Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Glossary - AI and Theology


As we have conversations about Theology and AI, it essential to understand some of the terms which will be used. As  I plan to write about these terms in future writing, I thought it would be good to add a list here. I will write posts specifically on some of these topics, but the goal here is to provide a brief definition.

  • Alien-AI. AI mechanism which is not intended to mirror human intelligence.
  • Android. In science fiction, a robot with a human appearance.
  • Artificial Intelligence(AI). An area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: speech recognition, learning, planning, and problem-solving.
  • Consciousness. The state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings.
  • Creator God. The creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
  • Cyborgs. A fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond usual human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.
  • Darwinism. The theory of the evolution of species by natural selection advanced by Charles Darwin.
  • Divine. Of, from, or like God or a god.
  • DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material that is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes, and is the carrier of genetic information.
  • Embodied Intelligence. An intelligent agent that has a body.
  • Embodiment. A tangible or visible form of an idea, quality, or feeling.
  • Emotional Intelligence. The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
  • Emotions. A natural, instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
  • Ethics. The moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity. Ethics also refers to the analysis or the evaluation of morality.
  • Foreknowledge. Awareness of something before it happens or exists.
  • General or Strong AI. AI designed to successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can do.
  • Holiness: the state of being holy.
  • Immortality. The ability to live forever; eternal life.
  • Immutability. Not capable of or susceptible to change.
  • Interiority. The quality of being interior or inward.
  • Narrow or Weak AI. AI designed to do narrow tasks like facial recognition, driving a car, or speech recognition.
  • Neuroscience. Any or all of the sciences, such as neurochemistry and experimental psychology, which deal with the structure or the function of the nervous system and brain.
  • Robot. A machine that can replicate specific human movements and functions automatically.
  • Robotics. The branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.
  • Solitariness. A person who lives alone or in solitude, or avoids the society of others, possibly for religious motives. Solitary confinement.
  • Sovereignty. Supreme power or authority. The right to reign over or rule as supreme power or authority.
  • Techno Sapiens. A new intelligent species resulting from Homo sapiens' integration with technology. Techno sapiens are physically different from previous human groups through the use of technology-assisted genetic and physical modification.
  • Technological Singularity. The idea that AI will surpass humans in every intellectual and creative dimension, leading to incredible advances.
  • Transhumanism. Belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially utilizing science and technology.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Why should religious leaders care about Artificial Intelligence (AI)?



When I started with the research on AI and theology for my dissertation, I mentioned the topic to some people. Many people were impressed with my topic. I also got strange reactions from people who thought I was going to work on an issue that does not have anything to do with religion or theology. Someone commented, “at the end of the day, it is a machine, and you can take out the power plug.” I do not think they understand the issue or questions raised by AI.  

I will be highlighting many issues in future posts. Let me give you one reason to start. It is the view on religious services or gathering. Online services have become standard for many years now, and many attend a church or religious service online. With COVID-19 and lockdowns, everyone went online to conduct their services. Many who opposed online services in the past started worship services over Zoom, Skype, Facebook live, Youtube live, etc. Even some people started doing communion online. Still, there are people involved, and religious leaders like Pastors, Fathers or Priests are still conducting the service.

In my research survey conducted among college students from seven countries, I had a question around the willingness of people to attend religious service where robots with AI will perform rituals like prayers and preaching.  I got 115 responses to this question.



Sixty-nine responded that they would dislike a great deal if robots performed religious rituals. Sixteen answered that they would dislike it to some level. Eight answered that they would like a great deal, and another twenty responded that they would like it to some degree. Considering that people who identify themselves as Christians provided this response, it is alarming that twenty-eight answered that they would like to some level and that they are willing to attend religious services where robots will perform rituals like prayer, preaching, and teaching.

Already we see some instances where robots are used or proposed for religious services. There is a robot monk who can perform funerals. There is a willingness towards confessing to robots instead of humans. I am providing some links which give more details.


An atheist or agnostic may laugh, seeing the innovations happening in AI and robotics for religious purposes. A person who follows a faith life where relationship matters, then it can be concerning.  It can be troubling for many who follow the Christian faith, where a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is required or emphasized. There are Christian groups who have mediators, and for them, this may not be a big issue to adopt.

As society becomes more reliant on technology and the use of technology has become part of life, the transition to technology-based religious services may be a smooth one for many.

A 2015 report by Leadership Network and Hartford Institute found that the use of “online campuses” is rising, with 30 percent of megachurches offering an online campus experience, which includes not only the live streaming of the worship service but also interactive features and online attendee accountability[1].  I think the day is not far away when the church could have an AI-powered robot preacher. Tools will be available to generate sermons automatically based on the demographics and recent events that may have happened locally or internationally. The systems will be able to create sermons, which will generate a maximum sensation among people or on a positive note more impactful.

Is this a good reason for religious leaders, including Christians, to look at AI and see where they stand from a  theological perspective and how much they will adopt? Whenever we choose something new, there can be resistance. The question is, will everything be adopted, or will there be clear boundaries defined.  




[1] Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, “Recent Shifts in America’s Largest Protestant Churches: Megachurches 2015 Report”, Hartford Institute for Religion Research, accessed August 5, 2019, http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/2015_Megachurches_Report.pdf.

Misuse of AI

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