Help is on the way
There’s another thing about the suggestion that Americans claim to be more religious than they really are for reasons to do with identity rather than belief, and how gnu atheism can Help.
It’s this. One thing gnu atheism is doing is relentlessly pointing out that religious belief is not altogether intellectually respectable. That means that religion no longer offers such a desirable kind of identity. It means the identity aspect is more mixed.
When you ask Americans about their religious beliefs, it’s like asking them whether they are good people, or asking whether they are patriots.
Yes, but now it’s also getting to be like asking them whether they believe in Santa Claus. It’s getting to be like asking them if they’re somewhat too credulous for a grown-up.
The “identity” is under pressure from that direction in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time, and the pressure will only increase. The internet has given argumentative atheism an ideal tool of persuasion, so it won’t just fade back into the woodwork in a few years. Gnu atheism will just go on chipping away at theistic epistemology, and the longer it does so, the less obviously desirable the religious “identity” will be. People will no more think it vaguely socially desirable to profess churchgoing than they will think it vaguely socially desirable to profess genuine belief in Santa Claus.