My research focuses on atheism, secularism, and the meaning of religion. My first book, The Secular Paradox: On the Religiosity of the Not Religious, was published by NYU Press in 2022. It’s an ethnography that relies on several years of fieldwork among very secular Americans to explain why being secular can feel so weirdly religious. Here’s a YouTube video in which I discuss the book and how it’s led to my more recent research. And here are two podcast episodes in which I’m interviewed about the book.
I’m currently conducting an intergenerational study of religion, spirituality, and values that is funded by a $2.8m grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The research is part of the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which sociologist Vern Bengtson began in 1970. The current wave includes the fifth-generation descendants of the original participants.
In the spring of 2021, I fielded the largest survey ever of organized nonbelievers in the U.S. (n=12,370). I am currently working on several essays based on the survey data, including a study of secular feelings.
The essays I have published recently have focused on diversity within the secular tradition, genealogy’s bad blood, and the many things we mean when we talk about belief. In the past I’ve conducted research among born-again Christians in America and Zambia, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I continue to be interested in how evangelicals and nonbelievers imagine one another.
This short essay breaks down my approach to understanding religion. This review essay at Public Books gives my perspective on atheism and how to study it. This forum that I co-organized at The Immanent Frame explores whether atheism and secularism constitute a tradition that we can study sort of like a religion. My concluding essay sums up my position. You can listen to me being interviewed about the many meanings of “secularism” by clicking here. You can watch a video in which I discuss my research on organized nonbelievers by clicking here. And you can hear a presentation on Marx and the Epicurean tradition that I gave at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion by clicking here. Below you’ll find links to pre-publication copies of most of my recent scholarship.
- “Foreword: The Frustrating and Wonderful Ambiguity of Secular Publics.” Forthcoming in Global Sceptical Publics: From Nonreligious Print Media to ‘Digital Atheism,’” edited by Jacob Copeman and Mascha Schulz. London: University College London Press, 2022. [Free download of Open Access book at link above.]
- The Secular Paradox: On the Religiosity of the Not Religious. New York: New York University Press, 2022.
- “Feeling Out Alternatives Within Secularity.” Religion 51:4 (2021): 593-605.
- “Remembering Marx’s Secularism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 88:1 (March 2020): 35–57.
- “Self-Critique and Moral Ground: Saba Mahmood’s Contribution to Remaking Secularism and the Study of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 87:4 (December 2019): 941–954.
- “Secularism and Secular People.” Public Culture 30:2 (May 2018): 245-268.
- “Atheists in the Pantheon.” Review essay of Leigh Schmidt’s Village Atheists. Public Books. Published on August 14, 2017.
- “The Limits of Religious Indifference.” In Religious Indifference: New Perspectives From Studies on Secularization and Nonreligion, edited by Johannes Quack and Cora Schuh. (New York: Springer), 2017.
- “Secularism, Humanism, and Secular Humanism: Terms and Institutions.” In The Oxford Handbook of Secularism, edited by Phil Zuckerman and John Shook (New York: Oxford University Press), 2017.
- “The Social Context of Organized Nonbelief: County-Level Predictors of Nonbeliever Organizations in the United States.” Co-authored with Alfredo García, Princeton University. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 55:1 (March 2016): 70-90.
- “The Political Advantages of a Polysemous Secular.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 53:4 (December 2014): 775-790.
- “No Part of the World: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Perform the Boundaries of Their Community.” ARC 37, (January 1, 2009): 197-211.
- RG ST 13: Religion and Popular Culture
- RG ST 35: Introduction to Religion and Politics
- RG ST 104: Problems in the Study of Religion
- RG ST 144A: Atheism
- RG ST 152: Religion in America Today
- RG ST 200A: Proseminar in the History and Theory of Religion
- RG ST 201: Core Issues in the Study of Religion
- RG ST 239: Secularism
- RG ST 243M: Materialism
- RG ST 280A: Methods in the Study of Religion