Among the world’s many religions, it’s pretty common to find that believers worship a god or gods which seem to resemble their own culture. While the existence of deities is debated ad infinitum, the religions that worship them are purely social constructions and, as such, are often subject to the biases and beliefs of those who belong to them. While some religions have rather rigid or monolithic depictions of their supreme beings, others offer some leeway in terms of how their god or gods are depicted.
Similarly, in one of the world’s largest religions, Christianity, depictions of God can vary somewhat due to the fact that the only descriptions of God found in the Bible are rather vague. The book of Genesis famously states that “God created man in his own image,” while Revelation 1:12-15 offers the following description of the Christian god:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
So does that mean God is an old man with bronze feet, flaming eyes, and a bushy white beard? While that seems to be one of the more common depictions in popular culture, a team of psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill set out to determine how modern Christians visualize their lord and savoir. For their study, the team gathered 511 American-born Christians and showed them hundreds of pairs of randomly-generated faces. From those pairs, participants were asked to select one they felt most accurately matched how they imagined God to look. And the survey says………