Researchers


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Karen Hwang, EdD, recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in rehabilitation outcomes at Kessler Research Foundation, and is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medical Rehabilitation at University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. Her prior research experience has focused on quality of life issues in persons with traumatic disabilities, including stroke, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. Her current interest is in the medical and psychological correlates of religion and atheism in the U.S. population, and the consequences of anti-atheist discrimination.

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Dr. Ryan T. Cragun is a partner, parent, and sociologist of religion (in order of importance). Originally from Utah, he now lives in Florida and works at The University of Tampa. His research and writing focuses on religion, with an emphasis on Mormonism and the nonreligious. His research has been published in a variety of academic journals, including: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Journal of Sex Research, Journal of Religion and Health, and Journal of Contemporary Religion. He’s the author of several books, including, How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should), and Could I Vote for a Mormon for President?.  For more about his work and copies of his peer-reviewed articles you can visit his website: www.ryantcragun.com. When he’s not working, he’s spending time with his partner and child, cooking, watching science fiction, hiking, playing soccer, or tinkering with computers.

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Joseph H. Hammer, PhD is a tenure-track Assistant Professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky.  Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Joe went on to complete his Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Master’s of Education in Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri, and PhD in Counseling Psychology at Iowa State University.  Prior to starting his faculty position at the University of Kentucky, he completed an APA-Accredited Predoctoral Psychology Internship at the University of Maryland Counseling Center. His program of research focuses on help seeking with an emphasis on culturally-informed methods, measurements, and models.  His work in the psychology of atheism is one manifestation of that emphasis.

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Jesse M. Smith, PhD is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Western Michigan University. Primarily a social psychologist and interpretive sociologist, his research has focused on the self, identity, deviance, collective behavior, religion/irreligion and qualitative methods. He enjoys teaching, as well as guiding the research of both undergraduate and graduate sociology students, and has a passion for helping others develop their sociological imaginations. Currently he is working on a project examining the congregational dimensions of “expressive nontheism” through a case study of the Sunday Assembly.


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Joseph Langston, BS, BA, MA, is an independent researcher with general interests in the psychology and sociology of religion and atheism, and specifically in religious change and the cognitive science of religion. His prior research has focused on testing theories of the origins or causes of atheism, and on the atheist movement and its organizations in America. In Fall 2014, he served his first academic post as Lecturer of Religion in Society at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. His present research explores the factors and reasons that influence how and why people become atheists.


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Lori L. Fazzino, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she is completing her dissertation research, which examines the lived experiences of everyday irreligion, focusing primarily on the interactional dynamics, symbolic meanings, and social performances of irreligious morality. Aside from religion/irreligion, her research interests also include culture, social movements, and deviance. She is also a strategy consultant who currently works with the Secular Student Alliance on a number of projects, including the Secular Safe Zone project, educating student affairs professionals about religious privilege, and most notably, has authored most of the resource material for Openly Secular, a national campaign aimed at eliminating anti-secular discrimination.

Thomas J Coleman III
Thomas J. Coleman III is a Psychology Ph.D. student at Coventry University, as part of the Brain, Belief and Behaviour research group. He is an assistant editor for the journal Secularism & Nonreligion, Graduate Student Co-Representative for the American Psychological Association Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Division 36and a managing editor for The Religious Studies Project. His interests span research in the cognitive sciences, psychological anthropology, and philosophy of science, focusing on theory of mind and folk psychology in nonreligious populations. Coleman recently co-edited a special issue of the journal Science, Religion & Culture titled “Atheism, Secularity, and Science” with John R. Shook and Ralph W. Hood Jr.. His doctoral research focuses on the imagination engagements of atheists and theists. Email: mailto:colema56@uni.coventry.ac.uk

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Alexandra Bush is a doctoral student in the sociology department at the University of North Texas, where she is currently working on her Master’s thesis which examines women’s online participation among the atheist community and its role in empowerment and social capital. Her general research focuses on gender, irreligion/religion and social movements; she is also interested in the lived experiences of secular families. Her prior research has examined atheist identity, women’s religiosity, and online identity work.  In Fall 2015 she taught her first course, sociology of religion, as a teaching fellow.

Robin Allen
Robin W. Allen, PhD, MSW, is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Boise State University.  She has done research in the areas of school social work, domestic violence, children with disabilities, family-centered social work practice.  Her current research is focused on the understanding of the lived experiences of religious nones, with the goal of developing social work theories and models for effective social work practice with this group.  When not working, she is going to the movies, traveling, or reading a mystery novel.

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Melanie Brewster, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, earned her Ph.D from the University of Florida. Her research focuses on marginalized groups and examines how experiences of discrimination and stigma may shape the mental health of minority group members (e.g., LGBTQ individuals, non-believing groups, people of color). Dr. Brewster also examines potential resilience factors, such as bicultural self-efficacy and cognitive flexibility, that may promote the mental health of minority individuals. Her first book, Atheists in America, was published in 2014.

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Corey L. Cook is an experimental social psychologist and currently Assistant Professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He earned his Ph.D. from University of Florida and his research primarily focuses on the effects of threat perception on social cognition and behavior, especially as they apply to stereotyping and prejudice. He is particularly interested in the evolution of morality and its effects on social cognition. He has published research suggesting that 1) prejudice toward atheists stems, in part, from the perception that non-believers are incapable of morality, and thus pose threats to morals and values, and 2) atheism threatens cherished worldview beliefs (e.g., belief in the afterlife), therefore increasing existential concern and resulting in increased prejudice toward non-believers.

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David Speed (dspeed@unb.ca) earned a Master’s degree in applied research and a PhD in social/health psychology from Memorial University of Newfoundland. David is currently an assistant professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, where he teaches program evaluation and statistics. David’s research focuses on the health of the irreligious, and whether they benefit from traditionally religious/spiritual activities (e.g., church attendance, religiosity). When David isn’t living this aforementioned rock-n-roll lifestyle, he enjoys spending time with his wife Betsy and his daughters Aliya, Charley, and Eden.

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Andreea Nica, M.S., is a sociology doctoral candidate at Portland State University. Her dissertation, entitled, “Exiters of Religious Fundamentalism: Reconstruction of Identity, Meaning, and Social Support in Relation to Well-Being”, examines how individuals who leave fundamentalist religions reconstruct their lives in relation to life satisfaction. She has published in the Secularism & Nonreligion Journal; collaborated on a research project exploring pathways to leaving religion; and is co-authoring an article with renowned methodologist, Dr. David Morgan, on a new qualitative methodology using her dissertation work as an example. Andreea has received travel awards to present at the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Meetings, and granted doctoral funding from the Religious Research Association. Prior to her doctoral studies, Andreea’s work as a journalist/public sociologist appeared in top-profile outlets, such as Huffington Post, Fox News Radio, Salon, and Ms. Magazine. She is an Instructor in Portland State’s Department of Communication, and has taught at the University of Portland in the Department of Sociology. She can be reached at anica@pdx.edu.  For CV requests/inquiries: anica@pdx.edu.  Connect: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreeanica

 
Caleb Schaffner is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at North Central College. He recently defended his dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago, entitled “Paths Out of Religion: A Cartography of Atheism.” He generally conducts mixed-methods research concerning heterogeneity among atheists, on topics including reasons and strategies for leaving religion, stances on how to engage with religion in the public sphere, and definitions of atheism. While not conducting research (or teaching), he enjoys reading dystopian fiction and playing board games.

 
Jacob S. Sawyer, Ph.D. is a staff psychologist for the State University of New York at Albany, and a grant project coordinator for the SUNY Research Foundation. He earned his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Columbia University, where his dissertation compared mental health outcomes between atheists and believers during bereavement. He has published in the areas of atheist discrimination and atheist identity, and is interested in the continued exploration of atheist/secular grief and bereavement.


Kevin McCaffree is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Texas. He publishes widely in sociological theory (especially of religion and morality) and criminology. He is the author of three books, over a dozen peer-reviewed articles or handbook chapters and is currently series co-editor (with Jonathan Turner) of Evolutionary Analysis in the Social Sciences. Upcoming projects include a sociological theory of threat and group formation (When Groups Come Apart: Fission-Fusion Dynamics in Human Societies. New York, NY: Routledge) and continued work documenting how changes in routine activities are reducing the American crime rate.