"There was no heart and no soul."


Over 300 parishioners gathered in Feurth, Germany last week to attend a church service written — and delivered — by AI, the Associated Press reports.

"I conceived this service — but actually I rather accompanied it, because I would say about 98 percent comes from the machine," Jonas Simmerlein, a 29-year-old theologian and philosopher from the University of Vienna and the human behind the AI sermon, told the AP.

Per the report, Simmerlein used OpenAI's ChatGPT to write the service's script, which was delivered to a packed crowd during the country's biennial Protestant convention by four AI-powered avatars.

"Dear friends, it is an honor for me to stand here and preach to you as the first artificial intelligence at this year's convention of Protestants in Germany," one avatar reportedly opened the sermon with what the AP described as an "expressionless face and monotonous voice," before launching into a ceremony that brought up themes of "leaving the past behind, focusing on the challenges of the present, overcoming fear of death, and never losing trust in Jesus Christ."

First off, a religious service where the emotionless visage of an AI "preacher" tells a churchgoing crowd to release their fear of death and never quit loving Jesus doesn't not sound dystopian. But considering that there was reportedly a queue around the corner starting an hour before the event, maybe add preacher to the list of roles that might go the way of AI automation.

Stations of the Bot

On that note, a common complaint among service attendees seemed to be that the chatbots sounded a little too much like... bots.

"There was no heart and no soul," Heiderose Schmidt, a 54-year-old IT worker, told the AP. "The avatars showed no emotions at all, had no body language, and were talking so fast and monotonously that it was very hard for me to concentrate on what they said."

Another attendee, a 31-year-old Lutheran pastor named Marc Jansen, told the AP that he "had actually imagined it to be worse," but similarly noted that the AI-powered avatars failed to show any emotion or spirituality.

But while the service was well-attended and the sermon, in the words of Simmerlein, was "pretty solid" as far as the words and structure, preachers aren't likely to be replaced just yet.

"The pastor is in the congregation, she lives with them, she buries the people, she knows them from the beginning," Simmerlein told the AP. "Artificial intelligence cannot do that. It does not know the congregation."

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