Will Religion Be the Next Thing AI Takes Over? A Church of Facebook?

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Several countries including Japan, Dubai, and Germany are already employing AI to deliver religious teachings and blessings, a “church of Facebook” is already under consideration… Is the church of the future here?

Are you ready for the “Church of Facebook?”

When you think about the degree at which Facebook is already so pervasive in so many people’s lives, it’s not a stretch to think of Facebook moving into the sphere of religion. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already suggested the social media network can act as a type of church.

In 2017, Zuckerberg said, as church attendance declines, the social network can offer the same sense of community that many worshipers normally get from the church, Christianity Today reported.

“Think about it…a church doesn’t just come together,” Zuckerberg said. “It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter…leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net, and look out for us.”

“Communities give us that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are not alone, that we have something better ahead to work for,” Zuckerberg surmised.

One of Facebook’s mission statements is to “bring the world closer together.”

On one hand, you can hardly argue with the fact that the community makes people happier. Studies have shown this to be true.

Robot priests are already a thing

In Japan, in the 400-year-old Buddhist Kodaji Temple, a $1 million robotic priest has been installed to teach the younger generation via a humanoid-like robot named “Mindar.”

The 6-foot tall android speaks using a female voice. The creators say that, because of artificial intelligence, the robot will “grow in wisdom” over time and be able to help people with the most difficult troubles.

Christianity goes AI

A church in Germany developed a robot name Bless U 2, for the purpose of pronouncing blessings, The Guardian reported. The church said: “We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed.”

The Church of England developed an Alexa “skill” that can read prayers and answer basic questions like “Who is God?”

Even the Southern Baptists are seeing the writing on the wall that AI is going to be part of religion.

To that degree, they issued a statement at last year’s convention which read: “When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. A.I. should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity.”

And then there’s “A.I. Jesus” that was created from the King James Bible, taking all that’s learned human language from reading this translation of the Bible and nothing else, Mind Matters reports. This AI imitates the King James Bible without copying it.

Here’s a sample of its wisdom: “The Plague shall be the fathers in the world; and the same is my people, that he may be more abundant in the mouth of the LORD of hosts.”

It sounds King James-ish, and that’s where some people see problems.

Christians aren’t the only one going digital

Muslims are now using call to prayer apps.

In Dubai, the cultural and Islamic affairs agency (IACAD) developed a “Virtual Ifta.” However, it only provides answers to frequently asked questions.

Religious studies show greater happiness via congregation

The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that actively religious people tend to be happier. They attributed this to greater civic engagement, happiness, and health around the world by those who actively participate in church congregations.

And of course, we are seeing a rise in depression as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping people from gathering in all sorts of ways. Around the US, people have largely been blocked from attending in person religious services.

The question yet to be answered is whether artificial intelligence (AI) or a robot can provide a sense of community and connectedness one feels when being directed by a human religious leader. But can one really bond with AI?

Another false God?

“For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.”

– Matthew 24:24

A number of questions emerge. Do such AI inventions pose a threat? Can AI fool people who use it? Can it recite its own inventions that sound so close to the real thing that the lines between what is true and false scripture be blurred?

Does AI run the risk of becoming a false God?