My dissertation centers around an ethnography of a "secular congregation," The Sunday Assembly. Through interviews, observations, and content analysis, I am exploring the ways in which nonreligiosity is "lived" through community formation, ritualization, and embodied experiences. Far from being an identity that signals a lack of beliefs and values, nonreligious individuals in fact hold a heterogeneity of substantive beliefs and identities that are built in relation to religion and formed around cultural practices and non-religious communities. I have published a book chapter in an edited volume on organized secularism using data from my fieldwork.
I work as a research fellow at the American Mosaic Project where I use the project's 2014 survey data to explore civic engagement, volunteerism, conceptions of community, and social boundaries between the religious and nonreligious. Using the AMP data, I have published a paper analyzing gender differences in nonreligious identification with Penny Edgell and Evan Stewart and a paper examining how nonreligious beliefs and identifications influence rates of volunteering with Penny Edgell. Penny and I have also published a paper using AMP data exploring the influence of conservative religiosity on understandings of racial inequality.
One of my longer term career goals is to create better survey questions and categories to more accurately capture religious and nonreligious beliefs and behaviors. In working toward this larger goal, I have teamed up with researchers at the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University and local nonreligious organizations in the Twin Cities to develop at 25-question survey to assess the social, spiritual, and communal needs of the nonreligious in Minnesota. From this pilot project, I will continue to refine these survey measures and to field them to larger, nationally representative samples.