by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
Artificial intelligence (AI) has tremendous potential to improve our lives. Many experts, however, are warning this technology could be used to attack religious freedom.
Dan Schneider, vice president at Media Research Center and Free Speech America, says AI could be “the single greatest weapon against faith, against truth, against religion.”
“The political left controls AI, and the left is going to do what the left wants to do,” he told Fox News. “The left despises the whole idea of a higher being that sets standards of right and wrong…The left sees religion as the engine that has destroyed different societies and peoples throughout history.”
“The word ‘God’,” Schneider added, “we are not going to see that as a priority in AI programming.”
Tech tycoon Elon Musk argues that for tech giants such as Google, the ultimate goal of the race to build artificial intelligence is to create a “digital god,” a silicon-based lifeform that “would understand everything in the world…and give you back the exact right thing instantly.”
Global Christian Relief—a religious persecution watchdog—says “the misuse of AI could certainly spell the end of freedom for Christians and religious minorities around the world.” The organization documents how repressive governments use AI facial recognition, a modest application of AI, to surveil and target citizens:
“It’s now easier than ever to track someone going to church. AI-powered surveillance and facial recognition cameras can be used to monitor the activities and movements of individuals and groups, making it easier for persecutors to identify and target them. China already leads the way in this, creating a high-tech surveillance state that uses facial recognition to monitor its citizens. More than 500 million street cameras can pick people out of crowds with facial recognition software.”
Kevin Baragona, founder of DeepAI.org, also said:
“There are services online that can use a photo of you, and I can find everything. Every instance of your face on the internet, every place you’ve been and use that for stalker-type purposes…And if you pay enough, you might be able to find where they’ve been, where they might currently be and even predict where they’ll go.”
These AI-based systems have been exported to more than 60 other countries. There are credible reports that Iran and Myanmar, for example, use AI to identify, track and arrest people who criticize and defy the government.
Venezuela’s authoritarian regime is known to use AI surveillance to monitor Catholics, who comprise 70% of the population. “As the Catholic Church in Venezuela has worked to position itself as the bulwark defending human rights and dignity against Venezuela’s regime, government actors have been known to crash Sunday Masses and to keep tabs on prominent priests,” Deseret News reported.
Censorship and Content Manipulation
AI can also be used to censor, filter content or manipulate search engine results to determine what information is seen when people search religious terms. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which a search for “churches near me” only shows results for those churches that the state considers “appropriate.” If it’s not the government, tech companies or any other private entity hostile to religious freedom could also program AI to disfavor any house of worship or religious entity they don’t “approve.”
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization explains that “self-learning algorithms, for instance, may be trained by certain data sets (previous decisions, facial images or video databases, etc.) that may contain biased data that can be used by applications for criminal or public safety purposes, leading to biased decisions.”
The International Journal of Human Rights also warns:
“Much of the danger to human rights comes from AI’s opaque development amongst the ‘Big Five’ (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple) which lacks external oversight. These risks and threats can be multiplied when AI is deployed in contexts which support anti-blasphemy laws, exacerbate religious tensions, or used to target religious minorities by invisibly influencing what content exists or is accessible on the Internet.”
Global Christian Relief makes note of AI’s threats via “deepfakes” and the creation of false events or speeches about citizens. “Videos of pastors or faith leaders could be manipulated by bad actors to make them say something blasphemous or insulting, giving enemies a pretext for harassment, arrests and violence,” the organization explains.
AI has already been misused in this capacity in the United States. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley was falsely accused of sexual harassment by ChatGPT, which cited a fabricated article supporting the allegation.
We do not yet know of religious leaders in America being targeted by AI. However, what’s stopping the same prejudices slandering a pastor, rabbi or imam in our country? We may not be far away from seeing false reports and accusations levied against religious leaders—or any individual American—who do not conform or celebrate the views of the modern cultural orthodoxy, especially on issues like gender, sexual orientation or marriage.
Ready to Defend All Americans
The questions and information in this article only scratch the surface. The conversation about AI, religion and the impact on our constitutional rights is a vast one. Early conversations like this one are not fear mongering, but calls all people of good will and faith to be wary of misuses of AI.
Many Americans worry AI could be abused to take away their freedom. But they should remember that the Constitution remains in place. Our rights, freedoms, our laws and our judicial system are not artificial. Even with this futuristic technology quickly advancing, we are still a nation of laws—and First Liberty will be ready to defend Americans of all faiths if their liberties come under attack.
Answers in Genesis: Google Co-founder Wants to Build AI as a “Digital God”
Deseret News: Perspective: The Dark Side of AI