This indicates that religious belief – or lack there of – is largely intractable. It is a futile effort to get people to give up religion en masse (or, for that matter, to get non-believers to believe). You may have some individual “successes”, largely because of changing the environmental context of people who already had the genetic potential for whatever belief you want to instill, but you’re not going to achieve broad change in the population.While we're not looking at a phenomenon operating at anything close to the velocity in the rate of change we've seen in the western world with regards to homosexuality, atheism is on the rise. Heredity isn't the whole story. Theists have more children than non-believers do, and they start having them sooner. That broad pattern has characterized the US for at least the last century, yet rates of belief have gently but steadily declined over that period of time. Correspondingly, professed atheism continues ticking upwards, having more than doubled over the last couple of decades. More than a few atheist spawn are springing from the loins of the faithful.
In this battle between nature (which favors theists) and nurture (which favors atheists), the atheists can scarcely afford to forgo missionary work if they want to maintain and extend upon the gains they've made in the 'culture war'.
The GSS has queried respondents on their belief in God since 1988. The following graph shows the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years. To avoid racial and generational confounding, only whites under the age of 40 are considered:
While atheists and agnostics remain squarely in the minority, their combined representation has doubled over the period under consideration. Meanwhile, the 20-point advantage firm believers ("I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it") had over uncertain theists ("I don't believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind", "I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others", and "While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God") has completely vanished.
Whether this is because of, in spite of, or uninfluenced by the rise of militant atheism is another question, as is the judgment of whether this is a boon or a bust for society in general, but, while belief in the supernatural might not be especially elastic, it isn't static, either.
GSS variables used: RACE(1), AGE(18-39), GOD(1)(2)(3-5)(6)