Exposure to automation explains religious declines

Joshua Conrad Jackson*, Kai Chi Yam, Pok Man Tang, Chris G. Sibley, Adam Waytz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global decline of religiosity represents one of the most significant societal shifts in recent history. After millennia of near-universal religious identification, the world is experiencing a regionally uneven trend toward secularization. We propose an explanation of this decline, which claims that automation—the development of robots and artificial intelligence (AI)—can partly explain modern religious declines. We build four unique datasets composed of more than 3 million individuals which show that robotics and AI exposure is linked to 21st-century religious declines across nations, metropolitan regions, and individual people. Key results hold controlling for other technological developments (e.g., electricity grid access and telecommunications development), socioeconomic indicators (e.g., wealth, residential mobility, and demographics), and factors implicated in previous theories of religious decline (e.g., individual choice norms). An experiment also supports our hypotheses. Our findings partly explain contemporary trends in religious decline and foreshadow where religiosity may wane in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2304748120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - 2023


  • artificial intelligence
  • automation
  • cultural evolution
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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