Research Areas research areas


  • Michele Dillon, Ph.D., is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the UNH Class of 1944 Professor of Sociology. Educated at University College Dublin and the University of California-Berkeley, her research focuses on autonomy and authority in the Catholic Church; moral politics; religion, spirituality and aging; and religion and cultural change. Her publications include Postsecular Catholicism: Relevance and Renewal (Oxford University Press, 2018); Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power (Cambridge University Press, 1999); American Catholics in Transition (co-authors W. D’Antonio & M. Gautier; Rowman & Littlefield, 2013); In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice and Change (co-author Paul Wink; University of California Press, 2007) - named by Choice as an outstanding title of 2007; Debating Divorce: Moral Conflict in Ireland (University Press of Kentucky, 1993); Handbook of the Sociology of Religion (editor, Cambridge University Press, 2003); Introduction to Sociological Theory (Wiley-Blackwell, 3rd ed., 2020), Concise Reader in Sociological Theory (editor, Wiley 2021), and over 50 book chapters and articles in journals such as Sociological Theory, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Adult Development, and Research on Aging. Dr. Dillon’s research has been supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Louisville Institute, the Fetzer Institute, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, among other entities. She was honored in 2011 as the 11th Annual Anne Drummey O'Callaghan Lecturer on Women in the Church, at Fairfield University; and in 2011-12 was the JE and Lillian Byrne Tipton Distinguished Visiting Professor in Catholic Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Professor Dillon has served as President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Chair of the American Sociological Association Section on the Sociology of Religion, and President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. She is frequently interviewed by regional, national and international media outlets on matters pertaining to religion and, in 2021, was listed in the world's top 2 percent of researchers (in a study published in PLOS Biology Journal).
  • Selected Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title
    2015 Assessing Reverence in Contexts: A Positive Emotion Related to Psychological FunctioningJournal of Humanistic Psychology2015
    2014 Asynchrony in Attitudes Toward Abortion and Gay Rights: The Challenge to Values AlignmentJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  53:1-16. 2014
    2014 The Connection of Soul (COS) scale: An assessment tool for afterlife perspectives in different worldviews.Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.  6:316-329. 2014
    2010 2009 Association for the Sociology of Religion Presidential Address * Can Post-Secular Society Tolerate Religious Differences?Sociology of Religion.  71:139-156. 2010
    2007 Religiousness, spiritual seeking, and personality: findings from a longitudinal study.Journal of Personality.  75:1051-1070. 2007
    2007 Religiousness, Spiritual Seeking, and Authoritarianism: Findings from a Longitudinal StudyJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  46:321-335. 2007
    2007 Religion as Moderator of the Sense of Control–Health Connection: Gender DifferencesJournal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging: the interdisiplinary journal of practice, theory and applied research.  19:21-41. 2007
    2005 Religion as Moderator of the Depression-Health ConnectionResearch on Aging: an international bimonthly journal.  27:197-220. 2005
    2003 Religiousness, spirituality, and psychosocial functioning in late adulthood: findings from a longitudinal study.Psychology and Aging.  18:916-924. 2003
    2003 Is Spirituality Detrimental to Generativity?Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  42:427-442. 2003
    2002 Spiritual Development across the Adult Life-course: Findings from a Longitudinal StudyJournal of Adult Development.  9:79-94. 2002
    2001 Pierre Bourdieu, Religion, and Cultural ProductionCultural Studies: Critical Methodologies.  1:411-429. 2001
    1999 The Authority of the Holy Revisited: Habermas, Religion, and Emancipatory PossibilitiesSociological Theory.  17:290-306. 1999
    1999 The Catholic Church and Possible "Organizational Selves": The Implications for Institutional ChangeJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  38:386-386. 1999
    1998 Rome and American CatholicsAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  558:122-134. 1998
    1996 The Persistence of Religious Identity among College CatholicsJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  35:165-165. 1996
    1996 Cultural differences in the abortion discourse of the Catholic Church: evidence from four countries.Sociology of Religion.  57:25-36. 1996
    1995 Institutional Legitimation and Abortion: Monitoring the Catholic Church's DiscourseJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion1995
    1995 Religion and Culture in Tension: The Abortion Discourses of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist ConventionReligion and American Culture.  5:159-180. 1995
    1993 Argumentative Complexity of Abortion DiscoursePublic Opinion Quarterly.  57:305-305. 1993
    1990 Perceptions of the Causes of the Troubles in Northern IrelandEconomic and Social Review1990
    1984 Recent changes in Irish fertilityQuarterly Economic Commentary1984
    Youth Culture in IrelandEconomic and Social Review


    Year Title
    2018 Postsecular Catholicism: Relevance and Renewal 2018
    2013 Introduction to Sociological Theory Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century 2013
    2013 American Catholics in Transition 2013
    2007 In the Course of a Lifetime Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change 2007
    2003 Handbook of the Sociology of Religion 2003
    1999 Catholic Identity Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power 1999
    1993 Debating Divorce Moral Conflict in Ireland 1993


    Year Title
    2015 Christian Affiliation and Disaffiliation the United States: Generational and Cultural Change. 2015
    2015 Secularization, Generational Change, and Ireland’s Post-Secular Opportunity 2015
    2014 The Difference between Irish and American Catholicism 2014
    2014 The Orphaned Irish: Church and State in Neo-Liberal Irish Society 2014
    2013 Religion, Spirituality, and Personal Wisdom 2013
    2012 Developmental and Narrative Perspectives on Religious and Spiritual Identity 2012
    2012 Jurgen Habermas and the Post-Secular Appropriation of Religion: A Sociological Critique 2012
    2012 Life Contingencies and the Psychosocial Fruits of Faith in Late Adulthood 2012
    2012 Multifaceted and Cohesive: The Sustaining Power of the Communal Tradition. 2012
    2009 Integrating the Sacred in Successful Aging 2009
    2009 The buffering role of religiousness and spiritual seeking on sense of control among older adults in poor physical health 2009
    2007 Age, Generation, and Cohort in American Religion and Spirituality 2007
    2004 The Abortion Debate: Good for the Church and Good for American Society 2004
    2003 The Sociology of Religion in Late Modernity 2003
    American Religion, Generativity, and the Therapeutic Culture
    Catholicism, Politics and Culture in the Republic of Ireland
    Catholics II: In the Flux of Crisis
    College Educators and the Maintenance of Catholic Identity
    Decline and Continuity: Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, Ireland, and Quebec
    Do Generative Adolescents Become Healthy Older Adults?
    Multiple Belongings: The Persistence of Community amid Societal Differentiation
    Religious Involvement and Health Outcomes in Late Adulthood: Findings from a Longitudinal Study
    Religiousness and Spirituality: Trajectories and Vital Involvement in Late Adulthood
    Sexuality and Religion: Negotiating Identity Differences
    The Sociology of Religion
    The Struggle to Preserve Religious Capital: A Sociological Perspective on the Catholic Church in the United States

    Teaching Activities

  • Sociological Theory I Taught course
  • COLA Research Taught course 2022
  • Internship Independent Study Taught course 2022
  • COLA Research Taught course 2022
  • COLA Research Taught course 2021
  • COLA Research Taught course 2020
  • Student Research Experience Taught course 2020
  • Rsrch Exp/Sociology Taught course 2018
  • Sociological Methods IV Taught course 2018
  • Religion Taught course 2017
  • Sociological Theory I Taught course 2017
  • Evaluation Research Taught course 2017
  • Sociological Theory II Taught course 2017
  • Sociological Theory I Taught course 2016
  • Sociological Methods IV Taught course 2016
  • Sociological Theory II Taught course 2015
  • Sociological Theory I Taught course 2014
  • Independent Reading & Research Taught course 2014
  • Sociological Methods IV Taught course 2014
  • Full Name

  • Michele Dillon