Joseph O. Baker


Research Interests: Religion; secularism; deviance and social control; public views of science; paranormalism; penology and law; social theory

In addition to teaching at ETSU, I work for the Association of Religion Data Archives.  For the thrilling minutiae of my credentialing history and varied efforts at ritual impressiveness, see my curriculum vitae.            

Recent Research: With Chris Bader and Kittye Hirsch.  Desecration, Moral Boundaries, and the Movement of Law: The Case of Westboro Baptist Church.  Deviant Behavior 36(1):42-67.TSQ

Using participant observation, in-depth interviews, and legislative histories, we examine Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group infamous for homophobic rhetoric and funeral protests.  Employing cultural and interactionist perspectives that focus on the semiotics of death, the sacred, and desecration, we outline how Westboro's activities purposively violate deeply held signifiers of moral order through language, while simultaneously respecting extant laws of behavior.  This strategy, in conjunction with the political profitability of opposing the group, explains why the group's activism triggered extensive legal disputes at multiple levels of governance.  Westboro's actions and use of symbols--and those of others against the group--lay bare multiple threads in the sacred cultural fabric of American society.


Publications:  Contact me if you would like full text versions of any articles. 

Public Views of Science
Public Perceptions of Incompatibility between "Science and Religion." 
Public Understanding of Science 21(3):340-354

Acceptance of Evolution and Support for Teaching Creationism in Public Schools
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 52(1):216-228.

With Andrew Whitehead.  Homosexuality, Religion, and Science: Moral Authority and the Persistence of Negative Attitudes.  Sociological Inquiry 82(4):487-509.

With Stefano Longo.  Economy "Versus" Environment: The Influence of Economic Ideology and Political Identity on Perceived Threat of Eco-Catastrophe.The Sociological Quarterly 55(2):341-65.


American Secularism(s)
With Buster Smith.  The Nones: Social Characteristics of the Religiously Unaffiliated. 
Social Forces

With Buster Smith.  None Too Simple: Examining Issues of Religious Nonbelief and Nonbelonging in the United StatesJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion 48(4):719-733. 

Perceptions of Science and American Secularism. 
Sociological Perspectives 55(1):167-188.

Patterns of Religious Practice and Belief
An Investigation of the Sociological Patterns of Prayer Frequency and Content.
Sociology of Religion 69(2):165-185. 

With Jerry Park.  What Would Jesus Buy? American Consumption of Religious and Spiritual Material GoodsJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46(4):501-518. 

With Scott Draper.  Angelic Belief as American Folk Religion.
Sociological Forum 26(3):623-643. 

Who Believes in Religious Evil?  An Investigation of Sociological Patterns of Belief in Satan, Hell, and DemonsReview of Religious Research 50(2):206-220. 


Congregational Dynamics
Social Sources of the Spirit: Connecting Rational Choice and Interactive Ritual Theories in the Study of Religion Sociology of Religion 71(4):432-456.

With Sam Stroope.  Structural and Cultural Sources of Community in American Congregations. 
Social Science Research 45:1-17.

Theories of Deviance and Control
The Variety of Religious Experiences.
Review of Religious Research 51(1):39-54.  Erratum

The Expression of Low Self-Control as Problematic Drinking in Adolescents: An Integrated Control PerspectiveJournal of Criminal Justice 38(3):237-244. 

"Paranormal" Beliefs and Subcultures
With Chris Bader and Carson Mencken.  Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture.  New York: NYU Press.

With Chris Bader.  A Social Anthropology of Ghosts in Twenty-First-Century America.  Social Compass 61(4):569-593.

With Scott Draper.  Diverse Supernatural Portfolios: Certitude, Exclusivity, and the Curvilinear Relationship between Religiosity and Paranormal BeliefJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(3):413-424.  Appendix

With Chris Bader and Andrea Molle.   Countervailing Forces: Religiosity the Paranormal Belief in Italy.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51(4):705-720.