Yes, in 2017 a Catholic publisher has created the world’s first evangelising chatbot. Ew.

By Nicole Buckler

Are you having trouble converting people around you to your religion? Well, as religion dies out, people who still have faith have an uphill battle to get people to believe in burning bushes and arks that held way too many animals. But now you can have a chatbot to do your work for you!

Permission to speak freely? Thanks. Wandering around trying to convert people to your religion in 2017 is seen as annoying and suspicious. So it’s a natural evolution that some religious people think evangelisation might be a good job for the robots. You can’t hurt their little feelings after all.

Aleteia, the Catholic website that launched the PopeEmoji during Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the United States, has launched an evangelising chatbot.

“All Christians are called to share our faith, but it’s not easy for most,” said Jesus Colina, Global Editor at Aleteia.org. (Yes his name is Jesus! Well, it’s probably pronounced the Latino way but still, the point is valid.) “Unless you are able to offer something that you know will be welcome, evangelisation can quickly become uncomfortable and leave people feeling intruded upon, instead of inspired.”

Aleteia’s solution to this challenge of getting people to join their cult organisation is an intelligence software agent that recommends articles and stories based on need. Accessing Aleteia.org’s 5-years-deep archive of content, the chatbot — nicknamed ePaul after the evangelising apostle — asks a few questions about the person and situation one is trying to address, and then suggests articles that it thinks will be relevant and helpful.

At this stage ePaul is like a typical pious person. The conversation isn’t two-way, it gives users the opportunity to respond to multiple-choice questions about who you are trying to pull into your religion. Then you are supplied with articles that back up your position tailored to their demographic. It’s not a conversation. At all. Seriously, the TrumpBot is way better and even the Domino’s pizza chatbot puts ePaul in the shade.

But cults all over the world can now take comfort in knowing that they don’t  have to send door-knockers into the street anymore. They can send ePaul, eBuddha, eEber, eKrishna, ePastafarian or eAtheist.

“He’s lively,” says Jesus. (He’s actually not). “But he has a serious job: to help people find a way to say ‘I am aware, I care, and so does God.'” Nooo, his job is to help annoying evangelising pious people to throw articles at your to try to disprove your position of not wanting to join their sect.

“As far as we know, ePaul is the world’s first evangelising chatbot,” said Jason Deal, Aleteia’s EVP of Strategy and Marketing. “We hope it is a fun and easy way to share stories of hope, trust, love and faith with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances.”

Listen, this chatbot is creepy. But chatbots for business? I am a huge fan. Any chatbot that can help me order pizza from Facebookistan without actually having to interact with a human is inspired. Religion looks quite beige in comparison.

 

 

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