What people envision God to look like varies broadly, depending upon demographics and politics. Whether God is male, female, black, white, young or old is entirely subjective and often our God looks a bit like we see ourselves.
However, the most commonly accepted image of God, in literature and art at least, remains that of an elderly, white, man. A group of scientists in the US, however, were eager to determine if that visual is representative of how Americans (just over 70 percent of which are Christian) viewed their God.
The study, by a team of psychologists at the University of North Carolina, published in the journal PLOS One, is entitled: ‘The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics’.
The experts say they used reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, “which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind,” they wrote.
Some 511 Americans were shown random pairs of faces and instructed to select the one they thought were the closest to their image of God.
In general, American Christians view God as a young, Caucasian man with short hair, but that image also varies, depending on ideologies and personal physical appearance. For example, liberals generally viewed God as more feminine, more African-American and more loving than conservatives, who generally saw their God as older, more intelligent and more powerful.
“Our results suggest that there may not be a single answer for all believers, even within the same religion,” the study said. In fact, it appears that, when believers think of God, they perceive an image that “adapts to their needs and it looks like them.”
The results are “consistent with past research,” that people see God as similar to themselves in terms of age, attractiveness and at times, race. What it also showed, was that even people with the same nationality and religion appear to think differently about God’s appearance.
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