‘AI could create religion in the future’. So warns Israeli scholar Yuval Noah Harari. Through manipulation of language and story-telling, he says, AI (artificial intelligence) could cocoon humanity in a Matrix-like world of illusions (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ai-will-could-religions-to-to-control-humans-warns-sapiens-author-harari-fhbzgbv7b). He is no doubt right, except for one vital point, which appears to have escaped this bestselling historian and philosopher – Christian faith is based not on story-telling and belief in myth, but on a living and vibrant relationship between the believer and God.
And this is something that AI, no matter how clever it becomes, will never be able to replicate.
Yes, illusion can be both powerful and confusing, and the possibility that AI might in the future be able to exercise some form of malign mind control over those susceptible to suggestion must be acknowledged. ‘Religions’, after all, come in many shapes and sizes, and some are already based on delusion. But Christianity is different in kind. In Christ, and Christ alone, we are redeemed from bondage to sin and death and restored to that relationship with God for which we were first created. We are saved.
The idea that super smart robotic computers will be able to ‘create religion’, however, refutes that, lumping all belief systems into one. It is an idea predicated on the notion that God Himself does not exist. That God is Himself, in fact, no more than one type of illusion among many. It is a version of Marx’s contemptuous dismissal of religion as the opium of the masses, and it is wrong.
The Bible says, ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”.’ That was God’s promise in Isaiah 30:21, and it remains His promise today to all who accept the Lordship of Christ. If we live in obedience, we shall be guided by the Spirit of God – and against that, actually, AI doesn’t stand a chance. But the problems start when men and women reject God’s lordship and try and go it alone, because then they place themselves outside His protection. And then they really are vulnerable to suggestion and delusion. To put it another way, when we reject worship of the One true God in favour of self, we fall – and, sadly, that is precisely what the majority of humanity appear to be doing today.
There are without doubt dangers, should we allow the unrestrained development of artificial intelligence. Without proper regulation, for instance, AI could all too easily take over a country’s defence and weapons systems, and in such a scenario nuclear escalation could become frighteningly real. But the orchestrated enforcement of illusion in order to control less intelligent humanity, as warned by Yuval Noah Harari, would be a direct challenge to God, and that is something the Lord will not allow. Even though dealing with such presumption might possibly, in the process, destroy us too, God will assuredly move. We do well to remember the flood.
This weekend, the nation has been celebrating the coronation of our new monarch, Charles III. From long before his accession, our new king has been vocal in his commitment to diversity, as a young man affirming his desire to be ‘Defender of faiths’, rather than just Defender of the Faith. He has insisted therefore that non-Christian faith leaders not just be present, but play an active role in his coronation, and in this he has been willingly supported by in the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has committed the Church of England to fostering an environment where ‘people of all faiths and beliefs may live together freely’ (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/religionglobalsociety/2023/05/with-interfaith-elements-in-the-coronation-king-charles-iii-will-promise-to-defend-the-church-of-england-as-the-state-religion/ ). Thus, for the first time in our history, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahá’í, and Zoroastrian representatives have all played a part in proclaiming and crowning our King.
Yet despite this, the Archbishop still insists the service was Christian, and in the tradition of the Church of England.
It is true that we are a culturally diverse nation, and it is surely good to promote unity – but not at the expense of our heritage and beliefs. How can the supposed head of the Anglican Communion, charged with defending the faith, so casually jettison the core beliefs of Christianity? Beliefs that hold there is only One God, and we must worship no other – and that salvation is through Christ alone.
Such politically motivated compromise, by both King and Church, can only be a betrayal of Christ.
Charles clearly sees himself as ruler of the United Kingdom, valiantly spearheading change. But he ignores at peril the tenets of our belief. He is monarch by God’s grace, and he is called to serve, ensuring the wellbeing and protection of the peoples entrusted to his care, certainly – but not by setting up what is in effect a new faith.
‘AI could create a new religion in the future’? Forget that, Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury are already there.