Book Review: Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az2vNK7LiZyZN+sBWsKtMX1WWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuGrace Without God

by Katherine Ozment

I was asked to read and review this book by TLC Book Tours.tlc-logo-resized

The book’s genesis, apparently, was a particular night some years ago during which the author and her young son witnessed a religious procession through their neighborhood.  Her son asked her what the people walking up the street holding candles were doing, and she explained to him that it was a religious ritual.

“Why don’t we do that?” he asked.

“Because we’re not Greek Orthodox,” I said.

“Then what are we?”


“We’re nothing,” I said.

Ozment’s response to her son’s question unsettled her so much, that she spent the next few years searching for a better answer.  She interviewed dozens of people, including scientists, scholars, and religious leaders, searching for her own meaning to life (it seemed to me) absent religion.

I will confess that, as an atheist and former “believer,” I had a lot of difficulty relating to this book.  Ozment mostly seems to lament her loss of religion, and to operate under the assumption that those who don’t have religion are missing something essential and sacred – which begs the question: why did she give up religion then?  She spends a great deal of the book discussing all the benefits and positives that religion bestows upon people and society, and very little discussing the very real harm that religion and religious belief brings to individuals and society.  I kept getting the sense that she lost her religion very much like someone misplaces their keys – it seems that she feels that there is a real need for religion, or at least some substitute for religion, and she would be happy if only she could find hers again.

My own letting go of my religious beliefs was a process of reflection that took awhile, but once I did let go, I only felt liberated and at peace.  I’ve never felt like something is missing, and I’ve never felt that I am somehow cheating my kids by not raising them with religion or faith.  I actually feel quite the opposite: that to grow up without the shackles of religion and faith, to have the freedom to decide one’s own purpose, is a gift.  I suppose there are agnostics and atheists who struggle with feelings of loss and searching similar to Ozment, but all of the “Nones” I know have come to understand, exactly by letting go of religion, that, yes, traditions, family stories, morals and values, community, and identity do exist apart from religion, and perhaps more richly so.

It saddens me that Ozment told her son that “We’re nothing.”  It was undoubtedly a knee-jerk response to a question she wasn’t prepared for, but certainly not belonging to a religion, or not believing there is a god, does not make one “nothing.”  In any case, even telling her son that they’re “nothing” didn’t have to be so unsettling; it could have simply been the springboard for further conversation with her son about what they are, or better yet, how her son has the freedom to decide for himself what he is and what he will be.

While I think Grace Without God is well-intended and well-written, I’m just not sure what the need for it is.



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4 Responses to Book Review: Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

  1. Adelaide Dupont July 28, 2016 at 6:42 pm #

    That is one of the gifts my family gave me.

    They were both agnostic from traditions.

    I love to explore and be open-ended whenever I can.

    “In any case, even telling her son that they’re “nothing” didn’t have to be so unsettling; it could have simply been the springboard for further conversation with her son about what they are, or better yet, how her son has the freedom to decide for himself what he is and what he will be.”

    I know, for example, how I try to live by grace.

  2. Sarge September 5, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    At least with God there is a standard of right and wrong.. With the reviewer there is no foundation or absolute definition of right or wrong. Everybody does their own thing.

    • Lisa September 6, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      This is one of the most popular, and misguided, arguments for the existence of God. By this logic, then, there would be no atheists who are decent and ethical. What is the definition of “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “evil” anyway? Whatever god says? So if god said that maiming newborns was “good” and “right,” would it then be good and right? Is something right because it’s right, or because god says it’s right? There are many, many examples in the bible of things god apparently endorses (rape, incest, murder among them) that everyone who is not a psychopath has rejected outright.

      “Right” and “wrong” are societal constructs, and obviously have changed over time. For the most part, people do the “right” thing (which usually boils down to making choices that don’t cause immediate harm to others or to the world) because most people want to live peacefully and not cause harm, and most people have an idea of how they would like to be treated.

      And amazingly, this all happens without any dieties. You can attribute these things to a god, but there is not a single shred of credible evidence that any god exists.


  1. Katherine Ozment, author of Grace Without God, on tour June/July 2016 | TLC Book Tours - July 28, 2016

    […] Thursday, July 28th: Life As I Know It […]

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