The Atlantic

Is AI a Threat to Christianity?

Are you there, God? It’s I, robot.
Source: Oli Scarff / Getty

In his relatively short tenure, Pope Francis has been hard at work welcoming spiritual seekers into the Catholic Church. He’s refused to judge LGBT people, sought to integrate divorced couples, and extended priests’ ability to forgive abortion. But Francis’s wide arms have arguably never stretched further than a mass in 2014 when he suggested the church would baptize Martians.

“If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came … and one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?” Pope Francis asked. “When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way.’”

While playful, this odd scenario got at a serious question about just how far the church’s welcome can go. Should Christianity, the world’s largest religion, embrace all intelligent life? Even aliens? Granted, the arrival of green space creatures seeking salvation isn’t very likely. But the Pope’s lesson opens the door to the acceptance of another science-fiction stalwart, too—one that’s not so easily dismissed. Namely, hyper-intelligent machines.

While most theologians aren’t paying it much attention, some technologists are convinced that artificial intelligence is on an inevitable path toward autonomy. How far away this may be

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readWellness
The Perfect Storm Behind This Year's Nasty Flu Season
A strong virus, a less-than-effective vaccine, and an IV bag shortage that goes back to Hurricane Maria.
The Atlantic6 min readSociety
Instead of Work Requirements, Why Not a Jobs Guarantee?
Paying people to work would be a more direct—and less expensive—way to lift them out of poverty.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
Pandemonium And Rage In Hawaii
A false alert of an impending missile attack highlights just how unprepared the country is for nuclear disaster.