No Church in the Wild: The Politics of American Nonreligion
Dissertation Abstract: The number of Americans with no religious identification has grown dramatically in recent years, from just 9% of the population in 1990 to 23% in 2016. Current research argues that much of this growth is political, because one of the key motives for disaffiliation has been a backlash to the relationship between organized religion and conservative politics forged by the New Christian Right in the late 1970s and 80s. If this is the case, will the growth of nonreligious Americans have a substantive political impact? If not, why not? Using two unique, nationally representative survey data sets and a comprehensive study of nonreligious advocacy groups, my dissertation addresses a gap in our knowledge about democratic engagement among both strongly identified nonreligious Americans and the majority who prefer to be just "nothing in particular." We do not know what issues this later group cares about or whether their interests align with the work of nonreligious community organizations. More broadly, my interdisciplinary work in sociology, political science, and social psychology allows this research to answer bigger questions about how culture shapes the way people make political decisions.