New Study Reveals What Americans Think God's Face Really Looks Like—And It's Pretty Weird
For the last 500 years, the prevailing image of God has been a stern-faced older man with a white beard. Since the release of Joan Osborne's hit song in 1995, however, people have been asking "What if God was one of us?" Now a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims to have a composite image of what modern people think God's face looks like—and it looks a lot like us.
To be clear, just who "us" actually is depended on who answered the questions.
Over 500 Americans were shown pairs of faces and were asked to choose the one that looked more like their conception of God. After picking the more "godly" faces, a pattern began to develop: people with more liberal political views generally conceived God to look younger, more feminine, and loving, while conservatives imagined God as stronger-looking and more Caucasian.
"These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want," said lead author of the study, Joshua Conrad Jackson.
"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."
This bias showed up in other demographics, too.
Younger participants perceived God as being younger, more attractive participants believed God was also attractive and surveyed African Americans believed he looked more like them.
According to Professor Kurt Gray, another author on the study:
"People's tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias. People often project their beliefs and traits onto others, and our study shows that God's appearance is no different-people believe in a God who not only thinks like them but also looks like them."
The most glaring exception to this pattern was between genders.
Despite the trend toward participants seeing God as similar to themselves, the majority of women still saw God as more masculine than feminine.
Like the problem of conceiving what aliens might look like, it seems that humanity's conception of the Almighty pretty much ends at our bathroom mirrors.