Should We Care What God Looks Like?

A New Study Has Individuals Comparing Image Of God To Tech Billionaire Elon Musk

What do you think God looks like? Is He a white man with a long beard? Is he even white? The form of God depends on who you are. That is according to a new study done by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The study took 400 people and asked them what they thought God looked like. The survey revealed the personal political views of an individual determined how they interpreted God’s image. Those who are more conservative believed God was masculine, older, wealthier, and powerful. Those who are more politically liberal saw God as more loving and more African-American. Included in the study were pictures the participants chose as an accurate representation of God. The most popular image has drawn a comparison to Elon Musk and Chris Pratt. Although liberals would probably see God as Morgan Freeman in the Bruce Almighty movies based on the qualities they preferred.

The Bible does not give many clues on the appearance of God. He is described as having hair “white as snow” and “pure wool.” Most of the time He is represented as a form of spiritual energy so powerful that it is impossible for a mortal to comprehend: “the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.”

The study’s conclusions are not surprising. Every individual has biases influencing how they evaluate the world around them, including religion. Even in popular culture, God is depicted as a force that can take any particular form:

For example, the representation of God as male represents the modern era. Experts like Karen Armstrong have pointed out that early archeology discoveries have demonstrated God was initially seen as a feminine figure. This changed over time to a genderless spiritual force, then to a masculine character. Sociologists have explained this correlates with humans moving from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled communities. Settled communities led to the rise of patriarchal power, which in turn changed how deities were viewed and interpreted.

Popular culture has given many forms to God. Sometimes he is seen as a sympathetic figure who understands His falliblty and cares deeply about humanity, yet with great power. He may match the more conservative representation:

In other cases, he is seen as a charismatic mentor. God becomes more of a common man persona, occasionally changing racial identity. God remains a powerful figure with unlimited power, but uses it to be a benevolent father-figure guiding humans to better lives:

God represents the ultimate expression of what individuals who believe in Him idolize. He will represent qualities of each of us in a perfect world and how we perceive ourselves in the status quo. If you have an image of God, think about what qualities He has and what you think he looks like. You may learn something about yourself.

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