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Americans think God looks like a young white dude

American Christians think that if they were to face a near-death experience, head toward the light, and see the face of God, the encounter might be akin to looking in a mirror.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE on Monday found that people don't picture the wizardly, bearded man of cartoon lore when they think of God. Instead, they picture a face that looks similar to their own.

Psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill created composite mugshots of God after showing 500 U.S. Christians hundreds of different pairs of images. The aggregate result was a young, white man with a pleasantly neutral expression.

Most participants selected images that looked more like them or reflected their personal worldview, the study found. Younger people pointed to younger images; conventionally attractive people pointed to more conventionally attractive representations. To a lesser extent, people were also biased toward images that showed their own race. The biggest discrepancy? Women and men both pictured a male God.

Political views played a role, too. Liberal Christians were more likely to select feminine faces that appeared younger and "more loving." Conservative Christians largely picked Caucasian images that were "more powerful."

"People's tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias," said UNC professor Kurt Gray, the study's senior author. The result of that bias is apparently an image of Jesus' father who looks a bit more like his brother. Read the full study at PLOS ONE. Summer Meza