There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. But what would happen if someone combined them all into one inclusive system of beliefs?
Research scientist Janelle Shane asked the same thing during a recent Flash Forward podcast. And the results are sinfully unholy.
Teaming up with Brooklyn-based producer, designer, and writer Rose Eveleth, Shane, and her neural network imagined “what would happen if a scientist one day tried to create a new religion by training a computer on all the existing texts of world religions.”
Thirty-eight sources in total, including the King James Bible, Tanakh, Quran, Book of Mormon, Sutras, Vedas, Celtic Dragon Myth, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, General Book of the Tarot, and more.
“I simulated this on a much more modest scale using a neural network on my laptop, just to see what the results would look like,” Shane said, highlighting some of the “interesting bits” among “mostly incomprehensible” results:
The camel (might), in this day, face the lord’s light. He is never precious (to the camel).
You are a dog, o my soul, and most sooth.
The chicken listed of the enmity is not a guest of the chicken of his people, as the universe had met the rain of that day.
Listen to the Flash Forward podcast to hear more from the holy texts of the Church of Amalgamation.
“There are approximately a thousand caveats to this machine learning project,” Eveleth wrote in a blog post. “This is by no means a full sampling of religious texts, nor is it in any way scientific.
“In short: Don’t take the output of this algorithm too seriously,” she continued. “It was a fun and interesting project, but it is not a new religion nor is it meant to be comprehensive or representative.”
Shane continued the experiment, training her neural network on a smaller dataset: 150 psalms from the Jewish and Western Christian tradition—verse-form songs of praise, thanksgiving, or lamentation.
The AI, she explained, had a much easier time of this task, which generated an expectedly odd hymn, arranged by Owain Park as a chant “based on the Tetris theme.”
“Feel free to share and/or record (oh please oh please record this),” Shane said.
Also, check out our lineup of the 11 best new religions of the last century.
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