'Egocentric' US Christians believe God will look just like them -- according to science
'Family praying at the table' [Shutterstock]

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, American Christians expect to see a familiar face when they ascend to Heaven -- a God that looks remarkably like them.

In the study, 511 self-identified U.S. Christians were shown hundreds of randomly varying pairs of faces and selected which face appeared more like how they imagined God to appear.

"Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind," the study's abstract, which was published at PLOS, explained.

"In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance," the abstract continues. "All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race. 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."

Due to what scientists call "egocentricity," most described a God that looked like themselves.

"Do people see a God who looks like them? Egocentrism suggests that people see the world and other people through the lens of the self. Perhaps the same is true with God, such that He shares not only people’s opinions, but also their facial features," the researchers explained.

"These findings are striking in two respects. First, though many Christians claim that God’s appearance is unknowable [13], our sample of believers did appear to have stable representations of God’s face that included differentiable physical features (e.g. masculinity, youthfulness, and Whiteness) and psychological characteristics (e.g. lovingness). Second, even though American Christians ostensibly believe in the same God, people perceived Him in their own way, their perceptions reflecting their political ideologies and their own personal appearance."

You can dig into the whole study here.