Is AI Killing Religious Faith? The Surprising Link Exposed!

Religion has continuously declined worldwide in the 21st century, including in the United States. There are different ideas as to the factors that contribute to this decline. However, a recent paper suggests that automation in the form of artificial intelligence and robotics is a primary driver in the current downward trend of global religiosity.

An international team of researchers recently published a paper titled “Exposure to Automation Explains Religious Declines” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The report sought to explain the decline of religion amidst the technological advancements in the 21st century.

“When people can use technology to predict the weather, diagnose and treat illness, and manufacture resources, they may rely less on religious beliefs and practices,” the paper said.

Although technological advancement has been considered a primary factor in religion’s decline globally, religiosity hasn’t seen a massive drop during historical periods where technology significantly developed, notably the Industrial Revolution, the Space Race during the Cold War, and the rise of Personal Computers.

The researchers presented a hypothesis as to why religiosity only dropped massively as recently as the 21st century. It’s not technology itself that reduces religiosity, but automation, mainly in AI and robotics, two technological advancements that only became prominent in the 21st century.

This claim is based on recent research on lay perceptions of automation. Such studies show that people ascribe automation technology with abilities that border on supernatural,” the researchers wrote.

Historically, people have deferred to supernatural agents and religious professionals to solve instrumental problems beyond the scope of human ability. These problems may seem more solvable for people working and living in highly automated spaces,” they added.

The researchers conducted four experiments to test their hypothesis. The first tracked religious decline from 2006 to 2019 across 68 countries through a survey question with more than two million respondents, which said, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?

They reported that exposure to robotics “was robustly and negatively associated with religiosity across the globe.” The correlation remains valid even after factors such as GDP per capita, telecom development, and energy development have been considered.

The second experiment examined the decline in religious belief in the United States, comparing religiosity rates and robotics growth in metropolitan areas from 2008 to 2016.

Metropolitan areas with higher levels of robotics growth (+1 standard deviation) experienced an approximately 3% yearly decline in religion each decade,” the paper said.

For the third experiment, the researchers followed 46,680 individuals in a specific community from 2009 to 2020, measuring their self-reported belief in God and their job exposure to automation. They discovered that the religiosity of individuals who worked at jobs with higher exposure to AI and robotics significantly dropped over time.

People with jobs that were one standard deviation higher than the mean on occupational exposure to AI were 45% less likely to believe in God compared to people in occupations that had a mean level of exposure to AI,” the paper said.

The last experiment was conducted at the most local level. The researchers followed 238 employees in an organization, directly measuring their exposure to AI and religious beliefs. They found that AI exposure was connected to a drop in religious belief.

While the study's results were correlative and do not necessarily imply causation, they strongly support the researchers’ hypothesis that automation leads to a drop in religiosity.

Our studies demonstrate that automation is linked to religious decline across multiple religious traditions (e.g., Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist), world regions (e.g., North America, South Asia, and Oceania), and levels of analysis,” they noted.

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