What an interesting week it has been. I feel like it has been one of the very best weeks for the development of my project; with all this meeting with professors and filling out course contracts in addition to all the work on the proposal and the IRB application. I feel like my plans are a little bit firmer now, and I'm throwing out the idea of measuring elite opinions. I think I'll be able to do that better by interviewing people anyway. If I can spend more of my time visiting religious meetings, conferences, and churches, and trying to talk to religious leaders, I'll probably be able to find very relevant information from individuals who deal with the religiousness or non religiousness of the people every day. On the other hand, I may be able to find well known individuals such as university professors or leaders from secular societies who would gladly explain their views in an interview. The kind of answers they would give would be more detailed anyway, and then I can decide what questions to ask (which could be good and bad...but mostly good). As for the survey, I'm determined to find out how good a survey conducted by me could get, and if I'm not satisfied, I'll content myself with small scale stuff - a survey of whites in a certain neighborhood, surveys handed out in museums or parks, or a case study of pub owners in highly religious and highly secular parts of London. I don't know, really, but those are a few ideas.
I feel like my proposal has improved a lot though, and although it still needs a bit more work I find it easier to articulate what I want to do now that I've spent time explaining the project to several different people, each with different areas of expertise and levels of experience. The more I do research on religion the more multi-faceted the issue becomes. I thought I had a handle on it when I read my very first source, the 28th British Social Attitudes Survey from 2011, but now I realize how much more there is to understand. History, popular culture, modern entertainment and distractions, the influence of science and liberal attitudes, influential writers and published books, theories, foreign wars, and economic performance--all of these seem to have an influence on religion in some way. In the end, though, it's good to know and appreciate, even if it will all only give me a better context within which to conduct my interviews and case studies.