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There is a problem with the question because the premise of the question violates how we form beliefs. As children we gain beliefs from what we are told by people we trust because we assume that these people are telling us something that is true. Later when we confirm for ourselves the truth of something we belief to be true, our belief is confirmed and becomes stronger. The moment our experience shows us that something is not true is the moment that we stop belief in that something and our belief evolves. Belief comes from what we conceive of as being true so we cannot set aside for a moment whether your religious beliefs are true or not when we try to obtain comfort from that belief. The comfort that is gained from the belief is only there under the assumption of the truth of your religion. It is possible to gain comfort by thinking something is true when it is not. I may be comforted by thinking that I may be heavy but I am not as fat as that person over there. This thought is based on the belief that I weigh less. The moment I learn that I weigh more is the moment my comfort and the belief that provided the comfort disappears. The same applies to your religion. If your religion is true then the comfort it brings will be lasting. If it is false then the comfort it brings is fleeting and actions taken based on a belief in something that is not true may have random and/or unpleasant consequences.
...that one's initial discarding of theism and one's continued lack of belief in gods are not conscious decisions and instead reflect one's appraisal of the available data.
I don't see a distinction between "conscious decisions" and "one's appraisal". When making the appraisal what is happening other than a conscious decision making process. By the time we can appraise the data for ourselves, society has already given us options that force us to make a choice. If you are making David Eller's point that everyone is born an atheist, I would agree that the infant is an atheist without making a choice. After that everything is a choice.