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 Atlantic8 min readTech
My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data
The Cambridge Analytica scandal is drawing attention to malicious data thieves and brokers. But every Facebook app—even the dumb, innocent ones—collected users’ personal data without even trying.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Proves Indefensible
John Dowd is the president’s second personal lawyer to leave the job and it’s the second major change to his legal team this week.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
McMaster Is Out, an Even Bigger North Korea Hawk Is In
Trump is replacing his national-security adviser with John Bolton, a persistent advocate of military intervention.