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 Atlantic10 min readSociety
Tracing the Internal Queer Revolution
Riots and parades have made LGBTQ people visible. But a new anthology of writings from before, during, and after Stonewall shows the inward changes as more essential.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
Joe Biden Won’t Say If He Backs the Trade Deal He Helped Sell
The Atlantic surveyed the Democratic presidential candidates on whether they support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Only some took a definitive position.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
America’s Free-Rider Problem In The Strait Of Hormuz
“The United States has not been willing to walk away from the Gulf, so other allies may not step up to do anything because they know that if they don’t, the U.S. will.”