There is a good op-ed from the Wall Street Journal about the inaccurate polling done concerning the fading of religious belief in America. Personally, I am somewhat skeptical of polls-as-science because the data is often skewed by the questions asked, and the by the social propriety of answering questions a certain way whatever the actual beliefs of the pollee.
Atheists often rely on such data to ‘prove’ they are growing in numbers. I don’t fault them for this given they represent an extreme minority in the world and consistently represent only about 4% of the US populace; I am sure they are desperate to grasp at any inkling that their numbers are growing.
The authors however point out the national polls show no big falloff, and the national press often misses this fact:
Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings.
Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people.
In similar fashion, major media hailed another Barna report that young evangelicals are increasingly embracing liberal politics. But only religious periodicals carried the news that national surveys offer no support for this claim, and that younger evangelicals actually remain as conservative as their parents.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, as a conservative evangelical Christian, I believe that the number of people who call themselves Christians don’t necessarily reflect sincere or understanding belief in Christ, so I am rather indifferent to raw numbers or labels. Nonetheless the fact is nothing like strong atheism seems to be spreading in the US, and given the demographics of truly secular societies (the fact they are aging, low-reproductive populations) it is unlikely atheism will predominate anytime in the future.