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.

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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! :)

        • Zhi Shan

          Actually, it was the Prophet Bill O’Reilly who said, “tides come in, tides come out, total mystery” to which Satan, Richard Dawkins, replied, “actually we have a very good understanding why the tides go in and out, it’s because of the moon…” SILENCE, ye blashpemers! Total mystery! O’Reilly has spoken!

  • 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.

    • Zhi Shan

      Silly Margaret. God doesn’t look like you. If horses made idols, they’d make a horse god. “How can this be? That is faith my friends.” No, it’s a literal reading of the English translation of Genesis, which is a fool’s mission from the start!

  • 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!” :-)

    • Zhi Shan

      Xenophanes (they didn’t kill him): “But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
      or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
      horses like horses and cattle like cattle
      also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies
      of such a sort as the form they themselves have.

      Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed [σιμούς] and black
      Thracians that they are pale and red-haired.”

    • Zhi Shan

      I think the proverb must be true, although it forgot to mention Erdogan would do it personally! 😉

  • 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

    • Zhi Shan

      … and then he exploded, having achieved fusion

      • Herrnhut

        I pray nothing happen to this man and his house this coming week, LORD Jesus. Thank you for your mercy. Amen.

        • Zhi Shan

          You of course mean the opposite! You’re so twisted by your anger and hatred! 😂

          • Herrnhut

            In Jesus name Zhi Shan metanoia and his loved ones be saved. Amen.

  • 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.

  • lee hendrix

    … Joshua showed 300 pairs of random faces, but, and little did he know..all the face were images of said…God,…YET, both men and women equally thought of God as a man. Mose did not see a burning bush as a man, but did see men in the flames, and brought tablets of Law. “Let US make man in OUR image”, indicate greater than one facial image. ” Who shall I say sent me?” ANSWER… I AM THAT I AM..is without punctuation marks and, THAT refers to anything and another thing. The Word was with and was God, from which.. Creation evolved, therefore, by the Word was everything created by the wisdom/knowledge in God. Knowledge: everything that is known, unknown, seen, unseen, visible, and the invisible. Thus, the title is for..status, God and Word is Everything created..to be respected.

    • Zhi Shan

      You forgot that Moses saw Yahweh’s backside… which must have been quite a sight!

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