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American Christians perceive God as young, white & loving | Guest Contributor

American Christians perceive God as young, white & loving

American Christians perceive God as young, white & loving June 14, 2018

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.

Another wrote:

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

Elon Musk, left, and Chris Pratt
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  • tonye

    To be honest, Michael Moorcock’s ‘Behold The Man’, where Jesus is a hunchback, is as accurate as any depiction.

  • L.Long

    The commentator above is a bold faced liar….
    Gawd has red hair and is ugly, says so in the buyBull. I’ll leave it to you to find the reference. OK!!!
    In this verse, Jacob is talking to his brother Esau when he says this:
    I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God. KJV: Genesis 33:10
    To see your face is like seeing the face of God. NIV: Genesis 33:10
    Now this is coming from a guy who (just a few verses ago) saw God face to face. So he should know. And he says that God looks just like Esau.
    Luckily, the Bible describes Esau’s appearance. He was all red and hairy.

  • sailor1031

    well I do remember that doG was so ugly he would only be able to show some prophet or other the divine butt because sight of the doGly face was too terrible. It’s a pity Ernest Shepherd never illustrated the bible then we’d know what doG looks like; after all who can’t describe Badger, Toad, Mole and Ratty? and even the weasels.
    BTW they left out the facts that doG is protestant and anglophone.

  • AgentCormac

    ‘God is not a figment of our imagination as the researchers tend to believe.’
    Erm…. I rather think he is! That’s why no one has seen him.

  • barriejohn

    L.Long: Good point. I’d never considered that!
    The concept of God as an old man comes from Daniel 7.
    I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
    Someone was on something!

  • barriejohn

    Looking at that image, I couldn’t help thinking about this:×430.gif
    Maybe there has been some confusion.

  • Angela_K

    Hmmm…that picture doesn’t look like a sadistic, vainglorious, murderous, spiteful tyrant to me – can never be sure though.

  • L.Long

    Gawd as old man is BS!
    Old age is considered a defect, gawd is perfect so he should be …
    A white guy with a neat beard and medium long hair
    White ‘merican
    An ugly hair dude … muslins.
    half elephant … hindodo
    As you would see in a mirror … Buddhist
    Tall & octopus headed … Cathulu
    A wide variety of white ‘merica is so vanilla flavored

  • Vanity Unfair

    To barriejohn:
    Great picture: God is an old man doing burn-outs in a 4WD with a flame-thrower. No wonder he drew a crowd.
    I do not want to meddle.

  • StephenJP

    Once upon a time God was infinite, all-powerful, all-creating, ineffable, terrifying and not to be approached.
    Now he is only to be found in the gaps that science has not yet filled, and looks like the slightly dopey nerd you see in the corner of the coffee shop. He needs a new career move.
    (The survey doesn’t say what black US Christians thought God looked like. I wonder why not.)

  • RussellW

    Loving? Loving? God is a sadistic bastard, as history would indicate.

  • barriejohn

    For reasons which I won’t go into, the Abrahamic god has the attributes and attitudes of a four-thousand-year-old Middle Eastern potentate. It may not be too difficult for others to work out why this should be!

  • Robster

    One of the more attractive things re: the current model deity is its ability to conform to the desires of it’s supporters. Black god with orange hair, no probs. Gay hating god? Sure thing. Friendlier than the regular god, yes please. Once again the importance of bespoke deities come to the fore.

  • Brian Jordan

    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.
    They never can resist contradicting themselves, can they?