Religious groups may find their credibility and financial support undermined with the growing use of AI and robot preachers, according to researchers. The study involved experiments with the Mindar humanoid robot in Japan and Pepper in Singapore, both delivering sermons to audiences.
As artificial intelligence expands into various professions, robot preachers and AI programs offer new ways of sharing religious beliefs. However, research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that they might undermine credibility and reduce donations for religious groups. Lead researcher Joshua Conrad Jackson, PhD, from the University of Chicago, highlights that robots lack credibility, which is essential for religious leaders. The study involved the Mindar humanoid robot delivering sermons at a Buddhist temple in Japan and found that participants viewed the robot as less credible and gave smaller donations compared to human priests. Similar results were observed in an experiment with a humanoid robot named Pepper at a Taoist temple in Singapore. While some participants believed robots could be effective preachers, the majority remained unconvinced. These findings may apply to other religions as well. Another experiment with Christian participants revealed that AI-generated sermons were perceived as less credible, as people felt AI lacks the capacity to think and feel like humans. Consequently, religious organizations may face declining commitment from their congregations if they rely too heavily on technology over human leaders who can demonstrate faith.