American Christians perceive God as young, white & loving
A report published this week by Premier, which shows a computer-generated image of God looking ‘young, Caucasian and loving’ has set off a lively debate in the comments section.
One commenter, not happy that researchers at the University of North Carolina had dared to conducted the study – entitled The Faces of God in America – grumped:
The very attempt to put a face to God is ludicrous, idolatrous and sacrilegious. No one has seen God. Period. The moment you try to put a face to God you basically demean Him.
He is greater than creation itself and we are not supposed to put a physical attribute on Him. We are to know Him and His nature. God is not a figment of our imagination as the researchers tend to believe.
Teacher: “What are you drawing?”
Child: “I’m drawing a picture of God?”
Teacher: “But no one knows what God looks like”
Child: “They will when I’ve finished!”
The image the researchers created came after 511 American Christians – 330 men and 181 women – were asked how they perceived the Almighty.
In their study, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Neil Hester and Kurt Gray, reported perceptions vary according to an individual’s own political views and physical appearance.
They were also shown to see God as similar to them in terms of attractiveness, age and – to a lesser extent – race.
The authors concluded the liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American and more loving than conservatives.
In contrast, conservatives were more like to consider the author of creation as older, more intelligent and more powerful.
Published in the PLOS ONE journal, the researchers said:
These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases.
Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.
The authors also said:
As faces communicate both physical and psychological information, this measure also provides insight into how believers conceptualise God’s mind.
By showing how these perceptions vary within a religion, we can better understand the motivational and cognitive factors that shape people’s understanding of the divine.
There is no definitive information in the Bible concerning God’s appearance.
Tom Nicholson, writing for Esquire, said of the study:
It found that the idea of an old man with a big white beard – your classic God – is out, and that a slightly frightening amalgam of Elon Musk, Chris Pratt and a well-meaning Greenpeace activist smiling through the glass in your nan’s front door, is in