Insights from the dashboard: AI and religion
In November 2022, ChatGPT was released with worldwide attention. But what is the relationship between AI and religion according to European media?
AI and religion in the European media
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has aroused debate especially since OpenAI launched the new ChatGPT in November 2022. Earlier EARS articles have discussed the relationship between religion, governments, and AI. We have also considered if AI could replicate religious leaders and rituals, or even become a god itself.
Using the EARS dashboard, this article finds out how European media have approached AI and religion in the past three years. The article also shows what other topics are discussed in the European news related to AI and religion.
Setting the scope
The EARS dashboard is a collection of summaries of articles from European media on the topic of religion and society. The dashboard allows users to sort through these articles by selecting, for instance, specific topics and timeframes of interest. In this article, we select the topic AI & Humanity, and set the time frame to cover the past three years, i.e., from May 2020 to May 2023. On the dashboard’s glossary, we can read that AI & Humanity means “the effect of AI development on society and human existence.” All the news summaries on the dashboard include a link to religion automatically.
Our search yielded 45 hits, and as shown in the picture below, AI & Humanity appeared quite evenly throughout the timespan. Every month, between 0% and 2% of summaries on the dashboard cover the topic.
The dashboard’s topic Venn offers us information about what other topics AI & Humanity most often overlap with in the news articles. The topic Venn also shows us how these topics overlap with each other. As evident in the picture below, AI & Humanity appeared most often with the topics of leadership, COVID-19, traditions, tension, and ethics. The bigger the bubble, the more articles it covers.
Pope Francis and the ethics of AI
When diving into the 45 news summaries resulting from our search, it turns out that many of them concern Pope Francis, and his opinions on AI. When limiting the search to Pope, we end up with 9 news articles.
As the titles of these articles indicate, they approach AI as both a threat and a possibility. In the articles, Pope Francis points out that the use of AI may intensify global inequalities but also contribute to the common good, especially in fields such as medicine, engineering, and communications.    The pope himself was recently the target of AI manipulation, as AI-generated images of him wearing a puffy white coat went viral and fooled a number of people with how real they were. Pope Francis emphasised afterwards that when people deploy AI technologies, they must behave responsibly and remember to respect human dignity. 
AI in social media and religious services
Other topics from our search of 45 articles include, for instance, the debate over religion in social media and the use of AI in religious services, especially during COVID-19 when face-to-face meetings were not possible. In 2021, Facebook announced that it would ban religion from ad targeting in order to protect users from being misled by its guise.  AI has also been discussed in relation to religious services and some churches have developed mobile games and applications in order to share information and communicate with their parishioners.
Despite the potential of AI for religions, there remain some deep ethical and theological questions in many AI innovations, such as the robotisation of the priesthood. As the article published by Dutch newspaper Trouw asks, “Does it matter whether a prayer was written by a real person or by an algorithm?” These kinds of questions are certainly topical and will probably become even more relevant in the post-ChatGPT world. What do you think, does it matter whether your prayer becomes written, or even answered, by an algorithm?
Learn more on the EARS dashboard
The EARS dashboard allows you to gain insights into many topics, including those described above. It is a free tool that allows you to make connections like those described above, and to find out about relationships between interesting subjects across Europe. Please visit the dashboard to learn more.
Our team of analysts conducts research on topics relating to religion and society. Find out their relationships on the EARS Dashboard.