A recent study at the University of Chicago suggests that people tend to use their own personal beliefs as a guide when thinking about what God might believe. Researchers asked a range of volunteers about their opinions on highly controversial issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, and affirmative action.
The subjects were asked three basic questions:
1. What are your beliefs regarding this specific issue?
2. What do you think other people believe regarding this issue?
3. What do you think God believes regarding this issue?
The results of several tests showed that the subjects' own beliefs matched what they thought God would believe, but were less constrained when thinking about other people's beliefs. In two tests, researches subtlety caused a change in the subjects' beliefs on a specific issue, and this in turn changed the subjects' own estimate of what they thought God believed.
The most interesting part of the study involved functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the neural activity of subjects as they reasoned through their answers to the three questions above. The scans showed that separate regions of the brain were activated when subjects answered question 1 (what I believe) in comparison to question 2 (what other people believe). However – and this is the interesting part – question 3 (what God believes) activated the same part of the brain that was activated when answering question 1, suggesting that we draw on our own personal beliefs when thinking about what God might believe.
This comes as no surprise to me. I've often wondered, if there is indeed an objective morality set out by the creator of the universe, why there is so much disagreement between theists on what this morality actually is. Does God think homosexuality is wrong? Does he condone the use of condoms? You will find different answers depending on the theist you talk to. Irrespective of whether God exists or not, the above study seems to suggest that people tend to colour what they think God's morality is according to their own beliefs.
In other words, the type of God you believe in might tell us more about you than God.
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