This is The Face of God, According to Opinions from American Christians

Christian Orthodox worshippers raise their heads as a ray of light comes through during the Holy Fire as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalems Old City on April 7, 2018 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony. GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

Based on a survey of 511 American Christians, scientists have put together what they believe is an image that represents an average of opinions of the face of God.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked a variety of Christians how they perceived God, showing them pictures of different faces and asking them which one looked the most like the God they worshipped. Scientists published their results in the journal PLOS One.

When the researchers averaged out the features on the more commonly-selected pictures, they found that the average view of God is significantly different than how Michelangelo portrayed the Almighty. Instead of a large, old man with a flowing white beard, the averaging image showed a beardless, younger face.

Images were averaged out to find what American Christians believe God looks like. Joshua Jackson et al

Researchers also found patterns based on demographics. Liberals considered God more feminine and "loving," according to the study, and conservatives considered God more masculine and "powerful."

Many people believed that God looked more like themselves, a phenomenon that researchers describe as "egocentricity." For instance, people who rated themselves as looking more attractive chose more attractive images to represent God. African Americans thought of God as darker-skinned, and white Americans thought of God as light-skinned. People also chose images of God that more closely matched their own age. The exception was gender: Men did not actually choose more masculine images of God.

The authors of the study note that the Bible never describes God's face, and in some passages claims it is unknowable. Still, the belief that the God of Abrahamic religions has some sort of face is pervasive throughout culture, as artists and filmmakers depict it regularly and with some consistency.

Similar studies could take this research further, as this study only included 511 American Christians. The average face of God may change if expanded to more demographics, like people from other countries or religions. This research didn't collect data on what denomination the subjects believed in, so further studies may be needed to understand the differences in opinion between, for instance, Catholic and Mormon Christians.