Victor wrote: "And none of us is intellectually pure, in that, emotional reasons are always going to be present no matter what we believe, so long as we care about what we believe."
Ken: I'm a sinner. I don't ever think that any other atheists have any huge advantage in the objectivity department. One can always cite some sources of bias for the opposition. This doesn't mean atheists can't have an edge in objectivity.
A case can be made that the emotional motivations of Christians are stronger than that of atheists and agnostics, so while there is no question about the lack of objectivity of both sides, there remains the question of the degree of which our respective beliefs are determined by our emotions.
On the non-theist side we have elitism, desire for a carefree, sinful lifestyle, and sometimes peer pressure, other times the desire to be different, with the latter conflicting influences depending on the circumstances (such as conforming to a nonconformist ingroup).
On the Christian side, the most obvious are the self-preservation imperative (cultural or personal), widespread indoctrination, desire for good fortune, moral security, moral certainty and conformity.
Of course the more particular motivations of non-theists may also account for their relative scarcity, assuming all other things being equal such as reasoning ability. But if we could distill the objective out of the subjective, we may find that atheism is the modestly more pure position as an initial, very simple assumption.
VR: I suppose we can start analyzing this by looking at non-truth-tracking causes for beliefs. Believing, religiously, what one is raised to believe, for example, doesn't appear to be truth-tracking, since clearly we people are raised to believe various things, and the likelihood of coming with falsehoods just picking your beliefs that way seems rather high. Believing what you wish to believe is in general not truth-tracking, your wishes and your fears come true, for the most parts, in equal proportions.
But how many people in our society have strong Christian upbringings? I don't think most people in America are raised by dedicated Christians. Sure, there are high polling numbers for theism on Gallup surveys, but most households, I think, do not provide anything like a strong indoctrination into Christianity. I grew up in a United Methodist church, but I also spent most of my academic career in atmospheres which were hostile to Christianity.
Also, when you start reflecting on your beliefs, your non-rational reasons for believing somethings start making you suspicious, as opposed to supporting your beliefs. Insofar as I felt myself wanting to believe that Christianity is true, it was a source of doubt rather than faith. I had, after all, read Russell, who told me it was "pusillanimous and sniveling" to give in to the will to believe.
And these non-rational factors are so variable from person to person. While many people fear extinction, C. S. Lewis claimed to have no such fear. He wrote:
"And it remains true that I have, almost all of my life, been quite unable to feel that horror of nonentity, of annhilation, which, say Dr. Johnson felt so strongly. I felt it for the first time only in 1947. But that was after I had long been reconverted and thus begun to know what life really is and what would be lost by missing it."
(Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace and Company, p. 117.)
Now, I suppose a skeptic could sit here and play Freud, and argue that this was a piece of disingenuous subtle propaganda to make us think he was really persuaded by argument to believe, when really he wished his way back to Christianity. But on what possible evidence? And couldn't we play that game with everyone, if we some particular theory of why people believe, or why people disbelieve? If I hold the thesis that everyone who rejects Christianity does so out of a desire to engage in sexual conduct that Christianity proscribes, surely I could follow Freud in finding sexual motivations where none appear to be on the face of things.
So, I think we have reason to be aware of the non-rational motivations that might be moving us toward belief or unbelief. But this probably is not going to give us much of an argument one way or another. If anything, I could make the case that the Christian philosophers I know tend to be more conscious of their own intellectual frailties, than most atheist philosophers I know.