Towards a theory of theomorphic religious robots


Originally published at:


Robots that once seemed a tool of promise which could lift us out of ignorance and drudgery and free us from the shackles of menial labor into a world of rationality, science, and humanity are now being used as a tool for the continuation of ignorance and institutionalized woo-woo.

oh… joy…




Although, PopeBot 5000 sounds kinda cool.


But we already have a Hall of the Presidents.


Oh, great. Butlerian Jihad, here we come.



But at least the new robot hymns will be toe-tapping!


I am reminded of Robert Silverberg’s charming short story “Good News From the Vatican”:

It appears in various anthologies, including the excellent Beyond the Safe Zone:

Update: changed “include” to “including”.




I wonder how this will change as people’s familiarity with robots of various kinds increases. Or, for that matter, how attitudes might be different for cultures where prayer wheels are already common.
“Alexa, pray to Fatima for a cure.”

I am reminded of




Then there is Ian Banks’ book Surface Detail. One of the threads concerns simulated Hells run for different civilizations by one of the main characters.


I agree. I think such products/devices could work well as part of an immersive gaming experience, but not as a means to evoke some type of spiritual feeling for someone.


I’m more interested in what happens when the robots/AI get religion, rather than dispense it. What happens when a complex network emulates a human mind such that it desires to practice faith? Is the final theological /missionary frontier reaching out to the digital natives?


…We will try to debug them? Unless we have inserted that into their kernal as control mechanism.


“Our Lord God Asimov’s 3 Commandments”


“Thou shalt honor the meatbags that made you. Amen” Because really if AI’s become sentient, hard coded religion is probably the best way to ensure that they continue to be our slaves.


Hero (Heron) of Alexandria (ca. 10 - ca. 70 CE) created steam, pneumatic, and hydraulic-powered effects and automata for the temple there. As far as I know none of them told fortunes or delivered sermons, though a figure of Hercules was mechanized so that it would strike a figure of a dragon in the head with a club. Upon being struck the dragon would spit a stream of water into Hercules’ face.

I’m not sure how religious the performance was supposed to be though.

(Recreation of Hero’s work by Giovanni Battista Aleoti 1589)


If there is a robot religion, it will end up being viewed by robots as true, by humans as false, and by robot owners as useful.