A member of the studio audience said in a comment:
I notice among some of my friends (and perhaps myself sometimes, though I don't like to admit it) the sort of thinking you're describing here. I notice that sometimes people using words like "atheism," "theism," "rational," and "irrational" tend to subtly add to their definitions, perhaps unconsciously, the notion that these words are badges of honor or scarlet letters that inherently make the person they describe better or worse.
I partially agree with this proposition.
Atheism is not a virtue, and theism is not a vice.
First, these are beliefs. Moral qualities are attached to desires, not beliefs.
A virtue is a desire that tends to fulfill other desires, and as such is a desire people generally have reason to promote through praise. A vice is a desire that tends to thwart other desires and as such is a desire that people generally have reason to inhibit.
It is often the case that when people have false beliefs - particularly when they embrace plainly false beliefs supported by totally irrational arguments, we have reason to ask what motivated the agent to adopt that belief. We will typically find that motivation aong the agent's desires. People believe what they want to believe. From this, we can determine if a virtue or a vice is involved - by determining if the unfounded belief is motivated by a good or a bad desire.
We have to allow that perfectly decent people can make a mistake from time to time. In fact, every single one of us is wrong about something . . . something about which we are absolutely certain must be the case. If we condemn each person for their mistake, then we must condemn everybody. So, the mere existence of a false belief is not in itself good enough reason to condemn somebody.
No matter who you are, I think you have at least one false belief. However, I do not think you are a bad person because of it. In fact, I can even assert with utter confidence that I have at least one false belief. I don't know what it is, but I know it is there. Yet, I hope this does not qualify me as a bad person.
Rationality is a virtue. Irrationality is a vice.
Where I disagree with the comment above is that I hold that rationality is a virtue. In fact, it is an obligation whenever one's decisions affect others.
The distinction between rationality and irrationality is the distinction between intellectual moral resonsibility and intellectual recklessness.
To illustrate the difference, imagine an agent loading up a truck with garbage intending to haul to the city dump. A morally responsible person knows that if any part of the load shifts and falls from the truck that others could be harmed. Motivated by a sincere desire to prevent unnecessary harm, he makes sure that the load is secure before taking the trip.
A reckless person, on the other hand, simply throws the garbage onto the back of the truck. He cannot be bothered to take the time to secure the load and, thus, better protect the well-being of others. He would rather trust to fate or to faith to deliver him and his load to the city garbage dump without killing anybody.
The same moral principle applies to beliefs. Unsecured beliefs are many times more dangerous than the unsecured loads that a person may place on a truck. In fact, unsecured beliefs are among the most dangerous objects on the planet. As such, the morally responsible person will struggle to make sure that his beliefs are well secured, particularly when those beliefs put others at risk. Whereas the morally irresponsible person trusts to fate and faith to get away with travelling through life with his unsecured beliefs.
To the degree that we have reason to avoid being subject to the harms caused by unsecured beliefs, and to have those we care about suffer from harm, to that degree we have reason to praise those who go through the effort to secure their beliefs and to condemn those who do not.
Atheism and Rationality
One of the issues I write about is that, even though many atheists claim to value rationality and consider themselves to be rational, they often do not have as much rationality as they claim credit for. Many of my objections to claims that atheists make are claims against their rationality. I argue that these are instances where, like those theists they condemn, they are adopting a belief because it is comfortable to them, not because it is well-founded or well-secured.
One of these inconsistencies is tied to the attitude that atheism is a virtue and theism is a vicee.
Whenevere somebody criticizes atheism, saying that it has dire implications for the well-being of humanity, atheists claim that 'atheism' is merely the lack of a balief in a God. This simple proposition does not have any of the iplications that the critic claims to be a dire threat to humanity.
Yet, many of those who offer these defense will often - even in the same brath - condemn all of theism because of its dire implications for the well-being of humanity. Instead of defining theism as a simple belief that one or more gods of some type do exist, they attach all sorts of other properties to theism just so that they can get to their conclusion that theism is a threat to humanity.
This is inconsistent. It is irrational. Furthermore, it is a type of irrationality that suggests a moral failing on the part of those that make these types of claims. These people are motivated by a desire to belief that members of the atheist tribe are inherently morally superior to members of the theist tribe. As such, they blind themselves to reason in order to embrace an illogical argument aiming to prove the inferiority of theists.
I also hold that the belief that 'atheism' is 'a lack of belief in any gods' is also a false belief that atheists adopt because they find it pleasing, rather than because it is true. 'Atheism' may mean 'a lack of belief in any gods' in some personal, private code language that the speaker has adopted. However, it does not have that meaning in English. In English it means 'a person who holds that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is certainly or almost certainly false.'
One way that people defend the false definition of atheism is by looking at the root of the word itself. A - theism means 'without - theism' or, they say, without belief in a God.
If you want to accept that as a legitimate way to determine the definitions of words, then 'atom' means 'without - parts', which mans anybody who claims that the english-term 'atom' refers to things made up of electrons, neutrons, and protons must be mistaken. Clearly we have demonstrated that 'atoms' cannot possibly have any parts. It is built right into the meaning of the word.
So, atheists accept an entirely unreasonable way to determine the meaning of a word because it gives them a conclusion that they like. This is irrationality, and it proves that equating atheism with rationality is a mistak.
Then there are repeated examples of what I call The Bigot's Fallacy in a great deal of atheist writing. They eagerly embrac examples in which a person associated with religion is involved in something bad, and immediately jump to the conclusion that 'religion' is bad. This is as fallacious as identifying a crime committed by a black person, and jumping from that to the conclusion that no black person can be trusted.
In some cases, they defend their claim by holding that 'religion' provided the beliefs that motivated the bad actions. However, this is false. 'Religion' did no such a thing. 'A religion' - that is, a specific set of beliefs that the specific agents who are being discussed - may have been behind the bad actions. But the distinction between 'a religion' and 'religion' is substantially the same as the distinction between 'a black man' and 'black men'. This type of argument does not provide a defense against the charge of bigotry, it demonstrates the qualities that make the charge applicable.