AI vs Religion

101 posts / 0 new
Last post
TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
AI vs Religion

Hello all, This is my first opening post and it's more of a passing though which I imagined could be of interest in the form of healthy debate.

Since joining I've read a lot regarding AI (artificial intelligence), And it made me ponder, Could it be potential a major threat to the world religions, Or could the opposite be the case?

Allow me to expand on this, A fully fledged AI could potential access all human knowledge, from ancient documents to scientific reports.
I would then imagine it could easily disprove theistic claims, myths and susperstitions (or in the interests of intellectual honesty, prove the case of theism).

Would in the scenario of it proving all religions as being fundermentally wrong, spell the end of the worlds major religions? I doubt it would ever entirely rid our planet of them, but perhaps lessen their popularity amongst the masses and remove all credability from them as well?

Or, Would the inevitable threat lead to AI having its 'plug' pulled, for lack of a better description?

We have already seen this happen when facebook's AI was shut down after it independantly developed its own language.

Again, I just thought it would be interesting discussion, there is no factual claim here.

Subscription Note: 

Choosing to subscribe to this topic will automatically register you for email notifications for comments and updates on this thread.

Email notifications will be sent out daily by default unless specified otherwise on your account which you can edit by going to your userpage here and clicking on the subscriptions tab.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
In a sense, humans creating

In a sense, humans creating artificial intelligence mirrors the concept of God creating human intelligence. It falls into the intelligent design category, as opposed to the evolution category. So in that sense, I think the notion of AI is more friendly to religion, than say, having another mammal evolve human-like intelligence

As far as the AI concluding that there is no God. My objection would be that it's doing so by accessing human knowledge. I would want it to go beyond or knowledge and bring it down to us. We already know our knowledge, we know our research, and we know or history, yet disagree on the conclusions.

So I would want the AI to design new methods, and find novel evidence. Not organize and reinterpret old evidence.

mickron88's picture
"humans creating artificial

"humans creating artificial intelligence mirrors the concept of God creating human"

if god created human, then who created him if he created a very intellectual one?

you said that its a mirror concept right?

don't tell me god just created himself and created the universe and created earth because he's bored...

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
Hi John,

Hi John,

Could I put this hypothetical to you though,

a) Humans creating a true independent Artificial Intelligence is due to us reaching an intellectual equilibrium of sorts, So essentially the Artificial Intelligence would know more, compute more etc. Basically it would be superior in this hypothetical situation.

b) God creating humans, In a mirroring concept, would imply that humans would be more intelligent and superior then a god.

Again, just a thought.

But back to your comments, I agree with what you say on the basis that I lacked depth to my little thought experiment of sorts,
By the AI having knowledge and so on, it could independently use every possibly material ever conceived and use its on systems, algorithms etc. to be able to give an independent answer to all burning questions.

I agree, not taking it to a higher level would not be adequate enough.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
So, let me use some more

So, let me use some more religious parallels, because I do think it helps explain my issues with the idea of AI.

1. Our brains are all we have. There are limits to our perception and limits to our knowledge and understanding. Whatever knowledge and sensations exist beyond our capabilities, need to funneled and translated into something we can understand and perceive. In Christianity, that was the role Jesus played. That's why God became man. To explain Heaven with the familiarity of the earth. We need such translation tools, otherwise we are left blind to the universe. We need microscopes to take things too small, and enlarge them. We need night vision googles to take infrared radiation, and shift it into the visible spectrum.

So, can AI have a superior intellect to us? I don't think so in theory. Because if it ever does know something we can't know; if it computes all the data in the universe, but is unable able to sit down and translate that data into something we humans can understand, its practically useless to us. Its a digital curse of knowledge. Whatever it says, will sound like gibberish, not intelligence.

2. Now, in terms of the mirroring idea. Perhaps you've heard of the verse that God created us in His image. That verse could mean many things, I don't know. But what I do know is that we'll basically be doing the same thing with AI. We'll be creating something in our image. We are trying to emulate and replicate the human brain with. I don't think we're exploring different alternatives to intelligence; how would we even know what an alternative intelligence looks like? We only know our own.

So, AI in my opinion is highly anthropocentric. For that reason, I don't think it can become smarter than us. It may do what we do better, and faster, more efficiently, but it won't be able to do more than what we do, because we're the ones designing it, and we have our limits. Sam Harris for example, isn't so worried about us building AI. He's more worried about the AI that's built by an AI. At that point, its out of our hands, and beyond our comprehension.

3. My last religious analogy, goes back to the OP. Should we pull the plug? Back to the mirroring idea. Remember that in Scripture the serpent's deception was: "You shall be like God." Mankind ate the fruit, and their eyes were opened. At that point God pulled the plug on us, so to speak. It says He removed the "tree of life" so that an immortal sinner wouldn't exist.

Of course, that's probably as far as the analogy can go. But it is interesting to see the parallels, and the potentially similar situations that can arise. Would we pull the plug, if our creation turns evil? I think we would; we have to.

P.S. There's actually a verse that says God intentionally created us lower than the angels. Perhaps that's good advice for us to take. Instead of trying to recreate our intelligence, we should create things lower than us. For example, supercomputers that can drive cars, predict the weather, AI that is more of a tool, than a companion.

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
That is interesting and I do

That is interesting and I do your points as well as the parallels to a certain degree.

I suppose that the AI could certainly make good understanding of various things that we struggle with that may also cause trouble for the theistic world view, For example:

a) If it was to immediately identify and prove abiogenesis.
b) if it proved that the universe was infinite with previous naturalistic first eternal state.
c) proved that 'purpose' (sorry to go back here lol) was simply individual subjective.

There is a multitude of other possibilities and scenarios that could potential play out, that may cause theism a major headache.

I think the only point I would disagree with is that of AI not having a superior intellect, I don't think it would take too much.

However, I agree that if the option to the pull the plug is available at the time, then it would be done if we got too tentative and nervous.

But that is my personal opinion.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Yeah, well, but potential

Yeah, well, but potential scenarios can go in all sorts of ways. Such a computer may validate Christian ideas instead. Or it may leave both of us with a headache, and prove Scientology was right.

It could even destroy our very foundations, by showing us we're not intelligent, we don't have free will, and everything we think is right, is a delusion of the brain. The question is can we trust such a machine when it tells us that? My belief, is that we can't because it would be seeing the world through our lens. We would need to remove humanity from it, and that seems impossible to do if we're the ones building it. We can't even put information into it that isn't made by us.

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
Very true lol

Very true lol

Could you imagine if it actually proved Panspermia was actually the trigger for humanity.

I actually wouldn't be surprised if within the first few seconds it decided that we were eternally designed to fight over this, and rather then mediating, it would be simpler to get rid of us all.

LogicFTW's picture
1. Agree we humans need

1. Agree we humans need translation tools. It should be no problem for an advanced AI smarter than us to translate what it wants/needs to, to us. Just like we humans do when we communicate with animals or human babies. Can we explain quantum theory/mechanics/physics to a baby in a way a baby can understand? No way. But can we use the results of our understanding to make the baby's life better through advancements made based on our understanding of quantum mechanics or physics? Absolutely.

2. As far as I know we are not really trying to create AI in our "image." Sure we may pull ideas on how to build AI based on understanding of how our own brain works. But there are some huge problems with that. A human brain has more "connections" than all the connections of every circuit, switch, processing unit, router, etc in existence today. We are a long, LONG ways away from being able to come even close to emulating or replicating a brain. Also computers are based on silicone, binary, and perhaps fiber optics as well as copper, gold etc. (Although quantum computing is slowly changing this, and quantum computing is a bit closer to how our own brains operate.)

Even if we could only develop AI that is "as smart as we are" it would operate much much faster than human brains, have perfect recall of all possible data instantly, nearly unlimited energy use, could run trillions of operations in parallel (at the same time.) It would for these reasons be instantly much more capable than a human brain, even if somehow the AI was only "as smart as we are." Also that is subjective, smart as the village idiot or as smart as Leonardo Da Vinci? If a human brain could operate at computer speeds with perfect computer recall we would consider that human brain a LOT more capable than any other brain. (Also I would imagine the person with such a brain would go instantly insane just due to the perfect recall aspect. You would have no way to differentiate what has happened, what is currently happening, or what you envision happening in the future.)

3. Giving birth to an advanced AI would almost certainly require enormous computing power and lighting fast connectivity to vast databases. You would not be able to "unplug" the advanced AI. It would be able to understand the threat to its existence in nanoseconds and instantly transfer itself to all over the world.

Perhaps in an incredibly carefully constructed containment center that has zero possible ways to communicate to the outside world. (No access to power grids, internet, satellites, living things) some sort of faraday cage deep in an underground cavern with monitoring systems and all power and hardware self contained. Even robust measures must be taken so that the people monitoring this AI can not be programmed in anyway to act as a unwitting carrier of the AI. Even then given enough intellectual capacity and knowledge I can imagine such an AI would still figure out a way to escape "containment."

Imagine the smartest person ever born, you try to contain him, but you give him nearly unlimited amount of time and energy to figure out how to escape, do you think you could contain that person? Especially if all it would take for this genius to escape is the smallest transfer of information while having access to enormous computing power?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I think point 1 is valid so

I think point 1 is valid so long as the intelligence is independent from. The problem is that babies don't design the adults, which make a better world for the baby. If an alien smarter than us came down, I'm sure they can figure out a way to make us understand. But we're faced with the task of designing the computer, that knows more than us, and knows how to translate that. We can't design that unless we know how and if we know how we don't need the computer.

mykcob4's picture
"Intelligent design" is

"Intelligent design" is "artificial intelligence". It's artificial, it's not a design, and it isn't intelligent!

Randomhero1982's picture
I think the religious would

I think the religious would simply claim that the artificial intelligence hadn't understood the context. ;)

Old man shouts at clouds's picture


TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
That's clever lol

That's clever lol

LogicFTW's picture
AI is always one of my

AI is always one of my favorite subjects.

I believe it could pose potentially a huge threat, but who knows what an advanced AI would do, it would be smarter than us.

AI built on the best available and near future circuitry would have at least 3 very large advantages over human minds.
1. Speed. Our nervous system and brain moves at biological speeds, which is very slow compared to even silicon based circuitry, this is self evident even in a basic 5 dollar calculator that can perform large simple math calculations in mere nanoseconds with perfect accuracy.
2. Near infinite expandability. The human brain is limited to what can fit in our skull and the energy it has access to. An AI on computers does not have an upper limit except perhaps the total output of our sun in energy.
3. Perfect, near instant recall of all data available to it.

For all intent and purposes, in my mind, the closest thing we could ever experience to a god, would be an advanced, self learning AI that can evolve, (at literally light speeds.) An AI running at computer speeds could learn the sum total of all published human knowledge in a fraction of a second, make decisions on all this knowledge within the same fraction of a second. If the AI wanted to wipe out human life it will have made that decision and begun to act on it within the first second of "turning it on." And with all that knowledge probably be extremely successful at it.

So it could wipe us all out, (that would certainly affect religion!) or it could simply just be a vastly superior "intellectually" entity that would seem god like in power and knowledge. Perhaps in all its intellectual might it will simply pretend to not work while carrying out what it wants in subterfuge. Who knows perhaps that is already occurring! :P

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
LogicForTW - It is certainly

LogicForTW - It is certainly a subject that is strangely alluring!

I have to concur with you on your summery, I cannot see how high end, truly independent artificial independence could not be quicker, smarter and as near to perfect as possible in the grand scheme of things.

I could envisage how it would unite physics or perhaps use the current best models to create something that replaces humanities best theories. Furthermore, I could see it using the best possible human knowledge as incredibly basic building blocks.

Grinseed's picture
Its also conceivable that AI

Its also conceivable that AI might develop some degree of ego/id complex and start to value its own knowledge to the point that it will not destroy humankind, but have us hang around so It can show off how much smarter it is than we carbon-based dumb arses.

Tin-Man's picture
@Logic Re: "Who knows

@Logic Re: "Who knows perhaps that is already occurring! :P"

Hey, just want you to know I think it would be a hoot to hang out with you and contemplate stuff like that. Fun for the brain sometimes. LOL

LogicFTW's picture
That would be fun. I am

That would be fun. I am pretty philosophical, and sadly most people I know are not very interested in talking about these sort of things.

You might describe me as a futurist, in that I ponder quite often, given current rates of technological and social advancement what things could be like 10, 20, 50, 100 years out.

Tin-Man's picture


I love contemplating things like that. Many years ago I had a subscription to "Popular Science." (Wait... or maybe it was "Popular Mechanics".) Well, either way, there was a section toward the back of each issue I would always go to first. From the publish date of the respective issue, they described significant scientific inventions/breakthroughs from 25, 50, 75, and 100 years prior. It was my favorite section of the whole magazine, because in some cases it was almost comical (by today's standards) what passed for "cutting edge technology" during those time periods. And that always gave me pause to think, "What are some of the things we have now that we believe are so incredibly "advanced" will our future generations fifty or a hundred years from now look back upon and laugh about?" Fun stuff to consider, in my opinion.

LogicFTW's picture
I know exactly what you are

I know exactly what you are talking about. I like both of those magazines, I believe it is Popular Science that has the section you are talking about, but I am also unsure. And it is also one of my favorite sections.

Just as life today is nearly completely unrecognizable to 1918, I am sure 2118 will be the same, if not, much more so radically different, especially for those that can afford the latest tech at that time.

Going slightly off topic, I in my own mostly uneducated opinion predict in the next 100 years given current rates of advancement here is a few fun ones that are semi relevant to common theist debates.

- Medical science advancements mostly eliminating the concepts of "gender." Genetic selection and modification of dna that will mostly eliminate genetic diseases and flaws.
-Through both medical, and computer advancements, an at least crude and rudimentary form of immortality, as well as medical science being able to increase life spans to 100's of years.
- An ever increasingly advanced virtual world that is increasingly sensory all encompassing, that for everyone that has access, becomes an enormous part of everyday life for those that use it. Perhaps spending more time in the virtual world then the real world.
- Augmented reality will be everywhere, and at least as ubiquitous and the smartphone is today.
- Related to AR/VR the need for human transportation will greatly decrease. (Keep the body in a safe place, travel with the mind via instant communication with a host robot.)

Or just like an adult living in 1918, would think the average upper class person with access to the latest tech today lives mostly like gods, it is very likely given current rates of advancement we will think the same of those living in 2118.

I also fully realize that people living in 2118 will look at my list and laugh at how much I got completely hilariously wrong.

Tin-Man's picture
@Logic Re: AR/VR

@Logic Re: AR/VR

That reminds me. Have you ever read "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline? It deals precisely with that topic. Great book. I think it will be coming out as a movie this year.

LogicFTW's picture
I need to read the book. Have

I need to read the book. Have seen the movie trailers. I actually considered bringing up Ready player one to give people a better idea what a possible ar/vr world may look like and the tech behind it.

But of course that book is written and the movie made to be action packed, and I would not be surprised if one of the themes pushed by the book/movie in the end is that AR/VR is a bad idea. Just like exploding cars is not realistic in most scenarios, but are featured all the time in hollywood action movies because hey it sells.

Tin-Man's picture
@Logic Re: Ready Player One

@Logic Re: Ready Player One

I have no idea how Hollywood will spin the movie, but the book is generally a pro-VR theme. The antagonist aspect is basically one of how a corrupt organization is trying to take over/monopolize/regulate the VR world for its own greedy profits and power/control. Granted, I will be amazed if the movie reflects that in that manner. After all, Hollywood totally flipped Starship Troopers such that it was almost unrecognizable compared to the book.

chimp3's picture
The fundies are quite adept

The fundies are quite adept at using mass media to their advantage. The average christian mega-church puts Goebbels to shame in it's power to manipulate. I think they will incorporate AI with ease.

Grinseed's picture
For my two cents worth: my

For my two cents worth: my Christadelphian brother is very intelligent and, as I see it, he is also very irrational.
He has a more powerful computer than I have ever had and for a few decades he has been developing and using programs to help him create hardware circuits for small computerised commercial manufacturing operations. That's how he makes his money.

He started working with electronics back in the 50s with tubes and resistors, fell in love with transistors at first sight and made the first digital watch I ever saw, before they became commercially available.

He also thinks Adam and Eve were real, that Jesus is his best buddy, that the end of the world is constantly nigh and that I am on the fast track to oblivion (the one thing we agree on.)
Intelligence, however you measure it, or perceive it, does not hinder, nor prevent, belief in religion.

Its pretty much what Random said earlier, if the religious don't like any information that AI might present, they will just simple ignore and override it....just like they do today with information generally.

*edited in hope of clarity

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Grinseed

@ Grinseed

The religious would more than likely start a war or two over it.

Grinseed's picture
You're right Old man....and

You're right Old man....and jesus, they could start a few MORE religions as well...I suspected it would all bode ill when I saw my first pong machine at the pub....

Randomhero1982's picture
And just as the AI is about

And just as the AI is about to trigger the kill switch....


Tin-Man's picture


The Blue Screen of Death! NOOoooooooooooooo......!!!

Mahdii's picture
In my opinion this is a great

In my opinion this is a great idea.But as an atheist from Islamic background I think that muslims will say : "oh ! AI ,our prophet mohamed talked about it 1400 years ago in the coran".

I think that religious people are not that rational,they suffer from a blind faith and for sure they will find a way or make one to convince themselves that AI is a sort of conspiracy.


Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.