Christians, or anyone else with "firm convictions," when they speak of integrity, rational, and open-ended inquiry remind me of nothing so much as of a 8 or 9 year old boy delivering a speech on the evils of marriage. He's heard the adults around him talk about marriage and women. He's no doubt intelligent, even insightful on occasion; however, can anyone but another child not burst out laughing at his little speech? It's the lack of firsthand experience, and even a matter of ability and preparation.
Christians with their fear of putting their beliefs and themselves at risk make themselves laughable. That the Gospel would appear as "foolishness to the Greeks" is probably the only honest part of the New Testament. And in valuing inquiry, rationality, thinking for thinking's sake, does this not make a person Greek?
It is hardly persuasive that Christians have conjured up self-serving rationalizations about letting the little children lead, or that unless one become as a child. Being the father of a 3 and 5 year old, being as a child means asking questions, endless spontaneity, and even more an astonishing lack of any fear of consequences. Qualities, incidentally, Christians typically lack.
But I digress. A religion that prides itself on comfort cannot but end with conformity, laziness, and timidity as virtues.
No doubt there are some small minority of Christians who also find the timidity and addiction to comfort of "their brothers and sisters in Christ" contemptible. I can imagine some of these renouncing the comforts and amenities of civilized Christian life. The analogizing Christians to used-car salesmen would not hold for these.
And just to be clear: I recognize that comparing Christians to used-car salesmen is an ad hominem argument. However, the comparison depends on numerous similarities between Christians and used-car salesmen to make a point: the integrity of Christians is highly suspect.
A Christian would no doubt make the counter-argument that atheists are equally vulnerable on this same point. However, there are no atheist ministers, no atheist Sunday Schools, no weekly Wednesday night atheist meetings, and the list goes on and on. There may be humanist organizations that meet on a regular basis; however, I serious doubt whether any of these place a great emphasis on doctrinal purity or would cease social intercourse with a member who had decided to leave the organization.
There is only one argument that I can see to justify and pull the fangs of the argument of integrity. There is a happy congruence between the needs of the human heart and the truth. The universe has just the right form and arrangement so as to gratify the deepest human needs. What this just so arrangement also requires in order to overcome the argument from lack of integrity that this congruence even extend to regular church attendance.
In the end the assertion of congruence is the flip-side, or rather denial, of the argument of Evil: the fact of evil and suffering at best makes the idea a Good and All-powerful Deity shamelessly escapist. Consequently, congruence between the way and character of existence and human needs and desires is no less escapist.
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A passing thought that I had today about the integrity argument. It seems perversely fitting that a religion that oftentimes prides itself on having prostitutes and tax-collectors as its earliest adherents would have difficulties with the integrity and truth. Prostitutes and tax-collectors belief in a quid pro quo: payment for services rendered. It's not surprising that Christians expect their rewards either for good behavior in some varieties; or in more fundamentalist forms of Christianity great rewards are promised for bowing down & licking the dust of their Lord & Master.