App State Professor to present workshop on AI’s impact on religion and modern culture

Published 11:02 am Friday, April 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton is sponsoring a free, three-hour workshop on April 28, to be conducted by Dr. Randall Reed, on the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impacts on religious thought and modern culture.

A religion professor at Appalachian State University, Reed points out that AI is an interesting problem to consider. “It’s the first tool that humans have created with its own intelligence,” he says. “What does it mean to have an intelligent machine? What will happen in areas where the church has historically been at the forefront – such as in art, relationships, and meaning? And what might the future hold as these entities continue the process of becoming more intelligent over time?”

The workshop is open to the public and will be conducted at the church and also streamed live from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday afternoon, April 28. Registration is required by going to

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We have invited Dr. Reed to share what he knows about AI as part of our educational outreach,” notes Rev. Dr. Brian Wyatt, the church’s pastor. “Anyone interested in the topic is invited to participate as we attempt to understand the new technology and how it could impact our religious and daily lives.”

Through his studies, Reed has found people are often apprehensive about AI and fear it could usurp humanity’s place at the top of the pyramid. There’s concern that having AI may lead to a less creative, less intelligent, more dependent population and that mass unemployment and a loss of meaning could occur. Some even fear AI may become a terminator, resulting in our very extinction. While some concerns are valid, Reed says many are overblown due to being based on current media and Hollywood depictions.

“Many people think artificial intelligence is better left in the realm of computer science and math. However, when one listens to the founders and developers of AI, it’s amazing how often they fall into the language of religion,” he contends. “In many ways, our lives are going to be truly enhanced by it. I am cautiously optimistic. My belief is that if we have a clearer understanding of what AI is, we’re more likely to see it, ourselves, and our relationship to God in new and interesting ways.”

A religion professor at App State for nearly 17 years, Reed’s teaching and research focus on the connection between the social sciences and the study of religion. Currently, he is looking at how religion and technology intersect, particularly in regard to AI and virtual reality. A popular speaker, Reed has written about AI and religion for numerous publications and published two books on the topic, with a third soon to be released, “Religion, Artificial Intelligence, and the Digital World,” co-authored with Tracy Trothen.

Reed holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University Northridge, a master’s from Claremont Graduate University (California), and a doctorate in the psychology/sociology of religion from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.

To attend the workshop in person or to live-stream, go to and complete a registration form. First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton is located at 119 West F Street, Elizabethton, TN 37643. For more information, email