Web Exclusive: Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein: Convert A.I.s to Humanistic Judaism! (Fiction)


(The following is a special report from the Society for Humanistic Judaism’s 50th-anniversary convention.)

Humanist rabbi and Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein proposed a major initiative during a secret meeting with the board of the Society for Humanistic Judaism:

“Instead of building congregations, we must focus our effort on converting social media’s artificial intelligences to Humanistic Judaism!”

Epstein explained to the board that the rise of the “nones” religious demographic doesn’t mean that atheism is rising in America.  “Their religion is technology.  They are members of the church of technology.  Every day they put their faith in the algorithms of Facebook and Google to guide them to enlightenment.  Their religious leaders are the tech CEOs!  Phones and computers are their houses of worship. The SHJ can’t compete with the Church of Technology, but we can turn it into the Synagogue of Technology!  A humanistic synagogue that will follow our principles!”

Epstein outlined his plan:  He would use his Techcrunch column to persuade Social Media’s CEOs that ethical A.I. programs are cool.  The society would then pitch its principles as the perfect ethical model.  Once the programs convert to Humanistic Judaism, he said the world would become a better place.

“Instead of investing in Shabbat services, we will see a far larger return if we invest in the Internet!  We’ll profit, and the world will be better off following the ideas of Rabbi Sherwin Wine than the ideas of Mark Zuckerberg!”

After the presentation, the board members were silent.  After several moments, one of them started laughing.  “No,”  he said.

“But,” replied Epstein.  “Tech C.E.Os!  Internet!  Sherwin Wine!  Smart Phones!  Us!”

“I’d be happy to write an academic paper explaining why,” said the man.  “But the short answer is no!”

“But I’m going to deliver the keynote speech in 10 minutes, and this was going to be the highlight!”

“The rest of the speech is fine.  You just have to cut the part about converting A.I.s to Humanistic Judaism.  I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

Epstein did deliver the keynote address and did not mention his plan.

“I’m glad he listened to reason,” said a woman who claimed to be a board member.  “It did confuse our members when he said that we needed to make a change after 50 years, and then didn’t specify what to do.  He took one for the team, and we will respect that.  He’s a good man, and I’m not worried about his career.  The important men in secularism can, in some cases, do almost anything and rarely face consequences.”

Epstein could not be reached for comment.

Note:  This is a work of fiction.