What Does God Look Like?

By Lacy Schley | June 15, 2018 1:39 pm
A composite image of over 500 Christian's perceptions of what God looks like.

A composite image of over 500 U.S. Christian’s perceptions of what God looks like. (Credit: Joshua Jackson Et Al)

What would you say if you saw this stranger on a bus? Well, if you’re Christian, you might say he’s God.

Psychologists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 511 Christians in the U.S. and, based on the participants’ combined perceptions, this is roughly what they thought God should look like.

The team, led by Joshua Conrad Jackson, showed the volunteers 300 pairs of random faces. For each pair, people were instructed to flag the face they thought looked most like how’d they picture God. Afterward, participants completed surveys inquiring about how attractive the participants felt, their political leanings, gender and age. Finally, the team combined the participants’ picks into a single composite image.

But that was just the average of what everyone thought — there were some differences in how certain groups of the volunteers imagined the Almighty. People’s demographics helped shape their perception of God, according to the paper, which was published in PLOS ONE. African American participants were more likely to see God as darker skinned; younger volunteers were more inclined to picture a more youthful God; and people who thought of themselves as more physically attractive were likely to think of God as being attractive.

Political leanings also influenced people’s perceptions of the man upstairs. Liberals imagined God as younger, kinder and more feminine, while conservatives thought he was more likely to be Caucasian and powerful. “These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want,” says Jackson in a press release. “Past research shows that conservatives are more motivated than liberals to live in a well-ordered society, one that would be best regulated by a powerful God. On the other hand, liberals are more motivated to live in a tolerant society, which would be better regulated by a loving God.”

And even though liberals were more likely to conjure up a more feminine version of the Almighty in their heads, the researchers didn’t find any biases in how the volunteers saw God’s gender: Both men and women equally thought of God as a man. Sorry, Alanis Morissette.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
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  • Caveman

    Honestly, and not to be too paganistic here. I truly believe there is a God and a Goddess, because that would explain all that you see around you. There is mostly male and female pairs of animals so that makes me think there’s two and the woman is a representation of the balance, in the universe

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    1) Try selling that to Australian abos or equatorial African pygmies.
    2) We have direct pictorial documentation

    i(.)imgur(.)com/SZaUFZs.png

  • rejean levesque

    Republicans probably thought that God looked like Trump…

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

      Democrats probably thought that God looked like Mr. Hankey, or maybe

      generadordememesonline(.)com/media/created/koyvt7.png

      • Mike Richardson

        David Vitter isn’t a Democrat, so I think your first guess is off.

      • OWilson

        Oh ye deniers!

        The only true one is, of course, multiracial.

        On his ascendancy the omnipotent one quoteth:

        “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal!”.

        Halleluja! :)

  • Margaret

    Silly people. God looks like me. He looks like you. The reason I say this is because we are made in the image of God. Therefore, God is male and female, all races, all skin colors, all deformaties and all athletic types. How this can be? That is faith my friends.

  • stargene

    I’m reminded that far back in high school, a fairly hip history teacher
    told us about a Greek philosopher who said (possibly just before they
    killed him), something like ‘if donkeys could talk, they’d say god was a big
    donkey in the sky.’ This also reminds me of a great Turkish proverb…
    “He who tells the truth is chased out of nine villages!” :-)

  • Herrnhut

    As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light

  • ECarpenter

    So that’s what a U.S. Southern God would look like. I think Uncle Al’s take on this is much more accurate than this very limited study.

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