One of the claims of the Big Three religions (and many other religions that claim to have a perfect God) is the claim that God made us in His image. That is patently absurd on the basis that God is immaterial and has no image, whereas I do have an image (my Facebook photos prove it). But even in the more metaphorical sense, I cannot see what aspects of our identity overlap with the identity of God so strongly that it has lead people to believe we were intentionally created in God’s image. Assuming God is all moral, all-powerful and perfect, why are we so clearly none of those things?
In order to discuss the most likely rebuttal, the Fall, it is best to look at humans in both the pre-Fall and post-Fall narrative. I want to start my investigation with Adam and Eve: were they made in God’s image? Were they moral? No. “No” on more than one count, too. In terms of knowledge, we know Adam and Even had no moral knowledge at all. Adam and Eve had to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to understand good and evil. Debatably, Adam and Eve also demonstrated their lack of moral knowledge by disobeying God to eat from the tree. On the Divine Command view this is not debatable; it was definitely immoral to disobey God and eat from The Tree. From a moral secular view their ignorance to the consequences of their actions also shows their lack of moral knowledge. If God created Adam and Eve in His image, is God ignorant of morality? If not, why were Adam and Eve, pre-Fall, ignorant of morality?
The narrative of the Big Three claims that we now live in a post-Fall universe. It looks a lot like a Godless universe; evolution explains the behaviour of all animals, including humans, and manifest as lust, fear, food and sex-driven imperfect behaviour. In particular, humans have a tendency to lean towards feelings of vengeance, retribution and tribalism; we re violent and ignorant. These are held to be the very antithesis of what God is: loving, peaceful and moral. There is an irony here: the books of the Big Three depict a vengeful, immoral, warmongering and hateful God. Even though God is defined as peaceful, He is depicted very differently.
In fact, God appears very human. “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5). People labeling God as perfect and all loving seems to bear precisely no relationship with the description of God. That is not just true of the God of the Books, but the God we could easily infer if we assumed there was a God and tried to guess His nature from natural nature. If we assume a God, then God created the competition and conflict and pain and strife. God authored our capacity to suffer and God permitted the pain everything can and does feel. In nature, God is asserted in spite of everything we see. In the Books, God is asserted to look almost exactly like us. And we are not perfect.
I am less than perfect: I need sustenance to survive and have a low-efficiency digestive system; I learn slowly when I learn at all and I do not know everything; I am not that strong or powerful or influential. In all these domains there are people who are better than me in them. Am I less in-God’s-image than those people? Have I ‘fallen’ more than them?
From this, I cannot help but imagine we have invented a God in our image, and not the other way around. To quote Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot:
“We’ve tended in our cosmologies to make things familiar. Despite all our best efforts, we’ve not been very inventive. In the West, Heaven is placid and fluffy, and Hell is like the inside of a volcano. In many stories, both realms are governed by dominance hierarchies headed by gods or devils. Monotheists talked about the king of kings. In every culture we imagined something like our own political system running the Universe. Few found the similarity suspicious.”