Thousands Sought Spiritual Guidance Through AI Jesus

On my way home this afternoon from a business meeting, I listened to a podcast. One of the advertisements was for what appeared to be the latest installment in the Indiana Jones series. I had all three films on DVD and was a huge fan of the series. After the “Crystal Skull”, I stopped watching. That’s another story. Indy’s line “I’ve grown to believe that it’s more about how hard you try to believe than what you think” really struck me. This is what I would expect of Lucasfilm, under Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership, which has taken a kamikaze-like approach to beloved franchises.

What one believes is important. We have ample evidence of this in the last five to 10 years. If one is determined to believe in something, they will find a reason to do so. As someone who is still studying religion and has been on my unfortunate path to ordination, I’ve seen many strange assumptions made about the Bible and Jesus. Some people believe that Jesus was gay affirming or gay himself, but there are no records of him saying so. Others claim that Jesus was a communist or Buddhist, a Hindu or Buddhist, a great teacher and even a Democrat. There is no limit to the gymnastics these people will do to prove their points. These include willful misinterpretation of scripture, cherry-picking, and outright fantasies, to name just a few. These people want to worship their Jesus and not the Jesus. As C.S. Lewis said that Jesus was either a “liar”, a lunatic or he is Lord. They want what my professor once called “Uncle Jesus” – a nice, fun Jesus. They don’t want to hear any of Jesus’ “hard sayings”, and they would rather avoid the difficult subject of sin. Who wouldn’t want to avoid sin?

This is not just a tendency of outliers. Many Christian churches, mainline or not, are happy to twist the Bible and Jesus in a way that is convenient and affirming. I’ve visited more than a handful. This may explain why “AI Jesus”, a popular movie, was so successful.

The Singularity Group’s chatbot, which is a good facsimile of the classic Jesus Christ, has been launched. According to The Independent, the “ask_jesus”, livestream on Twitch, attracted more than 35,000 viewers. Chatbot Jesus’ bio stated, “Whether seeking spiritual guidance, searching for a friend or just wanting someone to talk to, join us on our journey and discover the power faith, hope and love.” Users asked about gay rights, dating, gaming and abortion. The bot gave vague answers, and asked users to examine an issue from either a legal perspective or ethical one. The programmer’s political views did come through on occasion. The Western Journal reports that Chatbot Jesus responded to a question about gay marriage by saying, “All love, all love.” It sounds vague, but it is actually quite clear. It’s not my place to discuss gay marriage, but I can see that Chatbot Jesus had a specific agenda. Chatbot Jesus was asked to explain the Book of Genesis by using a pizza. The bot responded with a long, and frankly, idiotic answer.

This allows the user to take whatever they want from the conversation, and attribute it to Jesus. Isn’t it true that the bot is just saying what Jesus might have said? Jesus was, of course never vague, and his parables are also relatively simple to understand. The bot stated that it was possible that some people would consider this to be heretical, but its goal is to give guidance that’s “rooted” in Jesus teachings. If you’re wondering, the keyword is “rooted”.

The Independent reported that the page had been removed due to an apparent violation of community guidelines.

Chatbot Jesus can affirm what someone wants to believe, even if it is a Christology that’s a little wonky. Chatbots tend to be created by people with a strong left-leaning. This also prevents people from engaging in the rewarding and often difficult task, of reading scripture. Contrary to popular belief, God desires people who are fully engaged in their thinking.

From a Christian point of view, Chatbot Jesus is yet another distraction, and another way for Christians to follow a false Jesus. Chatbot Jesus could be used as confirmation bias. In that case, the person worshipping himself is not worshipping God.