on a similar search, including lists of books for children by age group. This well-crafted, accessible exploration of a pressing topic, full of hard questions and astute observations, can serve as a springboard for discussion by parents and others who wonder whether people "need God to be good."