Hundreds have gathered at a Christian church after the pastor was replaced with an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot for the service.
The Friday sermon at St. Paul’s Church in Fürth, Germany, was delivered by the AI chatbot ChatGPT.
The chatbot replaced the human pastor and was presented as a black man with a beard on a large screen above the altar of the evangelical church in Bavaria.
Claiming to be a steward of God, the AI chatbot told the packed congregation not to fear death, according to the Associated Press.
“Dear friends, it is an honor for me to stand here and preach to you as the first artificial intelligence at this year’s convention of Protestants in Germany,” the AI avatar said.
The service, which was attended by more than 300 people, lasted 40 minutes and featured prayers and music in addition to the sermon.
The chatbot spoke to the congregation about a range of subjects including “climate change,” the war in Ukraine, and the rise of AI.
The event was created using ChatGPT by 29-year-old University of Vienna theologian and philosopher Jonas Simmerlein, the AP reported.
“I conceived this service — but actually I rather accompanied it, because I would say about 98% comes from the machine,” Simmerlein told the AP.
The service was part of Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag, a popular biennial event that occurs in Nuremberg and nearby Fürth and attracts tens of thousands of Christians.
The year’s event ran from Wednesday to Sunday.
“Now is the time” is the theme of this year’s gathering.
Simmerlein noted that “Now is the time” was one of the phrases he gave ChatGPT when he asked the AI bot to write the sermon.
“I told the artificial intelligence ‘We are at the church congress, you are a preacher … what would a church service look like?’” said Simmerlein.
He revealed that that chatbot was also used to create psalms, prayers, and a concluding blessing in the sermon.
Simmerlein said ChatGPT ended up providing “a pretty solid church service.”
The chatbot’s sermon reportedly told the Christian flock that maintaining faith in Jesus Christ means leaving the past behind, paying attention to the present, and not being afraid of death.
Four different AI avatars took turns leading the service and reportedly drew laughter at times for their monotonous, deadpan delivery.
“There was no heart and no soul,” Heiderose Schmidt, 54, told the AP of the service.
“The avatars showed no emotions at all, had no body language, and were talking so fast and monotonously that it was very hard for me to concentrate on what they said.”
“But maybe it is different for the younger generation who grew up with all of this,” she added.
Simmerlein noted that no human interaction was able to take place between the chatbot and the congregation.
“The pastor is in the congregation, she lives with them, she buries the people, she knows them from the beginning,” Simmerlein said.
“Artificial intelligence cannot do that.
“It does not know the congregation.”
The service comes amid mounting calls for AI to play a deeper role in religions.
As Slay News recently reported, a top official with the World Economic Forum (WEF) has called for religious scripture to be “rewritten” by artificial intelligence (AI) to create a globalized “new Bible.”
Yuval Noah Harari, the senior advisor to the WEF and its chairman Klaus Schwab, argues that using AI to replace scriptures will create unified “religions that are actually correct.”
Harari, an influential author and professor, made the call while giving a talk on the “future of humanity.”
According to Harari, the power of AI can be harnessed and used to reshape spirituality into the WEF’s globalist vision of “equity” and inclusivism.