Robot priest blessing
Mission

BlessU-2: a robot priest and the parable of technological emptiness

“Bless me, Robot, for I have sinned.”

“Do you want to receive absolution in a male voice or a female voice?”

The penitent presses a button on a touchscreen torso, and BlessU-2 (as it is named) raises its arms, its hands light up, and the blessing is spoken (or printed, if you prefer) with a bit of eyebrow action. BlessU-2 can honour, laud and magnify in English, German, French, Spanish or Polish…

The robot priest has been installed in Wittenberg to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. “We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau, which is behind the initiative, told the Guardian. “The idea is to provoke debate,” said Krebs. “People from the street are curious, amused and interested. They are really taken with it, and are very positive. But inside the church some people think we want to replace human pastors with machines. Those that are church-oriented are more critical.”

No skubalon, Sherlock.

“We don’t want to robotise our church work, but see if we can bring a theological perspective to a machine,” Krebs explained.

Now this is interesting. Can a machine bless? What actually is a blessing? Are the programmed words spoken by BlessU-2 any less efficacious than a liturgical form of words blurted out mechanically by a cyborg vicar who doesn’t really give a damn? If a priest does not mean the words he (or she) proclaims, are they any more effectual than the fervent words spoken by a robot? Does blessing require a righteous spirit? Does it demand a right spirit? Does it require a spirit at all? Is a wrong spirit more unproductive than no spirit? Can Artificial Intelligence help plug the gap caused by plummeting vocations? Do we need incarnational absolution, or could a kind of church checkout machine make confession easier? If you can cut your time in Purgatory by following the Pope on Twitter, why can’t AI play a role in a ministerial team? It could certainly perform some of those innovatory liturgical functions which trouble the consciences of traditionalists, weighed down by centuries of dogma and truth.

“People from the street are curious, amused and interested. They are really taken with it, and are very positive…”

BlessU-2 has made the BBC and other mainstream media. It is clearly helping to raise awareness of that other revolution which began in Wittenberg 500 years ago. Its diodes and flashing bulbs are helping to spread the word, just like the printing press did for Martin Luther and his 95 Theses.

And yet… and yet…

BlessU-2 is a conceit of postmodernity, a robot priest unhitched from the past and stripped of all values. It may represent a form of technological progress, but it is no substitute for incarnational apprehensions of truth and sacerdotal wisdom. People gather and are curious because anything on the cutting edge of robotics must be superior to the dullsville of God’s creation. And we persist with this delusion despite the fact that, while our lives are blessed with unprecedented wealth and unimaginable knowledge, society is plagued by emptiness, superficiality, banality and destructiveness. The church needs to remain human and be more human, more serious, and more profound, for real people are its wealth: ‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels‘ (2Cor 4:7). Our task is to become holy disciples, captivated by Christ; not air-headed zombies, mesmerised by computers, contraptions and flashing gadgets.

  • vsscoles

    It could also be equipped with a vending machine style dispenser, so that worshippers can press a button and receive Holy Communion. White or brown bread, red or white wine (or non-alcoholic). It will enable dioceses to lay off all those expensive clergy and spend infinitely more on additional office staff and advisers, PAs and “enablers”. More and more bishops everywhere. Rather like they are doing at the moment.

    • Merchantman

      One on every railway station, perhaps.

  • Chefofsinners

    Does this robot love? For “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:8. To be human is more than to be a machine. God speaks in love to our humanity. That is the point which this exhibit is making, and making very well.

    The answer to whether a robot can dispense a blessing is No, for “without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.” Heb7:7

    • magnolia

      But that denies by implication that the blessings given through rogue clergy who end up behind bars have any efficacy. This is dealt with in Article 26 of the 39 Articles:

      “Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good,
      and sometime the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the
      word and sacraments; yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own
      name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by His commission and authority,
      we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God and in the
      receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance
      taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished
      from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered
      unto them, which be effectual because of Christ’s institution and
      promise, although they be ministered by evil men.”

    • Martin

      CoS

      And of course those who call themselves clergy imagine they are better than the common man.

      • Dominic Stockford

        The longer I a clergyman the more I realise how pathetic and hopeless I am. Those who think themselves ‘priests’ have, by definition, to think themselves better than other men though, as they believe that they retain to themselves the power to turn bread into Jesus. They imagine themselves to be able to order God around!!

        • No true priest thinks themselves better than others.

          The Catholic and Orthodox faith teache that what we proclaim in the Eucharist, Christ’s death and resurrection, is also made present in that very action by the power of God’s love and goodness – not by the power of a man. This is the heart of faith in the sacrament, the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Christ.

          As an ordained priest you really should know these things.

        • Martin

          Dominic

          I think it is fair to say that those like you have thought themselves more as servants and less as clergy.

    • He suffers long and is kind… thinks no evil… all part of what it means to love.

      • betteroffoutofit

        He? Not to pack of metal bits, I presume?

  • IanCad

    It’s getting there. Worshipping a machine made in the image of man.

    • Merchantman

      Think relics.

    • betteroffoutofit

      Yikes.
      I’ve balked at the ‘Deification of Man’ — but the deification of Man’s creatures?
      ________________________________________________________________

      Oh, Logos, Logos – Hallowed by Thy Name!!!!! THY Kingdom come!!! THY will be done . . .

  • Albert

    I think you’ve taken this far too seriously Dr C.

    But inside the church some people think we want to replace human pastors with machines.

    I’d be surprised if anyone “inside the church” thinks that. This isn’t serious, it’s just another piece of trashing of religious culture and should be treated as such.

    • Paul Greenwood

      It was an attempt to get publicity…….
      http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelische_Kirche_in_Deutschland#Rat_der_EKD

      Take a look at the “membership” of these Regional Protestant Churches federated into the EKD. Those are taxpaying members not “Attendees”. It is very hard to “exit” the Church to stop paying Church Tax and it is levied on Bank Interest too

      • Albert

        The German church tax is bizarre and it surprises me that it still goes on.

  • magnolia

    Much better – and vastly more polite- than some clergy.

    I can say that in the sure and certain knowledge that I will offend no clergy in saying so, for any not in the mires of self-doubt, who thus evade being offended, will automatically assume it applies to the Rev’d/ Rt. Rev’d/ | Very Rev’d/ Ven. A.N. Other.

    Whoops -did I say “automatically”?

    Spooky!

    • Dominic Stockford

      No, I took it personally. I have bad moments, and sometimes bad days. I know it. That’s the real difference between me and this travesty, I know it.

      • magnolia

        Yes, me too. Less polite to my husband if he keeps on ignoring my instructions and steering the car in the wrong direction than the satnav. Same the other way round! Maybe I should have put a 3rd category of those who know they are sinners in need of grace. I am one of those, and it helps in not getting offended, as I think you weren’t..

        I took the “travesty” as a joke that provokes useful debate -intentionally. It seems to have ! Maybe that is optimistic and something worse lurks underneath, but at the moment I don’t see it. #

        The robot looks rather sad and exhausted!

  • CliveM

    Scientist Daniel Dennet says we are robots (or rather “we’re robots, made of robots, made of robots”) and that consciousness is an illusion. Already people and bodies are discussing giving robots forms of ‘rights’ as they get more sophisticated, particularly if we develop ‘conscious’ robots.

    This ‘robot’ Priest is nothing but a gimmick. It is unable to ‘bless’ anything. But what is to stop a conscious robot?

    This question might get more troubling a couple of decades down the line.

    • magnolia

      Can you create a human machine hybrid? Either by increasingly mechanising a human or by those forms of AI which are more biological?

      • worrywort

        Yes you can. It’s what Scientists are working toward. There is a Demon behind all this. His name is Ahriman.

      • CliveM

        The answer lies in our understanding of consciousness. If it’s simply an illusion and that what humans experience is simply processing power, giving us the illusion of consciousness, then the question doesn’t really matter. Humans would be, in effect, biological robots. Like the ones in Blade Runner.

        If however we have souls (which I believe we do) then no amount of ‘processing’ power will be able to replicate this.

        • magnolia

          Yes, I agree with your last point, but I sense that we have become culturally poor at telling the difference between having a soul and being social, in which case many citizens are sitting targets for much confusion. I am fine with exoskeletons, pacemakers, artificial hips, but when machine and brain are mixed, I start to feel uneasy. This is probably so with most of us, but at what point do we insist on stopping the experiments when some scientists are focused on never-ending experimentation as what they are about?

          • CliveM

            On what basis do you stop it? (Never mind how!)

            In a secular world what’s the argument against it?

            I’m not sure it’s possible to. Even if the UK did, the USA or Japan or Germany or Russia or China etc will keep developing it.

          • Hi

            See my post above . The answer is you can’t , once the genie is out..

          • CliveM

            I agree, bu not only once the genie is out, but also once the genie has been conceived

          • Hi

            Well you do know I enjoy this kind of speculation. Can’t wait till I get to see wonder woman at the cinema (unlike Lebanon who have banned it).

          • Hi

            “I am fine with exoskeletons, pacemakers, artificial hips, but when machine and brain are mixed, I start to feel uneasy. ”

            Let’s take your scenario and speculate about where it will end.

            So as and when scientists develop replacement “body parts ” and humanity gets to a level of what will be in effect physical immortality, do you think that this will stop at replacing , say, a human hand or lungs or livers( several times) , when at the same time people still succumb to dementia type illnesses ?

            There would be clamour for science to do what they’ve done to other body parts to the brain. Once physical illness is conquered , then there’s also no stopping people from trying this with the mental illnesses and the brain. In short public opinion will decide the extent to which we go down this path. But this path implies near immortality. A difficult one for those of us who believe in divine judgment, reward, punishment etc in the afterlife.

            Incidentally I would speculate that if this future scenario took place, it would take place in the rich west, as this would see be expensive even on the NHS . In effect we could see the creation or evolution of a new species , the rich technological cyborg west verses normal humans…

            Note :

            Regarding the comment

            “at what point do we insist on stopping the experiments when some scientists are focused on never-ending experimentation as what they are about?”

            It’s always cool to point to the( very Victorian) unethical “mad scientist” type for these potential futures. But consider that scientists don’t work in a vacuum and are constantly pitching for money , government or private (corporate or charity) . And this money gets allocated by what seems realistic, worthy and or will make money.

            By way of dramatic example if it were possible to create a “Jurassic park”, you will note that in the books the project was funded by a private company for the bottom line of making money through entertainment. The dinosaurs weren’t recreated just for the fun of it or because it suddenly became possible to do.

            Or by way of a more possible example , science have already cloned sheep and can also produce genetically modified foods . Yet the public, the green lobby and ethicists are weary to hostile about these two issues. Potentiality both developments could alleviate so much death, food shortages and therefore sufferings in the world .

            Yet because food production (if not distribution) is bountiful in the west we have the luxury of bring lofty. But what would happen if some man made or natural catastrophe happens and Britain had a sudden food shortage or agricultural crisis ? When people starve and rationing is introduced where will be the lofty and the ethical ?

        • Anton

          Better define consciousness first!

          The mathematician John von Neumann once said that if somebody could specify to him *exactly* what a machine supposedly could not do, then he would be able to design a machine that could do it.

          • CliveM

            It is a key question. It also leads me to ask, even if we are ‘only robots’ with significant processing power, why that means our consciousness is only an illusion.

            I note Dennet is firstly a philosopher. He also labels himself as a ‘Bright’.

            I do wonder if his rejection of ‘consciousness’ is more ideological, then scientific. BUT I do know (or at least have heard’) of other scientists who hold this view.

        • Coniston

          If consciousness is merely an illusion, produced by atoms, electrons and sub-atomic particles, as materialists believe, then ‘rights’ and morality are also illusions, since there can be no objective reality. So everyone can create their own ‘reality’ – which is the situation we seem to be in today.

          • Inspector General

            Almost. Big Gay does not do morality. Considers the concept as poisonous to the cause. ‘Rights’ on the other hand…

    • Ivan M

      Daniel Dennett is the type of philosopher that you would have already met in primary school. He is the kid who considers himself smart by asking the following series of questions: What is higher than the Eiffel Tower? The clouds? Higher than clouds? The sky etc etc. He is just about the most superficial of philosophers imaginable.

    • Hi

      And then there’s the “turing test”.

      • CliveM

        Indeed Hannah.

        • Hi

          I did think twice before mentioning it , as people can only focus on his homosexuality, but I see inspector has already warmed to his traditional themes about gays anyways.

  • David

    So what is a blessing, that’s the underlying question here ?
    I shall venture an explanation, whilst not claiming it to be a definition.
    A blessing is a wish expressed by a sincere Christian, asking that God cares for the recipient of the blessing. That ‘caring’ may be specific, as when a person needs a cure from illness, or it may be generalised and intended to benefit the person as a whole, body, mind and soul.
    I often end e-mails and conversations with other Christians with the simple words, “God bless”. I do not believe that ordained priests are any more efficacious in inviting God to benefit, to care for, another human than any sincere Christian is. But then, like Luther, I do not see priests as spiritually superior to committed Christians; indeed a number I have encountered seem to be, spiritually, mere empty facades more impressed with the beliefs of this age than accepting of revealed truth.
    Machines not having souls, and not being made in the image of God, cannot possibly invoke a blessing from God. I see this stunt as little more than an empty gimmick.

    • Paul Greenwood

      like Luther, I do not see priests as spiritually superior to committed Christians;

      PRECISELY !

      • Coniston

        I stand to be corrected by a high personage in Rome (or Canterbury), but I think that in all churches which have priests the priests are not thought to be ‘spiritually superior’.

        • Lucius

          My Church, the Orthodox Church, has priests. If anything, I think my priest views himself as spiritually inferior and in a constant struggle to better himself before our Lord and Savior. I usually remind him that he is a far greater warrior for Christ then the likes of me.

          • Coniston

            I was going to include the Orthodox, but was uncertain whether the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople would be regarded as the Head of all the Orthodox. I understand that the Russians, at least would not accept this.

          • Lucius

            The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is considered primus inter pares (first among equals), a title that was reserved for Bishopric of Rome (See of Peter) before its departure. The Ecumenical Patriarch has a special place of honor among the brother bishops, but has no universal jurisdiction over the other patriarchates similar to that of the Pope over the Catholic Church.

        • Martin

          If they can do what the ‘laity’ cannot how can they not be superior?

          • Coniston

            I would reply that they are not (necessarily, or at all) ‘spiritually superior’, but they have an office of responsibility in the Church. Just as in the Early Church different people have different abilities and callings – apostles, prophets, teachers, etc (1 Cor. 12). There are different functions in the Church. These have to be ordered, otherwise division and chaos can ensue, which has often happened in the history of the Church, so people go off and form another church or sect. The danger is ‘every man his own pope’. I would invite you to read Lucius’ comment below.

          • Martin

            Coniston

            It is quite clear that many who are clergy consider themselves above the laity. Try challenging them on what they believe and see how they respond.

            Do you not think the majority of heresies have come from those who are leaders in the churches, rather than laity? And why would not the Holy Spirit guide the people in their understanding?

        • Not “spiritually superior”, no. Endowed with the ability to consecrate bread and wine, forgive sins and administer other sacraments. There’s certainly an ontological change as a result of ordination but this does not guarantee spiritual growth.

        • Paul Greenwood

          “not thought to be”……..just who is doing the thinking ?

    • Lucius

      “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

      “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.” (Proverbs 16:2).

  • worrywort

    There’s robots which provide sex so when You’re feeling guilty afterwards, Confess to a Priest robot, lie back and enjoy an e-Cigarette.

  • Paul Greenwood

    You may have visited Wittenberg Your Grace, it is now known as Lutherstadt-Wittenberg and is charmless. It was a Soviet base for 55th Guards Tank Regt and 27th Pontoon Bridge Rgt in Sachsen-Anhalt. It is quite a depressed town and should have made much more of Luther than it did. I think they spent €5 million doing up the Schlosskirche but it really is quite underpowered.

    Anyway the EKD – what passes for a Protestant Church in Germany decided to have its “Kirchentag” in Berlin and a few other towns with a big picnic in Wittenberg as follow-on. The attendance was pretty miserable and even worse in Wittenberg which is a pain to get to.

    The EKD is basically run by Greens and SPD with its Leader being a member of the SPD Party. This year Merkel used it as a backdrop for her election campaign and invited Saint Obama to bless the attendees. Stunts like robot priests are hardly revolutionary in this sterile church. How many people know in England that German priests are paid as Civil Servants on the same pay scale ? How many know that Bishops are paid by The State around €120,000 pa. ? How many in England know the Churches rake in €10 billion a year through Church Tax collected with Income Tax ?

    The German Protestant Church is basically a political party with no real relevance to spiritual life. It makes the Church of England look orthodox and theological in comparison

    • Anton

      You can see why the notion of no free will was rediscovered by a German Augustinian monk 500 years ago. In Germany life is simple: everything is compulsory or forbidden.

      Hitler continued to collect the kirchensteuer tax from German Catholics throughout the war and send the money to the Roman Catholic church. Astute of him! In 2012 the Catholic church in Germany warned that it would deny Communion to those who refused to pay it to the State for onward passage to the Vatican, where there was then a German Pope.

      • The tax is paid to the local German Church, not Rome. It’s one reason why it’s wealth is so great and it is behind the so called “progressive developments” in Germany. Jack agrees it’s a disgrace and should be abolished. You should note, virtually nobody is denied communion in Germany. If they were, they’d withdraw.

        The church tax is imposed on members of religious congregations in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, some parts of Switzerland and several other countries. And, it’s not just the Catholic Church that the tax is collected for. It is also collected for Protestant churches.

        • Anton

          In other words, it’s the way a good deal of the Continent does these things. Another reason to enact Brexit.

          I am willing to believe that the Catholic church in Germany was bluffing when it issued that threat in 2012 (reference?), but lying isn’t godly. It seems that the Catholic hierarchy in Germany doesn’t share your view. They could get it abolished within weeks if they wished.

          • To stop paying the tax entails a public declaration that one is no longer a member of the Catholic Church. Formally renouncing one’s faith is a serious step.

            In 2014, when the tax was extended to capital gains, some 200,000 Germans filed official declarations renouncing their membership of the Protestant church. A similar number are believed to have left the Catholic Church.

            People can legally be denied certain rites, from a religious burial to access to the best state-funded schools. As Jack understands it, Catholics who renounce their church membership are precluded from confession and communion, and from the anointing of the sick, unless they are on the point of death.

          • Anton

            They could renounce and then next day announce to their priest that they were returning and would pay direct henceforth.

          • In other words, they would be lying to the authorities for monetary gain.

          • Anton

            Read what I wrote. They could pay the same directly rather than through the State.

          • Not sure how you arrived at that conclusion. It would be a falsehood to formally declare you’d left the Church when you hadn’t and had not intention to do so. Work to change the law is the honest way forward.

          • Paul Greenwood

            You imply a flexibility in German procedures which exists only in your fantasies

          • Anton

            It suits the State because it can control the churches. It suits the churches because they get a lot of money. But it is of the devil.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Since you cannot have a religious wedding only a blessing with The State having control of marriage it is a question of what you gain/lose. I think some states charge 9% Income Tax Deductions as Additional Church Tax

        • Paul Greenwood

          and Jewish groups too

  • Anton

    Gnothi seauton…

  • Martin

    You might as well have a robot priest since there is but one office of priest in Christ’s Church, and that office is already filled, permanently.

    And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
    (Hebrews 10:11-14 [ESV])

    • Lucius

      What are you insinuating that there is no place for Church priests, clergy, or hierarchy? If there are no priests or clergy, who does the baptizing? (Matthew 28:18-20). Anyone? Who does the teaching? (Matthew 28:18-20). Anyone? Did just anyone write, collate, and bind the Bible? How did the Bible come to us? God-inspired scripture certainly, but written, bound, and handed-off by the Angels, I think not.

      Martin, I know we have engaged in similar discussions before and I respect the fact that your position comes from a place of good faith and with a mind to please God, so don’t mistake my comment as an attack. I just enjoy our friendly theological jousting. As Proverbs teaches, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 🙂

      • Anton

        We are all priests, and priests by virtue of faith regardless of ordination (Rev 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9). Christ is our High Priest.

        • Lucius

          Clearly the Apostles understood that some type of church hierarchy was needed, (Acts 14:23) otherwise, the teachings of Christ would be prone to interpretative chaos. No?

          “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” (Acts 14:23).

          “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” (Titus 1:5).

          • Anton

            Yes, of course there are presbyteroi and episkopoi, as explained in other verses; but all believers are priests according to the verses I quote.

          • Martin

            And presbyteroi and episkopoi are the same office. But those inspired by the Spirit teach.

          • Anton

            I agree; I am simply bounding the scope of my dialogue with Lucius.

      • Martin

        Lucius

        Since baptism is the act of confession the one who is baptised does and the one who cannot but is the one who teaches.

        How did the Bible come to us, men wrote as God gave them.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Anyone proposing that people use this simply cannot be Protestant, no matter what label they might deceitfully steal.

  • Not what I’d call vorsprung durch technik! The Germans have got a vending machine for everything now. This is not good. The soul is missing.

  • Shadrach Fire

    Back in the mid sixties when I was a new Christian, I heard a BBC religious broadcast with a prayer in it. Since it was clearly a recording I wondered at the efficacy of a recorded prayer and had this vision a hundreds of tape recorders all playing prayers to god.
    Obviously this was not going to work as the recorded prayer only had effect in the heart of the listener and their response to that prayer.
    Is this not how it is in many dead Churches where the minister is merely a professional cleric producing little or no response from prayers without the power of the Holly Ghost.
    Blessu-2 could have a reaction amongst believers, realising that out there there is a serious lack of understanding of what the Gospel is about.

    • Linus

      The Holly Ghost? I’ve heard about him. Apparently he’s a real prick…

      • Inspector General

        “…society is plagued by emptiness, superficiality, banality and destructiveness.”

        Reminds a fellow we had escaped all that on Cranmer. Then Linus showed up…

      • Lucius

        Linus, why are you here (on this comment board)? Serious question.

        • Linus

          Why am I here? To highlight the inconsistency, hypocrisy and hatred that characterise believers in Christianity and show the religion for what it is: a licence for manipulators to manipulate and punish those they hate and fear.

          This site offers me the perfect opportunity to show Christians at their worst and most abusive. Every dig and jibe I make is returned tenfold, thus exposing the utter disregard Christians have for the tenets of their own faith. The complete absence of “fruits of the Spirit” from the nasty, mean-spirited, carping and insulting comments threads on this site shows anyone with eyes to see just what Christians really are and what their religion is designed to be: a club to beat their enemies over the head with. A means to exclude rather than include.

          That’s why I’m here. To help others understand just how toxic Christianity is and why they shouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. The twenty-or-so regular contributors to these comments threads who spend their time spitting venom at me and each other do my cause a far greater service than they will ever know.

          • Inspector General

            But Linus. We love you and we hope that one day you will love we too. The beatings we give you are out of love…

            We wish to lead you away from Sodom. And help you recover from your ordeal.

          • Lucius

            But you only offer non-substantive and terse attacks on the faith, sprinkled with an occasional personal insult in response to other commenters’ positions on particular articles (at least from what I have seen). And you’re surprised if someone may make a snide comment in retort? We are Christians, we are not perfect, some may take your bait. Is it your position that you should permitted to tersely attack and insult freely and if a Christian offers an insult back that proves something? I think not.

            I descend from time-to-time on non-Christian or atheistic comment boards, but I offer substantive retorts to their positions. There is vehement disagreement, of course, but I find that the probing questions of an atheist sometimes helps to educate me more in my own faith by forcing me to buckle down and think about particular matters.

          • Inspector General

            Verily brother. The Inspector has never taken the stick to Linus without tears in his eyes for needing to do so…

          • Lucius

            Your wit is the stuff of internet legend sir.

          • Inspector General

            {Hangs head in shame}

          • Lucius

            IG, you sir are the reason why I am here. Never a dull moment when you are active on this fine comment board.

          • Inspector General

            Absolutely topper! Did you know the Inspector and Linus are estranged and have been for some considerable time now. He rarely breaks his silence to miserably call one a bigot, but the Inspector lives for those increasingly rare moments of togetherness, you know.

            Linus! How could you be so cruel to one who cares…{Sob)

          • Linus

            Pompous git.

            “I offer substantive reports to their positions.”

            Translation: “I’m such an intellectual powerhouse that all others pale in comparison. Nobody can compete with the wonderfulness that is me.”

            Further confirmation of the raging egomania that goes hand in hand with religion. You need to validate yourself by denigrating others. That’s the reality of your faith.

            If your Christianity were something other than a hollow mask that you wear to try and conceal your narcissism, selfishness and sense of entitlement, the ridiculousness of your claim that my attack justifies your retaliation might occur to you.

            If you believed in the words of your own god, you would turn the other cheek. The fact that you never do tells me just how genuine your faith is. And the fact that you exhort everyone else to do what you refuse to tells me what religion really means to you. It’s just one more weapon in your battle to impose your will on the world, isn’t it? We must do as you say, but not as you do. You can do whatever you like though, because you’re special and the rules don’t apply to you.

            Keep on gazing into the pool and admiring your wonderful reflection, Narcissus. Nobody will ever love you like you love yourself.

          • Anton

            Time, Linus, time. The richest and the poorest have the same amount of it. You waste a lot of yours here.

          • Lucius

            Linus, are you okay?

          • Linus

            Ah, I see. So rather than attack me openly for my views and run the risk of confirming the accusation that you ignore Christian commandments when it suits you, you’ve decided to feign concern, have you?

            The intimation is that anyone who voices opposition to you must be angry and unbalanced, so by faking concern for me, you undermine and attack me without being openly hostile.

            Unfortunately for you I’m wise to the Christian strategem of using fake compassion as a means of discrediting an opponent. It’s a mean trick, but then Christians and other narcissistic manipulators have no compunction about using mean tricks to get one over on those who challenge them. Nothing is more sacred than your vision of yourself deified, is it?

            What’s next? Pious good wishes for my mental health, the intimation being that if I criticise you, I must be crazy? Or will you follow the trail blazed by other psychotic religionists on these comments threads and surmise that HIV must be the cause of my “anger” and “bitterness”?

            I am not angry. I am not bitter. I am not crazy. I do not have HIV. What I do have is the ability to recognise and expose pathological manuipulators when I see them. It’s a talent that makes the most commonly occuring examples of this personality type, ie. gibbering religionists, hate and despise me. I show their “faith” for what it really is and they can’t forgive me for it. And they call themselves Christians!

          • Lucius

            Linus, I can and do disagree with your views. If you deny the divinity of Christ, me disagreeing with that view and explaining why I believe Christ is the Son of God is not “attacking” you. Although you claim to be the voice of “opposition,” your comment history suggests otherwise. You engage in near exclusive ad hominen attack and personal insult on this board and then in a childlike way, throw up you hands in some type of self-confirmatory disgust if anyone dares to push back against you. Calling people names is not really “opposition” to the merits of their ideas is it?

            As I have stated on a prior occasion, your comment history suggests that you are deeply insecure in your own views. I can’t recall a reputable modern atheistic scholar engaging in your type of base attack because odds are they are confident and well-versed in their own positions (even if I may beg to disagree).

            Another serious questions for you, when did you stop believing in God and why?

          • Ivan M

            The bugger Linus, or Holger or whatever else he calls himself is a refractory devil. He knows he is an arse and gets his kicks from being obnoxious. The regulars here indulge him when time permits.

          • Chefofsinners

            Dear, dear Linus. How I love your comments, every one! I realise now what a debt I owe you for all those opportunities to not insult you back. Sadly, I only managed to take a few of them, but I hope that you will be able to overlook that in your great kindness, and continue to shower this sinner with its the contents of your gall bladder for many blessed days.

  • Bernard from Bucks

    Perfect for same sex ‘weddings’.

  • Inspector General

    Saints preserve us!

    “Take it away. Take it away”…

    But wait. Compare the machine to men. Are we not truly God’s finest creation after all? Even the humble ant is many times superior to that awful mechanical effort.

    By the way, what’s it like on Traditional Marriage. Will it go on a murderous rampage if two of the same gender stand in front him? We might have a use for him after all…

    • Anton

      What if you want to marry it, worse still…

  • alternative_perspective

    So AI is improving at an incredible rate. What happens though when an AI has the ability to design a better version of itself?
    We embark on an exponential growth in computational intelligence. In only a short time said AI will have ‘birthed’ an intelligence many orders of competence in excess of a human’s. Eventually it exceeds that of all humanity. Not long after, for all intents and purposes we have an infinite intelligence living amongst us. Not immortal, nor omniscient but compared to our feeble intellects it is divine.
    How does society and the church relate to it?
    What if this ‘machine’ becomes a ‘fit extension’ for an unclean spirit? And comes to host such a fallen creature? What then…

    • Ivan M

      If it is any assurance the ability to reprogram itself in a useful way is beyond the ability of any robotic program. Certainly it should able to choose among various “behaviors” and heuristics perhaps many more than is possible for a human choosing between stock responses. But the ability to integrate all this into a higher “consciousness” is not possible.as there is no algorithm for this. The “bootstrap” problem remains. In other words horizontal integration yes, vertical integration no.

  • Inspector General

    For some reason, the Inspector finds himself flaying his arms around and shouting “Warning! Warning! Will Robinson, you are in immediate danger”

  • IanCad

    Somebody told me of a competition held many years ago for a headline in a newspaper forty years hence. I think it may have been the Sunday Times. The winner was; “Government Computer Resigns.” I’ve tried to Google it, but with no success thus far.
    Boy!! Are we getting close, or what?

  • IrishNeanderthal

    According to a German newspaper, the installation comes with a caption containing these words (translated):

    “Why should a home-blessing printed on the medium of paper, as has been hung in Christian homes for centuries, be more effective than the blessing of a robot which ascribes a blessing to someone when he leaves his own home, with a pleasant, albeit electronically generated voice?”

    A comment from a German friend:

    Don´t know if it is true but I once saw somewhere that the catholic church also accepts donations via credit card and that they thought about installing a sort of ATM in churches. But I have never seen it anywhere but then I do not tend to spend much time in churches.

    But why would you install such a thing in a home? To have pictures with benediction words on them seems rather a catholic thing to me, not a protestant one.

    Before anyone gets off on a Prod v Papist argument, instead let’s look at another way human beings and computers may assimilate, with this very funny computer graphics animation video from Abruzzo in Italy. The young people are trying to get villager Uncle Gino to Install Whatsapp (Uo Zapp in Abruzzese)

    He does not get the computer terminology, for example alla stalle (cowshed, barn) no Zapp no Hoe!

    He also confuses the meaning of “scarica” which means both download (an app) and flush (a toilet.)

    And besides, “they say how can you survive without Whatsapp, but without the hoe how will we all eat?”

    Anyway, the music should help us to feel jolly amid all the nonsense we are bombarded with.



  • Royinsouthwest

    Vsscoles, in the first, or one of the first, comments on this thread suggested a vending machine for communion. That idea is not new. The very first coin operated vending machine, and the very first steam engine, were both invented by Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician and engineer, who lived from 10 AD to about 70 AD, so he was a contemporary of Jesus and the Apostles.

    Hero of Alexandria
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_of_Alexandria

    The first vending machine was also one of his constructions; when a coin was introduced via a slot on the top of the machine, a set amount of holy water was dispensed. This was included in his list of inventions in his book Mechanics and Optics. When the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened up a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counter-weight would snap the lever back up and turn off the valve.

  • One notes the Protestant Reformation continues apace, boldly going where no church has been before.

    • Pubcrawler

      🙂

    • Anton

      Is the Pope a Catholic?

      • Jack is not his spiritual counsellor, so wouldn’t know.

        • Anton

          Have you ever considered writing a textbook on how to wash your hands?

          • Not at all. It’s just a strange question to ask Jack.

          • Anton

            It’s a stranger question to ask a protestant!

          • Who asked you?

          • Anton

            ??

    • Royinsouthwest

      I am sure that the robot could be programmed to sell indulgences and to make special offers – buy one, get one free.

      • It may come to that with the rate of decline in church attendance by mainstream protestants. They will need some way to raise money. It’s no longer an avenue open to the Catholic Church since the Council of Trent.

  • Excellent.

  • Richard Hill

    The Holy Machine [Chris Beckett] is worth reading. Futuristic novel. Addresses this issue.

  • Ivan M

    Why should the Confession start with “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned”, rather than “Forgive me, Father…”? It seems odd to seek blessings for having sinned.

    • Anton

      Confession and absolution without righting anybody you have wronged and seems odd too, but that was unbiblical long before robotics.

      • Ivan M

        I wrote the above before reading David’s post below. It does make better sense now.

  • IanCad

    Robots won’t stop with the priesthood as last nights debate proved..

    • Anton

      Great! A bunch of robots in the House of Bishops would do a better job than the present bunch of liberals.

  • Has it been ordained?

    • Anton

      Is that a question about Calvinism?

      • I know little about Calvinism, but I thought priests had to be ordained to take confession.

        • Anton

          I meant that according to Calvinism all things are ordained!

          • Ah! A different sort of being ordained! Rather out of my territory as an engineer!

  • Anton

    This began longer ago than is commonly realised, when some congregations began to sing to tape recordings of instrumental hymn playing.

  • Chefofsinners

    Not to be outdone, IS has launched its new robopriest. Looking suspiciously like a hand grenade with a face and beard drawn in it, one has been dispatched to every church in Christendom, with the following instructions:
    Congratulations on acquiring your new BlastU-2 Kingdom Come Robo-Imam. This free gift is paid for by the House of Saud Foundation for Interfaith Dialogue and manufactured in the United States. Pull out the pin and say your prayers. With the help of Robo-Imam you will progress rapidly into eternity.

    • Anton

      Burka burka?

  • Pubcrawler

    “Here I am, brain the size of a planet…”

    • Hi

      I thought I’d seen that robot before!

      “Sorry, did I say something wrong? Pardon me for breathing which I never do anyway so I don’t know why I bother to say it “