ChatGPT is finding itself everywhere, now in churches and synagogues

ChatGPT is finding itself everywhere, now in churches and synagogues

Would you attend religious services created by a chat bot?

by Robert Puente

Think of ChatGPT as a far more sophisticated version of Google. It’s an AI language model designed to generate human-like responses to various questions, from recipes to historical context to computer code and much more in mere seconds.

It’s surpassed the million-user marker in about a week of its introduction.  For context, it took companies like Facebook several months to achieve the same success.

While the AI model is entertaining and educational, several terrifying ethical dilemmas exist in its usage and popularity.

girl playing chess with robot

ChatGPT is infiltrating our lives everywhere

From musicians to cooks to mechanics or computer scientists to doctors and lawyers or police officers and teachers, the chatbot is finding itself in almost every realm of our society. Its uses are plenty, however, do the benefits outweigh the risks?

It seems innocent enough to ask the chatbot how to bake a cake, how many jars of peanut butter it would take to fill the Grand Canyon, or what Pangea is. Even having the bot handle basic customer service questions on your website, proofreading your essay, or tasking it with correcting code for you all seem like beneficial use cases for the AI bot. At what point, however, does the utilization of ChatGPT cross the line? At what point does ChatGPT replace all our professions? At what point does Arnold Schwarzenegger step in to save us all?

As we inch closer to 2029 (the year the Terminator was sent from), the fear of a hostile takeover from AI bots seems more and more possible. To escape the notions of a dystopian future, many of us may turn to churches or other holy places to find peace. Surprisingly, ChatGPT has even infiltrated homes of worship.


Can ChatGPT be used to aid spiritual worship?

A New York Rabbi recently went viral for delivering a sermon written by ChatGPT to his congregation, causing many to question the humanity in such an act. One can argue the appeal here is the Rabbi, Pastor, Priest, or whoever can save precious time by having AI write their sermons, time that can then be reallocated to the congregation.

On the other hand, sermons are meant to be emphatic, loving, and profound – things that ChatGPT is apparently no good at. Even so, the congregants applauded the Rabbi’s sermon as they would have with any other. “Now, [they’re] clapping — I’m deathly afraid. I thought truck drivers would go long before the Rabbi in terms of losing our positions to artificial intelligence,” says Rabbi Franklin.

Other faith leaders, rightfully so, adamantly disagree and believe the AI bot could never replace those who preach. “AI will never be able to preach a decent sermon. Why? Because the gospel is more than words. It’s the evidence of a changed life,” says Mike Glen, a Brentwood, Tennessee pastor of 32 years.

Hershael York, a Kentucky pastor, also believes AI could never deliver true passion in its sermon generation. “I don’t think it can ever give any kind of a sense of suffering, grief, sorrow, the same way that a human being can,” he said. “It comes from deep within the heart and the soul — that’s what the great preachers have, and I don’t think you can get that by proxy.”

Can AI be trusted?

Similar to Rabbi Franklin, Pastor Rachael Keefe of Minneapolis also found use in the bot; however, quickly found its presence creepy and eerie. She published a brief essay written by ChatGPT to her online Pastoral Notes “addressing how to attend to one’s mental health amid the stresses of the holiday season.” Pastor Keefe admitted that while the essay was factual, “there was something deeper missing. AI cannot understand community and inclusivity and how important these things are in creating church.”

preacher in church2

How ChatGPT is being used in a house of worship 

As additional an additional faith resource – members can ask the bot questions or concerns regarding faith and receive a thoughtful and educational response.

To generate study material – the bot can help create customized study materials based on your faith. By asking it things like “provide Bible study discussion questions on Corinthians 2,” the bot can generate content that can accompany spiritual lectures. 

Create social media content – ChatGPT can generate inspiring faith-based quotes that can then be shared with socials, you can ask it to create popular hashtags that you can utilize, or you can even ask it for content ideas based on your religion.

Organize events – the bot can help create personalized invitations, descriptions, or announcements for events such as mission trips or retreats.

Create Sermons – Pastors, rabbis, priests, or other spiritual leaders can utilize the AI bot to provide sermon ideas or even write an entire sermon based on the inputted scriptures or themes.

Many, if not all, of these instances that ChatGPT can be used within a church can apply to many other professions, such as teachers, writers, social media influencers, actors, and so on. There’s no denying ChatGPT and all its glory; some might even argue that those who do not use the AI bot may fall behind, similar to those who refuse to use the internet and insist on only going to the library and using the yellow pages.

Consequently, however, the line between man and machine will continue to blur until it completely disappears. Although ChatGPT’s capabilities are undeniable, so are its ethical intrusions on our society.

Is your pastor real or a robot?

Utilizing ChatGPT, especially in a spiritual setting, can be dehumanizing as it replaces the human experience and connection integral to religious practices with a machine-generated output. It lacks the human input and understanding necessary for crafting sermons grounded in theological and moral guidance, as well as cultural and community values.

By solely relying on ChatGPT to write a sermon or any other character-developing task, the individual robs themselves of personal growth. Particularly in a spiritual environment, the over-dependence and reliance on ChatGPT by both the congregate and spiritual leaders can result in the negligence of one’s spiritual growth and relationship with God.

Whether in church or any other setting, how can we ensure that people understand the limitations and capabilities of ChatGPT and grant informed consent to either sit in and listen to a Pastor preach, a musician sing, read a book, or play a game, all written or created by AI.

Can we be sure that the conversations being had with the AI chatbot, especially when used as a spiritual resource, remain private and that whatever information is shared remains protected?

hand with iphone cord in it

Final Thoughts

So far, ChatGPT is incapable of showing compassion, sympathy, grief suffering, or any other raw human emotion, so for now, you will likely be able to spot ChatGPT-generated content. Although this new technology can help optimize a faith leader’s day, and should be used as a resource, to an extent, its existence is beyond frightening.

What are your thoughts on pastors, preachers, priests, or rabbis using ChatGPT to write their sermons?

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