A new AI app lets users ‘text’ with Jesus. Some call it blasphemy.

By | August 12, 2023

If you’ve ever wondered how Jonah felt trapped inside the whale’s belly for three days, why Solomon had so many wives, or why Judas betrayed Jesus, an app called Text with Jesus is your chance to ask yourself.

Launched in July, Text With Jesus was created by Catloaf Software, an app development company in Los Angeles. The app replicates an instant messaging platform with biblical figures impersonated by the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT.

Characters available on the app include the Holy Family, the Apostles, the Prophets, Ruth, Job and Abraham’s nephew, Lot.

“We touch the AI ​​and tell it: You are Jesus, or you are Moses, or whoever, and knowing what you already have in your database, you answer the questions based on their characters,” said Stéphane Peter , the app’s developer and the company’s CEO.

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Peter, who founded Catloaf Software in 2011, had built several more static applications featuring historical figures – including Text From the Founding Fathers, Text From Oscar Wilde and more recently Text From Jesus – where users received quotes from the figures in question but could not interact .

When ChatGPT was released last year, Peter, a 46-year-old developer who came to the US from France, wondered how to use AI to upgrade the Text From Jesus app. In February, he started digging into OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research lab that launched ChatGPT, and created a proper chat from a simple devotional app.

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“Instead of just getting a daily Bible verse, now you get a chance through this app to chat with Jesus or anyone else in the Bible,” he said.

There are few limits to what users can ask of the app’s characters. Whether the topic is personal relationship counseling or complex theological questions, they formulate detailed answers that incorporate at least one Bible verse.

When asked how he defined a good Christian, the app’s Jesus bot replied that such a person will “profess faith in me, but also follow my teachings and embody them in your life,” citing a passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus teacher. that the greatest commandments are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Many people in the Bible, Mary Magdalene among them, are only available in the app’s premium version, which costs $2.99 ​​a month. In a conversation with Magdalene, the devoted follower of Jesus mentions how having seven demons “was an incredibly painful experience”.

“Chat with Satan” can be enabled if the user chooses. The character signs all his texts with a “smiling face with horns” emoji.

Peter, who said he did not work with any theological advisors on this project, explained that he trained the AI ​​to “try to stick to the biblical tradition as hard as possible.”

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But Peter invited church leaders to try Text With Jesus once he had a beta version. Some pastors complained that some answers were missing Bible chapters and verse citations, or about the strange, strained tone in which Jesus spoke, but the final version, Peter said, got “pretty good feedback” from the professionals.

“I updated it to speak more like a regular person and made sure it didn’t forget to pull things from the Bible. It’s a constant trick to find the right balance,” he said.

In the event that users were tempted to reveal sensitive information about themselves to the app’s Jesus, all information is stored temporarily, just long enough for the AI ​​program to keep track of the conversation, Peter said. The server does not store any identifying information about users, he said.

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On Twitter, the platform recently renamed X, the launch of the app provoked reactions right from entertainment to accusations of blasphemy and heresy. “That’s a hard NO for me,” tweeted one user.

Peter expected the app to backfire, but called it “another way to explore scripture.”

Asked about the criticism of Jesus’ strangely mild reactions to some sensitive questions, Peter acknowledged that Text with Jesus characters tends to avoid taking offensive positions, instead taking an inclusive and tolerant line.

Regarding same-sex marriage, the app says it is “up to each individual to seek guidance from their own faith tradition and personal convictions” and encourages users to “prioritize love and respect for all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity .” sign the text with a rainbow and red heart emoji.

On feminism, Jesus emphasized the importance of “empowering women and breaking societal barriers that limited their opportunities.”

— Religion News Service

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