As someone who’s never had a religion, I’ve never felt I was missing anything that people insist religion offers. Community, awe, purpose, meaning, tradition and the rest of the endless list of things religious people are sure can only be cultivated from deep faith and devotion to a supernatural God - these are all things I have never felt I lack. As far back as I can remember, my community has been the people around me, whether it be my large extended family or the neighbours who felt like kin. I’ve felt I had a purpose from the first day I was capable of understanding what purpose is. I have always, since those days as a child when I sat in our living room window watching thunderstorms with goosebumped and wide-mouthed enchantment, felt immense awe in the universe around me. I have never lacked meaning; my life has oozed with tradition; my family has passed down stories from the time of my greatx14 aunt Anne Hutchinson’s heretical rebellion and banishment to Rhode Island. I’ve never, in all my time being questioned by the religious, understood how one can assert these things only come from religion.
Sadly, atheists who were once religious had to learn to feel the way I do about many of these things. Upon the loss of their faith, they had to learn to find a new source for community and a new way to experience awe. They suddenly found themselves without a purpose they understood, as “bringing glory to God” was no longer an option. This is one of the many parts of being an ex-theist that I just can’t wrap my mind around. It’s difficult to think about: how indoctrination effectively thieves these things from good people and replaces them with false replicas based on lies, myth and make-believe. It’s difficult for me to understand, and upsetting for me to grasp.
That’s why books like Katherine Ozment’s Grace Without God are so valuable to me. They help me to understand the struggles that the majority of my readership has endured. They help to give clearer answers to those who reach out to me seeking to fill the gaping void left behind by their dissolved faith. Ozment’s personal journey to discover how to answer these questions for her children is a beautiful book that explores the many new and better ways different “nones” find community, awe, tradition and storytelling.
After reading this book, one thing is clear: there are so many people out there defining what non-religious life means. You are one of many pioneering new definitions of community, and meaning, and moral code. You are not alone in your pursuit of new sources of awe and wonder. We are many, we are diverse, and we are multiplying faster than you can say, “God Bless”.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with the empty space religion left behind, this book is definitely for you.
Have you read Katherine Ozment’s Grace Without God? What did you think of it? How have you been able to redefine ideas like meaning, purpose, awe and community? Let me know in the comments!