In the immediate future humans and androids coexist amicably, the androids have human level intelligence. In order to accommodate for one of the fastest growing religions in the world we introduce robotic archbishops fluent in all versions of the Bible, everything looks all right except for one obstacle: artificial Christians.

Method must be legitimate and I shall have faith in your intention.

Disclaimer: I am no Christian nor atheist, however neither do I encourage any misdeed against any religion.

  • $\begingroup$ If the robots have human levels of intelligence, do they believe in a god too? $\endgroup$ – Harry David Oct 12 '16 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Harry David: We are their god! Maybe our god is their god too? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ "The Mystery of Faith..." (Religious Reference). $\endgroup$ – Harry David Oct 12 '16 at 5:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are arguments that christians make about this stuff, but for at least Catholicism the word of the Pope should be enough. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 12 '16 at 5:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the question requires clarification. What do you want me to answer? Religious followers don't believe in bishops, but gods. Are you talking about what religion your androids might have? Or the problems human followers might have in android bishops? Is it about faith and robots? Is it about how society percieves robots that do believe? Please clarify the question. $\endgroup$ – Andreas Heese Oct 12 '16 at 11:20

The Eighth Day Debate, a much bigger can of worms

For in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.

Then, on the eighth day, man made new life in his own image...

Mankind has just assumed the role of God, creating life without the help of God. You are going to have a theological debate like no other.

  • These robots, do they have a soul?

  • Are they "born" with or without Original Sin?

  • Do they need Jesus's sacrifice on the cross to be redeemed?

  • Does it even matter since these robots cannot really die, because of their corporeal body is destroyed, we just pull a new one from the assembly line and load it with the latest backup?

  • Is it even right for man to create life or is that the sole prerogative of God?

  • If God is the only one allowed to create and destroy life, are these robots then an abomination or simply not alive?

  • If they are not alive, what are they then, since they are not really dead either?

So, long before you get to the point of asking whether these robots may stand In persona Christi or not, you will have one hell of a debate whether they will even be considered persons by the church! And this is not mentioning the myriad of legal and human rights issues that stem from the advent of artificial humans.

If only you could hear yourselves... 'Human rights.' Why the very name is racist.
— Azetbur, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

So before you get to this question, you must untangle all the other ones before: in the eyes of the state and the world, do robots have "human" rights? Are they considered persons? Are they considered citizens? And then in the eyes of the church, the same questions. And finally, the church must answer: may a robot stand In persona Christi or not?

Then... when you have untangled all that, then we can start talking about a marketing campaign on how to make people accept robot bishops. But before that, we really cannot answer your question because humans' attitude towards robots depend very heavily on these things.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well said. There's a lot of issues which must be overcome before the OP's questions can even be addressed. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Oct 12 '16 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I see your points how can my robot prove "he" has a soul but we can use a donated DNA to encode the bible, with human level intelligent and built in intuition v2.0 I'm sure your feeling would betray you once you attend 1 session. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 13:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user6760 Like I said: this is not for me to figure out. :) Sorry to be an arse but you are the one building a world here. And in doing so, you need to explore this whole issue of artificial life and all the ethical and theological implications it entails. You will not have a credible world until you have given some backstory as how it came to be that robots are a part of everyday life, and how people - and the church in particular - regard them. Side-note: I for one am looking forward to when this happens in real life because I think it will be very interesting and turbulent times. :D $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 12 '16 at 14:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Back story? Been there done that countless of time and eventually my question got silenced every time, sorry to sneak in an opportunity to rant... I admit I enjoy seeing reactions of people from all walks of life even the bot I should be ashamed of myself! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 14:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No problem! And you're right about "interesting and turbulent times". The geek in me really wants AI's, but at the same time it's so, so scary that we could potentially unleash an entity into our cyberspace which might go "Cylon" on its human overlords ... All in all, I almost want it to be some other generation's problem. Not to mention that we are not mature enough to navigate the issues you mentioned. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Oct 12 '16 at 14:14

In a realistic world, you're going to end up with lots of differing opinions.

  1. Some people will welcome the androids with open arms, and things will continue as normal.
  2. Some people will argue that androids aren't real people, and discriminate against them.
  3. Some people will argue that androids might be people, but they shouldn't be allowed into certain positions, such as the clergy or public office.

What will actually happen is that people from groups 2 and 3 will likely dominate at first, and androids will be second-class citizens for a while. Depending on your story and the people involved, they will likely end up either totally enslaved or as equals to humanity after decades or centuries. A quick Google search on racial inequality should give you plenty of material on what kind of struggles these androids will face.

In this case, you're obviously going for equality. So your story is probably set after androids are legally entitled to the same civil liberties as humans. However, you're likely to still have a number of type 2 and 3 people who resist. Regardless of civil rights, the government won't likely force people to worship alongside androids, so there's a decent chance the major religions will fragment into a number of sub-religions, with differing views towards androids.

My guess is the type 3 people will eventually just get over the whole thing and the vast majority of people from the religion will allow androids as clergy. But you'll still have smaller offshoots with varying limitations on androids, as well as a dwindling, but ever present, number of type 2 groups.

It's also possible the religion just outright refuses to have anything to do with androids, in which case there isn't a good solution here. But "Christians" aren't just one group of exactly-the-same mind. So really you have to apply all of the above to each denomination of Christian, and you'll end up with groups who fall all over the place with regard to androids.

The largest group of Christians are Catholic (1.2 billion people), so if you're trying to tell the story within a single "religion", I'd start there. They all report to the Pope in Rome, so as long as Rome says androids are cool, most Catholics will accept them. However, it may take time before all Catholic churches accept androids in practice, and you may well end up with splinter factions.

There are 800 million protestants, but they're broken up into a lot of smaller sects with sometimes radically different views. For example, there are about 90 million Baptists, and 90 million Lutherans, each of which has further subdivisions, and each of which has pretty substantial differences from the other group. These groups are better choices if you're looking for a variety of stances on androids, but not so great for your purposes.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Androids would also have to be somehow limited in computing capacities. Otherwise they will simply outcompete humans after couple upgrades. $\endgroup$ – Daerdemandt Oct 12 '16 at 11:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think Catholics follow the pope as devoutly as you think (no matter what the official rules are). The Pope has said that human evolution and accepting homosexuals is cool but there's still tens of millions of Catholics that haven't gone along with it. $\endgroup$ – LCIII Oct 12 '16 at 12:55

It Wouldn't Happen

Archbishops don't just happen. The rise up through a series of elected ranks and only do so based on their behaviour and how well they're respected along the way.

Simply imposing a new bishop on people just wouldn't work out, human or android any more than dragging a tramp off the street and making him Pope.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Point taken about how you can't suddenly impose ready-made Archbishops, but if robots can be baptized as Christians (specifically Catholics in this scenario), presumably they can rise to be Archbishops eventually. There might be a problem regarding their gender or lack of it. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Oct 12 '16 at 8:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance - Taking this question back to the logical root, we're asking whether androids can believe in God and whether humans can believe that androids can believe in God. It's an unanswerable question. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Oct 12 '16 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ I understand there are strict rules to appoint a new archbishop and can you state in your answer that my robot has been disqualified due to a particular clause listed in the contract or the like thanks. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 13:44

Who says the bishops are artificial Christians? As in your story God would have seen fit to grant to androids intelligence, free will, and the ability to understand the gospel then they would clearly fall under the divine mandate to proclaim the gospel to every creature and baptize those that believe. Potentially a debate regarding the necessity of baptism relative to determining if they have fallen from grace.

Stories that have dealt with this or very similar to this include:

John C. Wright's The Eschaton Sequence (Catholic bent)

"Avek who is distributed" by Steven Peck (Mormon, included because it deals precisely (and solely) with the question.)

"That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" by Erik James Stone (Nebula Award for Best Novelette) Among many others.

*I was looking up the Catholic debates on the subject of extra-terrestials needing baptism from the middle-ages, but Pope Francis has spoken of aliens and baptism in 2014.

  • $\begingroup$ I knew this answer will come out so I edited my question. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ If I am not answering your question you haven't clarified enough still. $\endgroup$ – John_H Oct 12 '16 at 5:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well since the Pope has agreed... $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '16 at 6:11

TL;DR - Make an official office called Proxy to the Archbishop, and over time this "proxy" will gain as much power and status as the Archbishop himself.

What to do: Just say that the robots are a proxy or representative for a real human Archbishop somewhere and anything that the android Archbishop would say or do needs to be treated as if the real Archbishop were saying it or doing it.

How to get people to accept it: Make sure the human Archbishop being represented is someone that everyone loves and admires. Like a mother Teresa type character. Convince people that this man could do so much more good if only he had representation elsewhere. Make a vid of an android feeding starving kids or leading a mass in the name of Archbishop So-and-so. Then once you have the popular opinion on your side get someone high up in the church to make an official office of Non-human Proxy to the Archbishop. At first the androids will be entirely associated with this human Archbishop so they'll have no real power or office on their own, just the power of representation.

The long game: However, over time, and this is the funny part, people will conflate the proxy with the human they're representing and the androids will become de facto Archbishops with all the power therein. Even after the human Archbishop has died the androids can say things like "Well the Archbishop would have wanted this or that to be done, so do it." And most people will.

Why it would work: It's already being done (kinda)! Maybe not through androids, but through simulcasts. Sometimes there's a big-name preacher that wants to plant another church but he can't be in two places at once. So instead of placing a different autonomous preacher at each church location he instead will do a live broadcast of himself to each one. So people are drawn to these local church plants because of Mr. Big-Name's charisma and likeability, and then if they have a question or issue they bring it to the installed deacons or associate pastors who act as proxies for Mr. Big-Name.


I think it is unlikely that the church would accept AI in this way in an immediate future. I think it'd likely be many years after AI achieve basically all human rights in society.

That being said if the story needs this acceptance to happen faster it's possible that in a world where much of science pushes away from religion that if AI for some reason was very religious in general and were quickly growing very devote population The church may use them as evidence that technology does not mean leaving religion behind.

If you want to go in a more bizarre direction you could look up the requirements for a sainthood and have the AI following a path that if it were human would lead to it being Canonized. This would of course be deeply entangled with whether or not AI die.

Ultimately I think that the bible does not currently allow for AI in religious practice. So either some large event that forces change must happen or a lot of time needs to pass...

  • $\begingroup$ "Ultimately I think that the bible does not currently allow for AI in religious practice" The Bible is surprisingly silent on this matter.... $\endgroup$ – LCIII Oct 12 '16 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @LCIII Well odiously the concept of robots has been invented by the time of the bible $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Oct 12 '16 at 20:35

You'll Have to Pick Your Flavor of Christianity

Christianity is a broad term defining many specific codes and dogmas tied together only by a belief in Jesus Christ being the son of God. Many Chrsitian groups do not even have the concept of an Archbishop for this question to apply to them.

Sadly for you, I believe that Catholics - the largest group - are out. In addition to the basic issue where robots could not partake in communion (a daily requirement), the Church still does not allow women to be priests (let alone Bisops/Archbishops) so it seems exceedingly unlikely that they would allow robots.

I'd probably rule out the Anglicans as well.

Other groups however may be a bit more open to the idea... the trick is going to be in finding a VERY liberal group that also has Archbishops.

Not a full answer, but hopefully I've helped narrow things down a bit for you.


One way would be to have the Catholicism being practiced not the Catholicism of today, but a variation that has changed over time and divorced from most of the current practices. The version could have even been purposefully constructed, much like a video game might make a fake religion loosely based on terms and ideas from a real one. 'Archbishop,' then, would be a mere title that conjured up loose ideas of Catholicism in the people's minds. An android 'Archbishop' could be treated like a librarian with a repository of religious documents and arguments by theologians of the past and present.

Another way, perhaps, would be to have Catholicism generally intact, but it is not well known that the Archbishop was an android. If 'lifelike' androids can in some cases, whether legally or experimentally, live out their lives as if real people, then it would be possible for one to rise in the ranks. Perhaps rich billionaires could afford to 'adopt' these androids, with society never knowing whether the adoption was of a human or android. If it were considered taboo/racist to ask or check, then it might be possible to get an android Archibishop to rise through the ranks.


I think one main problem might be whether they are able to eat and drink and by that take the *host/housel/altar bread and whine aka the blood and flesh of Christ.

John 6:53 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

I can't see a Catholic Archbishop who can't share into this most holy rite. And just faking it could be seen as gravest heresy.

*I'm no native speaker and had to rely on an online translator for this. Feel free to edit to the most appropriate term.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, he could "eat" the bread and "drink" the wine and store them inside as a proof of being close to god. He even can display them, proudly. $\endgroup$ – Daerdemandt Oct 12 '16 at 11:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt That's what I meant with faking it. Some might accept that while others might see it as heresy. $\endgroup$ – Umbranus Oct 12 '16 at 11:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.