A sect of evangelical roboticists and futurists is spreading the gospel of artificial intelligence (AI) with wild success, says Robert Geraci in Religion Dispatches. And the promises of immortality — Ray Kurzweil's Singularity prophesies that we will upload our brains and personalities to undying computers — are providing "scientific alternatives to the traditional religious promises of salvation." Not only is this slightly disturbing, it also "will present a serious challenge to traditional religious communities." Here, an excerpt:

What we see is the emergence of a genuine religious tradition. Is it new? Not exactly: Faith in technology to produce transcendent human conditions is centuries old. But this manifestation, whether it be under the label of transhumanism, Singularitarianism, or (as I've called it) Apocalyptic AI, has a cultural cachet that goes far and allows it to separate itself from other religious visions. Sacred books such as [Hans] Moravec's Mind Children (1988) and Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near (2005) and documentary films like Transcendent Man establish a textual tradition that forms the core of an entire belief system promising salvation, encouraging embodied practices (most of which are designed to keep an individual alive until the coming day of upload), and establishing a worldview through which all of science, religion, and politics may be judged. ...

This will present a serious challenge to traditional religious communities, whose own promises of salvation may appear weak in comparison to the “scientific” soteriology offered by Kurzweil.

Read the entire piece in Religion Dispatches.