This site is a gateway for my research, teaching, and related interests (see my C.V.). I am a professor in the sociology department at the University of Minnesota.
I am a cultural sociologist who studies religion and and the growth of non-religion in the United States. I want to understand how religion influences moral culture -- for example, understandings of right and wrong, ideals of family life, how we think about race and racial equality, and understandings of good citizenship. I also want to understand the growing group of Americans who are non-religious, including the varieties of non-religious identities and experiences, as well as the organizations through which non-religious Americans come together to socialize and create meaningful identities, or to lobby for legal protections, fight anti-atheist sentiment, or work on political or policy-oriented goals.
Historically, in the U.S., religion has been an important locus for the formation of symbolic boundaries, shaping dynamics of both social inclusion and solidarity and social exclusion and division. That is still the case. But the 2018 General Social Survey shows that 23% of Americans claim no religious identity — and among those under age 30, the figure is 35%. To understand this changing landscape, I am engaged in a variety of research projects that allow me to continue to work on the "big questions" that have motivated my research since graduate school, questions that have to do with moral community and belonging. These questions are changing as we undergo a transition into a more secular society, one in which religious identification is not longer taken-for-granted.
What are our collective understandings of "the good" in public and private life?
What are the loci of meaning, purpose, and community among the non-religious?
How does religion bring people together in our society and when does it divide us?
What are the sources of identity, belonging, and moral community that lead to civic engagement and foster democratic participation?