Well, Derwin Mak, I thought of you when I saw this piece from Huffington Post on posthumanism in the church—the building of robots to spread the word of God. Somebody thinks robots will be the future of religion, especially of pastors/ priests.
So, Derwin Mak’s “Mecha-Jesus” (part of Wrestling With Gods) is a story about a robot built to be Jesus in a Shinto shrine. It’s comedy, mostly, but the profound questions sneak up on you. If we get the details on Jesus wrong—can he still be divine? What would it take to convince you that this Jesus is real?
I got a Philip K. Dick feeling when I thought about that–about the replicants and about how much they just wanted to integrate into society without being noticed. It’s their story. In Mak’s story, it’s easily both the Story of Jesus and of two skeptics come to the shrine to see Jesus. They both bring, in a sense, their own expectations. It’s got a Bradbury-ness to it too.
So, what would Robots do with religion? Here’s an excerpt from the HuffPost Religion article:
If your first thought when you hear “robot preacher” is the Preacherbot character from the popular TV show Futurama, we don’t blame you. But for Florida pastor Christopher Benek, robot preachers are an undeniable reality… or at least they will be in the near future.
If, as Christian theology explains, humans are created in God’s likeness, then, Benek told The Huffington Post, “it would make sense that we [too] would be able to create something that has autonomy.”
Benek holds a Doctor of Ministry in theology and science from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and espouses a Christian form of transhumanism — the notion that humanity can be enhanced through the development of new technologies. He appeared in a March 15 episode of “The Daily Show” to discuss his ideas about the future of artificial intelligence and faith.
“If you have the ability to process all of the information on Earth instantaneously, you could write a pretty good sermon,” he told “The Daily Show”‘s Jordan Klepper. “The hope would be beings who essentially lead us to a new path of holiness.”
Robot preachers would naturally work toward peace and justice, Benek told HuffPost, because their intelligence would surpass that of humans; they would be able to make autonomous decisions based on all of the information available to them. They also wouldn’t have the emotional and mental limitations even the most well-intentioned humans have. “We’re limited from a standpoint of intelligence,” the pastor said. “We’re not exponentially growing in the way this being would be.”
Imagine a pastor who could “use the inflection and verbal prowess of a Billy Graham or a Martin Luther King and the compassion of Mother Teresa,” he theorized, and do all this on the fly. “That would allow people’s needs to be met because a lot of times we pastors can’t do that,” Benek said.
But it isn’t just a theoretical exercise for the pastor — it’s a reality that churches need to be realistic about. Technology is increasing exponentially, and religious leaders should embrace this growth. “If they fail to do so they isolate themselves and their congregants from what’s going on in society,” he argued. “And Christ calls us to be involved in society.”
The Daily Show interviewed this man–part of an interview with two pastors–both trying to reboot Christianity for the 21st Century. One makes it hip and inked and rock based; the other goes for robots.
Best Line from the video from the Daily Show, “We’re talking robots who are exponentially more intelligent than you or I and they would choose to become Christians.” The reporter–a comedian who has been handed a gift in this interview, tries to still keep his composure, “You mean, robots given higher thought, they will choose Christianity?”
“I think that’s a reasoned argument.”
From here, it’s open season on the poor pastor who deemed Robots are our future. Watch it for yourself at this link.
Would you think a robot would be an improvement on modern religion? Why or why not?