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“Will AI Create a Religion?" Views of the Algorithmic Forms of the Religious Life in Popular Discourse


Singler, Beth (2023). “Will AI Create a Religion?" Views of the Algorithmic Forms of the Religious Life in Popular Discourse. American religion, 5(1):95-103.

Abstract

“Will artificial intelligence create a religion?” This article explores what online answers to this question tell us about how AI, religion, and their relationship are viewed by the public. Answers found online and elsewhere demonstrate common views of the influence of AI on religion, and parallels with existing theories of religion. There are broadly two approaches to the question of where religion comes from when we discuss theories of religion. Either religion is human-made, emerging out of our mental and social processes, sometimes intentionally, as with “invented religions", sometimes not. Or religion is god-made and revealed by supernatural forces. The latter still produces religious institutions, cultures, and social phenomena that social scientific research can observe. Some have divided man-made into subsequent theories of religion such as functionalist/societal, exchange-based, or cognitive. We will also be able to observe how, through popular discourse, religion as an object can be influential on AI, and the culture that surrounds it.

This research is timely because recent generative AI technologies encourage a view of AI as a creator or source, e.g., OpenAI’s ChatGPT (“Generative Pre-Trained Transformer”—a neural network machine learning model trained using data to generate any type of text), which provides a new space for text-based religious improvisation and play, as well as (mis)information about religions. Further, this article is an important complement to my previous work on views of AI as the end of religion.

Abstract

“Will artificial intelligence create a religion?” This article explores what online answers to this question tell us about how AI, religion, and their relationship are viewed by the public. Answers found online and elsewhere demonstrate common views of the influence of AI on religion, and parallels with existing theories of religion. There are broadly two approaches to the question of where religion comes from when we discuss theories of religion. Either religion is human-made, emerging out of our mental and social processes, sometimes intentionally, as with “invented religions", sometimes not. Or religion is god-made and revealed by supernatural forces. The latter still produces religious institutions, cultures, and social phenomena that social scientific research can observe. Some have divided man-made into subsequent theories of religion such as functionalist/societal, exchange-based, or cognitive. We will also be able to observe how, through popular discourse, religion as an object can be influential on AI, and the culture that surrounds it.

This research is timely because recent generative AI technologies encourage a view of AI as a creator or source, e.g., OpenAI’s ChatGPT (“Generative Pre-Trained Transformer”—a neural network machine learning model trained using data to generate any type of text), which provides a new space for text-based religious improvisation and play, as well as (mis)information about religions. Further, this article is an important complement to my previous work on views of AI as the end of religion.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Institute of Religious Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Anthropology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Cultural Studies
Language:English
Date:2023
Deposited On:15 Feb 2024 13:32
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 03:31
Publisher:Indiana University Press
ISSN:2643-9255
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.2979/amerreli.5.1.05
Official URL:https://muse.jhu.edu/article/916424
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English