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Author Katherine Ozment’s Grace without God  is an exploration of secular America.

“Nothing.”

That was the answer Katherine Ozment gave her eight-year-old son when he asked what religion they were.

The “nones”, as the Pew Research America’s Changing Religious Landscape study would categorize the Ozment family, is growing, staking a claim of over 20 percent of the population.

While these secular families are not seeking organized religion, they are searching for communities and a sense of purpose. And Ozment was not pleased with her answer of “nothing” to her son, so she researched secular communities across the country. She visited Sunday Assemblies, Ethical Culture groups, and humanist groups.

Her travels and finding are the basic for her new book, Grace without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age.

In the book, she recounts an incident of reading the story of Noah’s Ark from a children’s bible to her then-seven-year-old daughter. She mixed the bible in with stories about American Girl dolls, fairies and dogs.

But the biblical story states that God told Noah he was going to “put an end to all people because the earth is filled with violence because of them.” Ozment’s daughter said that she didn’t want to read this anymore because “God’s too mean.”

Ozment’s daughter no longer wanted to read about “people under the severe hand of a single, ultimate God,” the older Ozment writes in her new book. Instead they read about Greek Gods and Goddesses who tricked and punished each other, but not with the finality and power that the heavenly God wielded.

Ozment became active in the Harvard Humanist community. Her Jewish-raised but now-secular husband was not interested in participating. This is common among secular families, the trouble with finding a community that everybody is interested in joining.

Five years after responding “nothing” to her son, Ozment still isn’t sure she has a better answer. But she hopes anybody who reads her book understands that there are communities out there which provide safe harbor for parents who do not believe in God to raise their children. 

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