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Losing My religion (or not) with robots

Science fiction often skirts around religion and robot fiction even more so, but when the topic of religion does show up, it is often quite thought provoking- check out the list below. But religion hasn’t ignored robots and AI; in 2019 the Vatican held a workshop on robotics and AI and with Microsoft in the lead, created the “Rome Call for AI Ethics”. In November 2020, the Vatican declared the prayers for that month should be “We pray that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind.” (And no, not serve in the With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson meaning of the phrase.) If you are interested, Jim Clarke has a thorough exploration of Catholic Church doctrine on robots and how science fiction has viewed the Catholic Church in Science Fiction and Catholicism: The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy .

Here is the RTSF essential reading list in scifi robots and religion:

Short stories:

· Articles of Faith by Mike Resnick, a true thought-provoking classic (and free)

· For a Breath I Tarry by Roger Zelanzy, almost a haiku in its evocation of spirituality (free)

· Good News from the Vatican by Robert Silverberg, a short story that seems a quick read, but a second reading reveals clever symbolism and juxtaposition of views. It seems a running joke in older science fiction that it would be likelier to have a robot pope than an American pope (take that Jude Law in the HBO series The Young Pope!)

· Judas by John Brunner, a cautionary tale of a different type of robot uprising (free)


· The Alchemy Wars trilogy by Ian Tregellis, an astonishing, thoughtful (but with a fast moving plot and lots of action) exploration of whether robots can have souls in steampunk world where the Catholic minority is trying to save robots, and their souls, from the de facto slavery imposed by the Calvinist majority. And be sure and check out the RTSF conversation with Ian Tregillis and a plasma physicist at Los Alamos.

· Project Pope by Clifford D. Simak, not Simak’s best from the vintage days of scifi but still readable though not a must-read

So spin up REM’s Losing My Religion, or revisit their astounding music video, for some mood music and decide whether these authors in the spotlight have either said too much or haven’t said enough about robots and religion.


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