Are Fundies Stupid?

Yes.

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OK, OK! My title is inflammatory, and my answer is overly simplistic. I’ll rephrase it:

Q: Are fundies dumber than a fence post?

A: Mostly yes.

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OK, OK! I can hear the objections already, and I’ll concede the point. Let’s try again:

Q: Are fundies dumber than a fence post?

A: Absolutely yes. A fence post serves a purpose.

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Actually, I’m just kidding around. Anecdotally, I’d say yes, the fundie population overall is of lower intelligence than some other groups, such as atheists/agnostics. Certainly the fundies who visit atheist websites and leave comments give the impression that they’re all as illiterate and logic-impaired as a cement block. The problem is people who leave comments on websites aren’t necessarily reflective of the whole population.

This obviously raises the question of whether all atheists are as brilliant and dazzling as those who leave comments on anti-fundie blogs. We need to gather more data. Let’s try to find some examples from the non-blog population.

The defense rests

OK, OK! I’m still selectively choosing my data. Let’s try to find something a little more objective.

In a comment to my last article, Coty T. directs our attention to a post by Razib Khan over at Gene Expression, one of the Discover Magazine blogs. Khan comments on some data collected by dating site OKCupid (not exactly Science or Nature). He says:

[T]hese sorts of data need to be interpreted in the framework of prior expectations, and the fact is there’s plenty of robust data to show that religious people in the United States are, on average, not as intelligent. More specifically, people with what we might term “fundamentalist” views are not as intelligent as those without.

He takes their data and aggregates it this way:

Let’s focus on the BIBLE variable, which basically asks respondents whether their view of the Bible is literal, inspired, or that it is a book of fables. I’ve also taken DEGREE, and combined those with university degrees and higher into one class, and those without university degrees into another.

Here are his results:

No fence post data?

Take that for what it’s worth. I don’t know how good the data is to begin with, but that’s what it shows.

I guess they are smarter than fence posts. (I suspect the fence posts will demand a recount.)

43 Responses to “Are Fundies Stupid?”

  1. sue blue Says:

    Might explain why reason and logic tend to roll off them like water off a duck’s back. Also, they seem incapable of subtle nuances of thought – everything is black or white. Mulish stubbornness is another facet of fundamentalism. They refuse even to entertain the possibility that another point of view might have merit. That’s why it’s so frustrating (although sometimes entertaining) to argue with them. They just keep on beating dead horses, as if a harder, longer whipping is going to somehow make them get back up again and walk.

  2. sue blue Says:

    And… they look almost normal, too (except for the smarmy expressions of Jesusy love or the truculent scowls). From some of the stuff they say, you’d expect them to be chinless, drooling, web-fingered, and slack-jawed. But it turns out you can’t track them by the trails of blood left behind as they knuckle-drag their way through life. At least not literally.

  3. Jeff Says:

    As I keep saying – neurological.

    Recently, a guy at Friendly Atheist insisted that the religious have no monopoly on stupidity, and that he was certain there are “some embarrassingly stupid atheists”. I told him I haven’t met any, as arriving at a position of atheism is usually the result of years of analysis and introspection. He wasn’t having it – nope, there are as many stupid atheists as there are Christians.

    There is such a thing as being too egalitarian.

  4. TB Tabby Says:

    That’s called the Golden Mean Fallacy: assuming that both extremes of a debate are equally stupid and wrong, and that the middle ground between them is correct simply because it’s the middle ground.

  5. Syldoran Says:

    In all fairness, while I haven’t met any overtly stupid atheists–there’s so few of us to begin with–I have met some loud and just plain obnoxious ones that run in the same extremes as religious fundies.

    Crazies in every group.

  6. WMDKitty Says:

    Is the Pope Catholic?

  7. Aegis Says:

    Whatever the Pope is, a ‘loving Christian’ he ain’t.

  8. ericsan Says:

    Stupid and asshole is not the same thing. I’m with Jeff about stupid, but the proportion of assholes in both groups is probably more comparable. And whether or not the pope shits in the woods, we know he’s a nazi youth alumnus, the worldwide protector of child molesters and promoter of child rape. These are indisputable facts. Of course, my last statement will probably get xtians to lump me into the category of stupid atheist assholes. Fine with me ;)

  9. Jeff Says:

    I’m with Jeff about stupid, but the proportion of assholes in both groups is probably more comparable.

    I think being comfortable with the idea of billions of one’s human siblings being tormented for all of eternity – indeed, looking forward to it – represents the nadir of assholicism. I haven’t yet met an atheist who has sunk that low.

    (Of course, now some Christian will show up with the “Stalin, Hitler, Mao…” argument.”)

  10. dvsrat Says:

    I have come across some very bright fundamentalist xtians. I, myself, am a life-long atheist. Never did the diggety-deity for a second. Since the internet I have discovered that many — maybe even a majority of atheists were religious at one time. Before investigating the psychology behind religious belief and indoctrination I would invariably question the sincerity of religious extremists who were not also blithering idiots. They can’t really believe that shit, can they? Yes, they really do believe that shit and they know how to read, they are not locked in a padded cell, they don’t believe in Santa Claus, they compartmentalize. They apply normal skepticism to everything — except one thing, then their gray matter turns to gray mush.

    Yes there are those who study quantum physics and cosmology on a level that most of us would find completely mind-boggling and then they get a Tarot card reading and take it seriously. There are simpletons who can apply healthy skepticism to everything. Those examples are, of course, atypical.

    I have never expected fellow atheists to behave in a manner that I think they ought to. The asshole atheists are no surprise.

  11. Pete Moulton Says:

    Khan’s chart is actually nonsensical, even when you define ‘intelligence’ as the skill set required to achieve academic success, as he does. A degree from Liberty U teaches as much about rational skepticism as, say, a degree from any secular institution? No, I don’t think so. Even within the confines of a single institution, I would disagree that a degree in Art or Literature fosters the kind of rational thought as, say, a degree in Biology or Physics.

    I’m nearly a lifelong atheist, having determined by the age of 10 or so that the theology in which I was raised (Lutheranism) made no sense and provided not a single shred of objective evidence that it was right and everyone else was wrong. The experience did provide me with a fine appreciation for Germanic and Scandanavian women and the music of JS Bach, so it was hardly a total waste, however.

    Khan’s junk ‘science’ is really no better than the liars for jebus™. It’s crap like this that prevents me from wasting much time at Discover. In fact, if it weren’t for Ed Yong I’d never visit that site at all.

  12. dvsrat Says:

    You’re right Pete. The chart does not account for those who went to college at Liberty or any other pseudo-college, does not specify those who completed a degree (one who went to college for a semester would count as “college” rather than “no college” categorically,) does not specify a major, or anything at all where one could reasonably infer that those in the “college” category are any more intelligent.

    There are studies that specify accomplished individuals in specifically scientific fields and those studies do demonstrate that biblical literalists are VERY RARE compared to the percentage of them in the GP.

    That is not to say that intelligent fundies don’t exist — sadly, they do. A mind is a terrible thing to waste — don’t pollute it with bullshit.

  13. sue blue Says:

    Just in case you’re getting a little jaded, thinking you’ve plumbed the depths of fundie ignorance and delusion or scaled the heights of fundie hubris, consider this.

    Maybe they’ve realized there’s more science-y stuff out there to attack besides Darwin; maybe they’re just pissed off about Stephen Hawking dissing their god, I dunno – but let it never be said that fundies lack the balls to go after the really big stuff. It’s kind of like a a Chihuaha going after a Wolfhound, but hey, it’s good for laughs.

  14. ericsan Says:

    Sue Blue, I really had a hard time believing this was not a goof. Looks like it isn’t and these people are really batshit crazy!

  15. sue blue Says:

    Ericsan – When I first saw this I thought it had to be a Poe. No one, not even the dumbest inbred 3rd-grade dropout in Hooten Holler, could possibly believe this in the 21st century, right? But no, I was wrong. It is real. People with letters after their name (albeit not in fields related to astronomy or physics) are promoting caveman cosmology – and earning $50 bucks from each gullible sap they suck in. Soon they’ll be insisting it be taught in school. Next up: Alchemy vs. Chemistry. Turn your garbage into gold and solve our economic crisis!

  16. Jeff Says:

    Yeah, I’m not surprised. One of the presenters, Gerry Bouw, has been promoting this crap for years:
    http://www.geocentricity.com/
    Take a look around; it’s pure, unadulterated Bizarro World.

    In fact, Bouw has staged these conferences before. The interesting thing here is that although Bouw is participating, he’s a Protestant nutjob (with a PhD from Case Western, yet; I’m sure they’re just busting their buttons over him.). This is a Catholic conference. Yep, that’s right – conservative Catholics, obliged to believe the church is incapable of error and the pope is infallible – until he tells them science didn’t stop in the sixteenth century. Then he doesn’t know what the f*ck he’s talking about.

    It’s enough to make one want to take the gas pipe. In the meantime, guys, go ahead – explain to me again why these people should be voting.

  17. Jeff Says:

    Geocentrism: They Know It But They’re Hiding It. You can’t even special order that kind of crazy. It’s a gift from the gods of fucknuttery.

  18. dvsrat Says:

    This is a political tactic from the creationist shitbags. The strategy is that they present something that is so insane that it cannot be taken seriously. Then the Discovery Institute liars come up with something that, on the surface, may sound more reasonable to the GP. To the uneducated public Behe and Dumbsky do sound rational compared to those who teach the Flintstones cartoons as scientific fact.
    Just watch the liars come up with “rational centered-universe cosmological principle” or some such crap. It is true that nobody (other than those locked up in an institution, babbling, drooling, and in need of a diaper change) is stupid enough to buy this crap. But, if it is introduced bit by bit from the time they are children, they will grow up believing it.
    There is no limit to their sleazyness. None. I’m pissed.

  19. ericsan Says:

    I think it should only be fair that all these bozos surrender anything that takes advantage of the “false theories” they’re fighting, such as relativity. Give up cell phones, GPS, jet travel, internet, computers… It doesn’t even hit them that they’re advertising their bullshit over a medium which owns its very existence to the scientific theories they claim to refute.
    Much more ironic than a fly in your Chardonnay, eh, Alanis?

  20. Parrotlover77 Says:

    ericsan – Instead of just taking away the fun toys that rely on science they don’t like, how about we give then equivelents that exclude those scientific principles? Then everybody is happy!

    They get a GPS, but it doesn’t use evil theories like relativity to account for problems with time synching solved with relativistic science. I’m sure since they are so principled, they’ll be okay with the fact that the GPS is off by a few hundred miles.

  21. Scott Shirley Says:

    At the risk of taking an intellectual beating I will throw in my two cents…

    I have been a Christian my whole life and part of an ultra-conservative denomination known as The Church of Christ. While I no longer hold to much (or perhaps any) of fundamentalist Christianity I freely admit that breaking from this mindset was incredibly difficult. Maybe I was/am an idiot. But I don’t think it is intelligence that plays the dominant role in a person’s religious beliefs.

    The congregations I have been a part of have been populated with a range of people from high school dropouts to professionals with a PhD working at NASA. Highly intelligent people can believe stupid things (as Michael Shermer points out) nearly as easily as stupid people, they just get better at defending those beliefs. However, whenever I have had a conversation with an atheist (this is admittedly anecdotal) they do tend to come across as intellectually above average. Of course they could just seem smart if I am dumb.

    The reason it is so hard for fundamentalists to see through some of the ridiculous reasoning behind their beliefs is cognitive. They don’t want to see through it. Anytime a cherished belief is challenged a fundamentalist will run to the bookshelf and pull out an apologetic work they already know supports their belief and read it with enthusiasm in order to confirm what they already “knew.” Family and/or social pressures to remain part of the “in” group are incredibly are also difficult to resist… so most don’t. Cognitive dissonance rules the day.

    I have a blog that questions many of the peculiar beliefs to the Church of Christ and am bombarded with unreasoned arguments. So I get it. Of course I am still a man of faith so many here will probably feel like I don’t get it. That’s okay, if I am stupid it is a blissful stupidity. Just ask my wife.

  22. Ron Britton Says:

    Scott:

    Thanks for the insight (and braving the comments here). I’ve said before that some very smart people can hold some very stupid religious beliefs. An amazing thing about the brain is its ability to hold contradictory beliefs. People are able to compartmentalize.

    That ability to rationalize away all logical arguments and use the most ridiculous excuses to defend an irrational belief just completely boggles those of us on the other side. (In a sick sort of way, it’s actually a marvel to behold.)

    Although not everyone shares this opinion, I have no problem with your believing in God or whatever. I think the world would be better off without religion, but I think it evolved into us. We’re stuck with it. My objection is when people try to impose their irrational beliefs (and the social mores and dictates that accompany them) onto the rest of us.

  23. Scott Shirley Says:

    Ron,
    If religion would do what is supposed to do (care for the needy), all people would be grateful for it. When we spend all our time in-fighting about stupid theological arguments or, worse, killing people over stupid theological arguments, it is completely understandable why some view religion as a choke collar on society.

    Oh, and thanks not berating me.

  24. Brian Says:

    Scott,

    I for one do not regard you as stupid because you happen to believe in things I consider absurd. Quite the contrary, I can tell you are a thoughtful person from your comments. They are quite a departure from the mad rantings that so often appear on blogs like this. Your honesty is refreshing.

    If the majority of believers echoed your sentiments, atheists like myself would not have much to get upset about. If only idiots like Kevin Worth could be more thoughtful, we’d never be able to humble and humiliate them in cyberspace. (By the way, Ron. Whatever became of Ned Flanders’ threatened legal action against you?)

  25. sue blue Says:

    Scott,

    I don’t think fundamentalist religious beliefs are a result of innate stupidity but that they do result in a diminished intellectual capacity. It’s kind of an acquired stupidity caused by childhood indoctrination, enforced or voluntary sequestration from the “outside” world, poor education in religiously-infiltrated public schools or fundamentalist homeschooling, and other social factors. Some research has linked temporal lobe anomalies and personality traits such as paranoia and dependence to religiosity. Also, the psychological comfort provided by the sense of community, of being “special” or “chosen”, is very powerful. It’s also extremely difficult, as an older person, to admit that beliefs you have held dearly for your whole life may be false, and that all the time, energy, and money you have invested may have been completely wasted on a non-existent premise.

    Then there’s the phenomenon of ignorance as a virtue. I know that my fundie relatives refuse to read or view any material from sources that aren’t approved by their church or don’t jibe with biblical tenets. Everything is held up against the “infallible” bible, and if it contradicts the bible, it can’t possibly be true, no matter what the physical, objective, measurable evidence shows. The bible tells us to give up things of this world, to be “as little children”, to never question or doubt. Intellectual curiosity is frowned upon. When I was a kid I hid books about science under my mattress, like porn, because subjects such as evolution or the age of the universe were viewed as Satanic delusions that would endanger my very soul. Today, as an atheist, I am still regularly excoriated by my fundie relatives for the agony I am causing my loved ones as they fear for my salvation. They can’t seem to understand that I can’t go back to believing in something without evidence any more than I can turn back the clock and believe in Santa Claus again. Are they “stupid”? Well, if you define stupidity as willful ignorance, as holding a view that consistently flies in the face of all evidence to the contrary, then I guess they are. But I still love them.

  26. dvsrat Says:

    Scott, glad you’re thinking about things. As I stated earlier irrational beliefs and high cognitive ability are not mutually exclusive.

    It’s true that nobody can reasonably assert that religion is always destructive and we can commend altruistic behavior that has been inspired by religious belief. But it is also important to note that charitable altruistic humanitarianism is not dependent on religious affiliation. Religious violence is.

    I agree w/ Ron that there would likely be a great improvement in the world if religion went the way of the dodo bird but we can’t reasonably expect that any time soon.

    Keep reading.

  27. Brian Says:

    Sorry. My phone won’t let me spell Kevin’s last name correctly. I hate typos, but this one isn’t my fault. Now I can sleep tonight.

  28. Scott Shirley Says:

    Thanks for the kind words gentlemen and keep up the good work. While fundamentalists may not realize it, they greatly benefit from the intellectual pressure placed on their views from those who disagree with them.

    A parting thought…
    Evangelical christianity places most of its emphasis on holding to certain beliefs- divinity, physical resurrection, virgin births, seas parting, virgin booty (Numbers 31… read for a good laugh). However, it is my belief that Jesus focused on teaching “charitable altruistic humanitarianism.” Assuming we all agree that this type of charity is something worthy of pursuit it could be said we all practice a kind of common religion.

  29. Ron Britton Says:

    Brian:

    If only idiots like Kevin Worth could be more thoughtful

    Sorry. My phone won’t let me spell Kevin’s last name correctly.

    Don’t worry. You have his permission. He seems incapable of spelling my name correctly, too.

    By the way, Ron. Whatever became of Ned Flanders’ threatened legal action against you?

    Just like his promised evidence for ID creationism, he has yet deliver on the lawsuit, either. It’s really exhausting having to quake in my boots for so long.

    Maybe he has filed his lawsuit already. There’s probably some poor schlub named “Brittan” in Nova Scotia who is wondering why he is being sued by a monkey Groucho.

  30. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I agree w/ Ron that there would likely be a great improvement in the world if religion went the way of the dodo bird but we can’t reasonably expect that any time soon.

    I’m not so sure. If religion were gone tomorrow, there might be a brief period of harmony since religious wars would (presumably) cease, but it wouldn’t be long before humans found something else silly to have a conflict over.

    The next round of “religious” disagreements might completely fall within the realm of science, simply due to the vacuum created by the lack of religious conflict. For example, you might eventually have the Copenhagenists versus the MWI theorists eventually rising to some ridiculous level that has nothing to do with the original science. I seem to remember South Park exploring this sort of thing one time…

    I’m getting too pessimistic. Jeff must be rubbing off on me.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that anything can be exploited and corrupted. Religion, in its more liberal/open “just fables that teach about values/soul” interpretation may seem quaint or outdated, but its harmless. It’s only when those fables are elevated to inerrant historical fact and the imperitive of the religion is proselytizing and the exclusion of all other beliefs that problems begin to arise.

    I think the best long-term solution is elevation of the living conditions of as much of the world as possible. Any time you have the incredible stress of an uncertain life combined with the ranting of an authority figure about some invading evil “other,” combined with preexisting religious fervor, you get all sorts of problems.

    For there to be harmony in a world without religion, it is absolutely necessary for people to feel secure, or else they’ll just find something else to cling to.

    Good schools teaching facts. Also, too.

  31. Jeff Says:

    I seem to remember South Park exploring this sort of thing one time…

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/1012

    I’m getting too pessimistic. Jeff must be rubbing off on me.

    And there’s no charge!

    I have to agree with the others, however – religion must go. We can retain a general, all-purpose mysticism, to fulfill the need for an experience of transcendence (and because I’m not convinced there isn’t a transcendent reality to experience), but hierarchical, bureaucratic, patriarchal religion has outlived its usefulness, and is now more of a liability than an asset. Of course, I agree with Ron that the punitive aspects of religion are necessary in order to keep in line those who tell us that if they didn’t fear God, they’d be out rapin’, pillagin’ and plunderin’, but that’s the other part of the solution – they need to go as well. Breed ‘em out of the genome; it’s the only way.

    We can have religion, or we can have human continuity; we can’t have both.

  32. Ron Britton Says:

    We can have religion, or we can have human continuity; we can’t have both.

    Over 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct. We’ll just be another.

  33. Jeff Says:

    I suppose. Seems a shame, though – all those millions of years of suffering for nothing.

    Also, if (and it’s a HUGE “if”) we do represent a panentheistic universe expressing itself through the evolution of consciousness (for which I’m not arguing, but IF) – again, it would be a colossal shame, even a tragedy, for it to have to begin all over again.

    Then again, these primate bodies have been a bad bargain. Too much pleasure, too much pain, and far too territorial. Cetaceans would probably stand a better chance, if they can evolve prehensile limbs. Or the social insects. (Yes, I know – or the parrots.)

    Intelligent design, my ass.

  34. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Well, at least my aviocentric viewpoints are rubbing off back to you, Jeff! It’s an even trade.

    We can retain a general, all-purpose mysticism, to fulfill the need for an experience of transcendence…but hierarchical, bureaucratic, patriarchal religion has outlived its usefulness, and is now more of a liability than an asset.

    Word. That was actually what I was aiming at in my rant. I’m not sure the hierarchical, bureaucratic, patriarchal religion was ever useful, but if you want to draw a line from evils done in the name of religion to the source, that’s where it ends up.

  35. Mary Says:

    One of the biggest problems with fundies is that they’re too stupid to even realize that they’re stupid.

  36. Mr. Science Says:

    Your so smart ! Who can resist your words? But Mr. know it all now it’s time to knock your pride filled ego down to size. Since were stating how dumb the “Fundies” are we not implying how smart you are? Ok, since were bragging let’s have a go of it. I founded and operate a multi million dollar scientific corporation. And we don’t make little baby instruments. We make the big boy stuff for NASA, Aerospace, Industrial and telecom worldwide. Instruments all filled with sorts of Stat’s, Calculus, Fourier transforms, DSP and the such. So how did I get involved with such advanced stuff in science? I went to college back in the 80′s to study how life must of started in amino acid soup in the primitive seas of earth. I needed to simulate the conditions of the primitive seas in the lab. I needed computers and attached instruments. We in that day needed to build of own instruments and test equipment. It should be plain to you by now I have a very deep grasp of the scientific method and evolution. I don’t have all day to reason with your ultra primitive mind. So I’ll leave you with some food for thought to munch on. Ok? (I doubt it will do any good) Did you ever stop to think that God and his kingdom themselves evolved ? Did you ever stop to think they are ruling over this planet with a master plan yet to be revealed to your thick skull and hard heart? What do think the human race would be doing 500 million years from now? Oh did the thought creep into your tiny brain that YES we would have the powers of God by then!
    This will seem off subject to you – but it’s not. Soon the middle east will erupt into a nuclear conflict. Russia and China will get involved. They will nuke the US and most of our allies. After 3.5 years of shear hell on earth Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven. And he won’t have long girly hair as false pictures have portrayed him. He will be giant with flaming eyes of fire. He will disintegrate the remaining evil armies. Then finally his sheep will have a calm loving world to live in with no persecuting critics like you. What proof do I have. That’s the neat part! Your about to see all these things come to pass. Then you will remember my words won’t you!

  37. Ron Britton Says:

    Then you will remember my words won’t you!

    Not likely. The verbal diarrhea that makes up your “comment” is so full of grammatical errors that I found it difficult to actually follow whatever you were trying to say.

    Now couple what you just wrote with what I wrote in the original article above:

    Certainly the fundies who visit atheist websites and leave comments give the impression that they’re all as illiterate and logic-impaired as a cement block.

  38. Jeff Says:

    I find it difficult to believe you “founded and operate a multi million dollar scientific corporation” with literary skills like those demonstrated above.

  39. Mr. Science Says:

    BTW most math and science folks tend to care less about grammar.

  40. Mr. Science Says:

    Humm “since his grammar sucks he must be lying about his scientific instrument corporation”
    I know my grammar sucks. I’ve always had somewhat of a contempt with feeble classes such as English.
    I’ve come to realize You’re scared of my facts. Your brain stem is engaged in fight and flight mode and not rational thought. Rather than deal with logical concepts you instead concern yourselves with petty details like grammar.
    That’s the caliber of your scientific method? Wow you really sorted out your personal fears and desires before you investigate and formulate a hypotheses. I understand you never came across a hardcore science guy before and that’s 180 degrees out of phase with your reasoning. All’s you had in the past to deal with was “dumb fundies”. Yes, I got my multimillion dollar science corporation. How about this why don’t you re-read my original post and look at concepts rather than try to get all hung up on my crappy grammar. (Was that a run-on sentence ?)

  41. Ron Britton Says:

    I am a hardcore science guy, nimrod. That’s yet another of your beliefs that’s founded on wishful thinking and delusion. Why don’t you actually learn some real science for once instead of pretending to?

  42. Jeff Says:

    Rather than deal with logical concepts you instead concern yourselves with petty details like grammar.

    Contrasted with:

    After 3.5 years of shear hell on earth Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven. And he won’t have long girly hair as false pictures have portrayed him. He will be giant with flaming eyes of fire. He will disintegrate the remaining evil armies.

    Yes – logical concepts.

    I know I always say they have no sense of irony, but this is really stretching it.

    (And I especially like the bit about Christ apparently having a crew cut.)

  43. Ron Britton Says:

    I know I always say they have no sense of irony, but this is really stretching it.

    He’s just answering the question posed in the title.

    (And I especially like the bit about Christ apparently having a crew cut.)

    I think Mr. “Science” is telling us Jesus is bald. He can’t even resurrect his own hair.