Artificial intelligence and spirituality : relating religious information and religious knowledge

  • Shanen Boettcher

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


To the extent that people consume information and are influenced by the internet and digital communications technologies (and that those technologies are increasingly powered by AI), artificial intelligence has the opportunity to exercise, perhaps significant, influence on their spirituality. Technology has exercised its influence in many parts of modern life; news, politics, education,
communication, relationships, etc. As such, the interaction of AI and spirituality is worthy of research, analysis and understanding. This project is an inquiry into the influence of artificial intelligence technology on the way people across multiple religious and non-religious backgrounds in the U.S. Pacific Northwest experience spirituality. To address this inquiry, data was gathered through qualitative field research with participants that included a set of experiences with religious information using a variety of AI-powered technologies. These experiences presented religious and spiritual information from various sources (e.g. insider, outsider) in a variety of media forms (e.g. search engines, SMS and web chatbots, voice assistants). Multiple permutations of information source and media type were tested to explore the possible effects of these variables in relationship to the response from participants. The goal of the research was to advance our understanding of how spiritual/religious information becomes spiritual/religious knowledge and what role AI technology could play in this transition. The results of the research suggest that human tendencies to anthropomorphize and revere machines and to make meaning from experiences and memories all play important roles in the process of relating religious information and religious knowledge. In so doing, the present research extends knowledge in the field of human-machine communication by exploring the role that religious information and religious memories play in human relationships with machines. It suggests that machines can capture human attention and carry some level of authority and influence in the process of relating religious information to religious knowledge.
Date of Award16 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorEric Stoddart (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 24 February 2028

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