North Carolina: Researchers at the University oaf North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) constructed an astonishing portrait of God himself based on a survey of 511 American Christians.How people perceive their deity? It changes depending on their political and social standing, with conservatives and liberals having a vastly different view of what “God” would look like.
While some religions have clear-cut images on what their Gods look like, the idea of a Christian God has been open to interpretation to art and literature.
Michaelangelo’s depiction of God
The psychologists questioned a group of devout Christians to find out how they envision the face of God in their minds. The surprising results of the study found God is not the archetypal bearded old man from Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel.Instead, most people questioned seemed to think God looks like a young Caucasian man.
The depiction of a God figure has almost always been an old Caucasian gentleman with a white beard. This includes every description from Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam to Monty Python’s God in the Holy Grail, notes a study published in the peer-reviewed journal- Public Library of Science (PLOS) one.
Is that really how people see God? This was a question that researchers wanted to find out. The study revealed that to some, “God” could come across as lot younger, more feminine, and less white than classical art and literature suggests.
This study used a new technique to see exactly what people thought God looked like to them. A face communicates both psychological and physical information about a person, explain the researchers. It can also be seen as how people perceive the higher power to be in terms of what kind of mind this God figure has. By demonstrating how people of the same religion see the same God, it can shape their own understanding of the divine being, it said.
How people visualise God’s face
Past studies have revealed that face perception happens as an extension of a certain set of assumptions about the mind of the person whose face is being imagined. An example provided by the researchers is of a person in poverty and one of the features often mentioned is dull eyes. This is because there is an assumption that people who are in abject poverty lack mental acuity. Similarly, when a person is asked to think of an average atheist- small eyes and narrow chins are often quoted- meaning they are thought of as not being too honest in their ways.
Liberals on the other hand, focus on societal tolerance, inter-group harmony, and social justice. This could be why liberals see a younger, kinder, more feminine God that encourages tolerance rather than an old, stern, man who is interested more in maintaining order than anything else.