from the world's big
This is what God's face looks like, according to American Christians
Is God an old white guy with a majestic, flowing beard? A new study has a surprise for you.
What does God look like? In our culture, we often see images of an older white man with a flowing beard. This image has been remarkably consistent and can be found in works from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam to The Simpsons.
But, if you pressed them, how many people would say that is who they think of when they pray?
Luckily for us, new research shows us precisely what American Christians think God looks like.
In a study done at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, researchers Joshua Jackson, Neil Hester, and Kurt Gray had 511 American Christians go through images of composite faces and rank them on which looked the most like God as they imagined him. They then combined the winners to create the image that was deemed “most God-like” by their subjects.
Behold the face of the American God.
The Almighty, pictured on the left, and his opposite. (Jackson et al.)
The face on the left is the composite of the "most Godlike" faces. The face on the right consists of the images which were the least Godlike.
It was also pointed out in this article that the face on the left, which is a somewhat generic Caucasian one, resembles Elon Musk.
The research team then broke the study subjects into groups based on their race, age, perceived attractiveness, and political leanings and made composite images of their results. The face of God changes rather dramatically based on who is looking.
Notice the differences between God as seen by the young and old.
Hmm...no egotism here at all. (Jackson et al.)
But, why? Why are the images so different?
The results show that people think God looks like them. People were extra egotistical about their age and perceived attractiveness, and their God reflects it.
The results also show that people also tend to give God features that align with them mentally. In the above image of God as seen by Liberals and Conservatives, the traits that both sides desire were manifest. The conservative God is older, more masculine, and more powerful; while the Liberal’s god is more feminine and loving.
As the scientists explained:
Conservatives visualized a God who was better-suited to meet their motivation for social order, while liberals visualized a God who was better-suited to meet their motivation for social tolerance.
In some cases, we imagine God as the hero needed to solve our problems. As the researchers put it:
People who lack control in their lives tend to see God as more powerful and influential as a form of compensatory control. People who feel threatened by intergroup conflict conceptualize God as more authoritarian and punitive, since this kind of God could better regulate a society at war…. And people with a strong need for a secure attachment tend to view God as more loving to provide themselves with an attachment figure. Together, these perspectives suggest that people ascribe traits to God that help fulfill salient motivations.
This tendency to manifest mental traits in imagined physical features goes beyond images of God. The authors of the study make references to other research that shows how we project our assumptions about people’s minds onto their faces:
Past research on face perception supports the idea that when people visualize faces, these faces reflect assumptions about the minds of those who wear them. For example, when people visualize welfare recipients (versus non-recipients), they view them as having dull eyes to reflect their perceived lack of mental acuity, and when people visualize atheists (vs. non-atheists) they view them as having smaller eyes and narrow chins to reflect their perceived lack of honesty.
How has the internet taken the news?
Reply tweets on co-author Kurt Gray’s feed ranged from surprise to pedantic critiques of the terms used in the study. Most press coverage has been more positive, exploring the motivations of the different groups that influence how they picture the Almighty, while also pointing out how bland the composite image of God is.
What doesn’t this study tell us?
The study only included American Christians, so we don’t know how Americans of other faiths view God or how Christians of other nations do. While the researchers had nine different dimensions of variances to study in both the participants and their view of God, there is no reason to think their list is exhaustive.
Lastly, while the test subjects represented a broad swath of American society, there was no attempt to break them down into groups based on denomination; the chances that different dominations have wildly differing notions of God is low, but still an exciting aspect for future study.
So, there you have it. Americans think God looks like them and has the traits they like to see. While this egotism might seem uniquely American, it is just the continuation of thousands of years of projection on our part. For as the ancient Greeks gave their gods power over the natural world, strong physiques, and an all too human nature, we Americans have made also made God into a mix of what we are and what we would like to be.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.