Researchers ask Americans 'What does God look like?'

June 11, 2018, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
God's perceived face, based on the aggregated responses of surveyed American Christians. Credit: Joshua Jackson et al

A team of psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have used a new technique to construct what a large sample of 511 American Christians think God looks like.

Participants in the study saw hundreds of randomly varying face-pairs and selected which face from each pair appeared more like how they imagined God to appear. By combining all the selected faces, the researchers could assemble a composite "face of God" that reflected how each person imagined God to appear.

Their results were both surprising and revealing. From Michelangelo to Monty Python, Illustrations of God have nearly always shown him as an old and august white-bearded Caucasian man. But the researchers found that many Christians saw God as younger, more feminine, and less Caucasian that popular culture suggests.

In fact, people's perceptions of God tended to rely partly on their political affiliation. Liberals tended to see God as more feminine, younger, and more loving than conservatives. Conservatives also saw God as more Caucasian and more powerful than liberals.

"These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want," suggested Joshua Conrad Jackson, the study's lead author. "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, are more motivated to live in a tolerant society, which would be better regulated by a loving God."

People's perceptions also related to their own demographic characteristics. Younger people believed in a younger-looking God. People who reported being more physically attractive also believed in a more physically attractive God. And African Americans believed in a God that looked more African American than did Caucasians.

"People's tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias," said Professor Kurt Gray, the study's senior author and a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. "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."

Interestingly, however, people did not show an egocentric bias on the basis of gender. Men and women believed in an equally masculine-looking God.

The research is newly published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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flashgordon
5 / 5 (5) Jun 11, 2018
"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." - Xenophanes
mqr
4.2 / 5 (6) Jun 11, 2018
The basis of their racist and segregationist society
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2018
"always shown him as an old and august white-bearded Caucasian man"

-Which is the first lie you encounter when you open the book, because he was a jew from the levant. You know, ruddy skin, curly black jew fro, etc.

"people believe in a God who not only thinks like them, but also looks like them"

-well sure because they created him in their image. Well rome did, actually.

But there is only one way to find out. Go take a look.

"20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

21 Then the Lord said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." exo33

-Have at it. Either way you die.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2018
But maybe this little trick would work...

"Since Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, Perseus was able to slay her while looking at the reflection from the mirrored shield he received from Athena."

-Take a sword. You just might have a chance to save the human race.

"Lords of war, the wings of twelve, open all the gates.
Fly high into the canopy; bring to me the head of god."
- 'The Arrival of Stans Empire' - Dark Funeral
https://www.youtu...RDiH5nWw
Steve 200mph Cruiz
1 / 5 (2) Jun 11, 2018
Captain Ahab looks like me with a cool hat.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2018
Captain Ahab looks like me with a cool hat.
Youll note the pic of god above looks like Brad Pitt?

I knew it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 11, 2018
The basis of their racist and segregationist society
Religion is the basis of any racist and segregationist society.

"14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" 2cor6

"18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." jon3

"But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die." Deut13:6-10

-clear enough? See any other holy book for equivalent verbiage-
betterexists
not rated yet Jun 11, 2018
A Rear as Face ?
mqr
2.7 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2018
Not all religions are equal, not even equivalent.

Hitler had a religion, he was a Christian and that is why they were Christian crosses in the concentration camps. More specifically he was a Lutheran.

The slave traders and slave owners that founded America from England, Spain, etc, were also Christians.

In a sharp contrast, Janism, Sikhism, and other religions had not been involved in slavery, mass murders, genocide, they did not invent nuclear weapons, and so on.

Nietzsche was on the point when he said that Eastern religions were way more advanced that Christians because they understood that perfection was a goal and was possible to achieve it. Whereas Christians believe they are sinners that can not change, and there is no need for that since somehow they believe that the murder of Jesus caused a sort of forward forgiveness of their filth. (I learned it from Anne Coulter one day that she was explaining her hateful ways....)
Tessellatedtessellations
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 11, 2018
Not surprising that people who pray to an imaginary god think that god looks like a slightly idealized version of themselves. Followers of a true religion, like mine, aren't so silly, knowing darn well that atop god's eyestalks are meatballs. I don't have eyestalks or blessed meatball eyes, therefore my vision of god is based on reality and not wishful thinking and self idolatry.
aksdad
5 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2018
Religion is the basis of any racist and segregationist society.

I thought racism, xenophobia, and cultural elitism were the basis of racist and segregationist societies. Thanks for enlightening us. Religion is the reason. Huh.

So how do you explain that it was deeply religious people in England, like William Wilberforce, and religious groups in the U.S., like the Mennonites and Quakers, who strongly objected to slavery and worked to end it because of their religious convictions? How to explain that the authors of the U.S. Constitution, which is the founding document of a society and culture that rejects notions of class, castes, and race, were inspired by their religious beleifs, nicely summed up in the phrase:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Ojorf
2.4 / 5 (5) Jun 12, 2018
Not surprising that people who pray to an imaginary god think that god looks like a slightly idealized version of themselves. Followers of a true religion, like mine, aren't so silly, knowing darn well that atop god's eyestalks are meatballs. I don't have eyestalks or blessed meatball eyes, therefore my vision of god is based on reality and not wishful thinking and self idolatry.


Amen!
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2018
Researchers ask Americans 'What does God look like?'

This is god in most, if not all religions.
https://www.googl...mp;dpr=4

Most of them either obfuscate or have forgotten.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Jun 12, 2018
Hitler had a religion, he was a Christian and that is why they were Christian crosses in the concentration camps. More specifically he was a Lutheran.

How does one person professing to a religion define a religion? Does a muslim fanatic define what islam is?

The slave traders and slave owners that founded America from England, Spain, etc, were also Christians.

Just because your parents lugged you to church to get baptized when you are a baby doesn't make anyone religious. Having the label 'christian' (or muslim or jewish or hindu or whatever) in your passport doesn't mean a thing.

Nietzsche was on the point when he said that Eastern religions were way more advanced that Christians because they understood that perfection was a goal and was possible to achieve it.

Nietzsche was like any other dolt on that subject: stuff that is far away seems better. Go to the East. They think Christianity is better. Neither side knows diddly-squat about the other.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (4) Jun 12, 2018
it was deeply religious people in England, like William Wilberforce, and religious groups in the U.S., like the Mennonites and Quakers, who strongly objected to slavery and worked to end it because of their religious convictions?
The fact is that until recently only believers were able to get educated, hold jobs, have a voice in society. Until recently everybody in society was religious. Or at least they had to profess to be.

You're saying they decided after centuries and millennia to reject slavery because they were xian but it's obvious they did in spite of it.

The book warrants and encourages slavery, bigotry, misogyny, violence. The book hasn't changed in 1500 years. Despite what religionists say and do, those nasty bits are still in there, waiting to be resurrected whenever situations arise.

And religionists will never change their books. They will always preach us vs them, chosen vs condemned.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2018
authors of the U.S. Constitution, which is the founding document of a society and culture that rejects notions of class, castes, and race, were inspired by their religious beleifs
Again, the only way those people got to those positions of power and authority, was by professing their beliefs, a notable and rare exception being the atheist Thomas Paine. And despite what you may think, they all knew that the best way to reduce religionist influence on govt was to invite them all in and make them all equal.

Extirpating religious ignorance and bigotry from society has been the goal since the enlightenment.

The 10 commandments (minus the first 4 which claim that you are incapable of following the rest unless you accept the judeo/xian god as your own) are simply the tenets of tribal law and have been an integral part of tribal society for a million years.

Of course the religions all claim those laws come exclusively from their gods alone. Their gods are all tribal gods.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2018
In a sharp contrast, Janism, Sikhism, and other religions had not been involved in slavery, mass murders, genocide, they did not invent nuclear weapons, and so on
Sikhism is a warrior religion like Islam or constantine's xianity. Sikhs protected the mountain passes from mongol invaders. Their religion requires them to carry a knife. They are just as committed to outgrowing and overrunning as any other.

Jainism is a religion designed to pack people together as tightly as possible. Again, outgrow and overwhelm. Conquest from without, as described in the OT, or from within, as described in the NT.

Jesus was the consummate revolutionary. And he preached martyrdom, the foulest and most disgusting form of violence there is. Presenting oneself and ones family for slaughter. Jains excel at it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2018
Re jainism

"So if you are serving in the armed forces to defend your country, you are defending more lifes than you are killing . So it is a justifiable act.

"...Chandragupta maurya" the first ruler of the unified India was a follower of jainism and with "Chanakya " as his prime minister he fought many battles to unify India and once he established his empire he made his son the next emperor and then went to Shravan belgola ( Karnataka ) and became the disciple of "Acharya Bhadrbahu" and later he attained "nirvana or moksha" from there."

-Jainism - another warrior religion?

"But most of us do not know that Jainism allows violence in defense. When someone attacks you or your family, it is your duty to defend yourself. If your community or nation is attacked by enemy, Jainism says 'Go ahead and fight.'

"It is fact that all the Jain Teerthankars were from Kshatriya (warrior) families."

-Apparently so. Internal amity + external enmity = tribalism × religion = TROUBLE
Claudius
3 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2018
I thought everyone already knew God looks like George Burns.
IwinUlose
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2018
While murderous assholes may not define their respective religions; I would like to generalize the science of psychoanalysis by this study:

Dear Psychology,

A few years ago you told us you were going to do better. Well?

You dictated to your study participants that their god would be human and be able to be seen face on (a large complex construct of variables that don't necessarily define or even influence each other) and then gave them a finite choices of human faces to correlate to an image of their god; suggesting to the participant even before the study begins that an image of a god would be a human face.

You then conclude that people see their god as a human whose affect is similar to theirs and appears most sympathetic to their beliefs.

I would like to see the composite of all the face pairs used in the study alongside the above composite representing people's preferred imagining of how their god would look if it was a human face.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Jun 12, 2018
I thought everyone already knew God looks like George Burns
Claw claw knows full well what god looks like because he hath gazed upon his face.
https://youtu.be/Fmum3glL1DA

-by jove, he looks like John Hurt
Davy_Crockett
not rated yet Jun 12, 2018
I'm sure researchers meant to say that Elon Musk is "good!"
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Jun 12, 2018
I thought everyone already knew God looks like George Burns.

And here I thought is was Morgan Freeman....
But,regardless, god should have red hair...
dudester
not rated yet Jun 13, 2018
Hitler had a religion, he was a Christian and that is why they were Christian crosses in the concentration camps. More specifically he was a Lutheran


I and wikipedia disagree (not that it matters in the grand scheme):

"Hitler was born to a practising Catholic mother, and was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1904, acquiescing to his mother's wish, he was confirmed at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Linz, Austria, where the family lived." (Bullock (1991), p.26)

And that picture is a spit and image of Dax Shepard who was very entertaining in the excellent film 'Idiocracy', among others.

https://www.imdb....tt_cl_t3
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2018
This all too common need to visualize, to humanize an internal image of deities is a result of our primate instincts to try and impose order on our disorderly lives.

As I see it? Most religious believers I have known, are not actually imagining an infinite, eternal deity. Instead they attempt to consciously rationalize their deep subconscious instincts that compel them to worship pharaoh.

Descended from a thousand generations of slaves programmed to kowtow, face into the dust, as which ever local variant of god-king passed in his chariot.
ZoeBell
not rated yet Jun 13, 2018
This is typical post-liberal research - not only it's about BS which conservatives don't use to think about at all (note that conservative religions avoid personalizing or even humanizing their Gods, their faces the less) - but it also picks cherries on behalf of expected result - whereas this real one is null in essence. In another words, it's dumb and useless embezzling of public money bordering with scientific fraud.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2018
ZB, since you are proclaiming yourself as the epitome of patriotism, with a hefty dosage of law & order? I hope you are responsible enough in your civic virtue?

To have acted as a 'Good Citizen' and reported your accusations of criminal fraud to the proper authorities. With all the evidence you have collected to substantiate your inculpation.

Failure on your part, to act positively to bring these offenders before the bar of justice, could leave you open to being accused in turn as an accessory to their crimes.
Gigel
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2018
Maybe people have an unconscious knowledge of God and that representation is significant in a way.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2018
Well G, my fondest desire is that you are not driving a vehicle while your 'unconscious' desire to see the face of the deity overcomes what little rational judgement you are capable of.

Reminds me of the old joke
"I want to die like my grandfather.
Quietly in my sleep.

Not screaming in horror
like his passengers!"

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