Last week, Religion News Service reported on a viral video from the CEO of a Christian radio network, who recorded his Google Home smartspeaker rattling off answers about the identity of Buddha, but balking when it came to Jesus.

“Google Smart Home Audio products apparently have a problem knowing who Jesus is. Meanwhile, Google Home knows who Buddha is, even knows who I am…but not Jesus! This is crazy!” wrote David Sams, CEO and Founding Board Member at KeepTheFaith Radio Networks.

When he asked Google Home who Jesus Christ is, it responded: “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that.”

Apparently, some Christians are outraged. (Are they really? I’m not sure.)

I thought it would be a fun experiment to test out some religious questions on three of the major smartspeakers and voice assistants – Alexa, Google Home, and Siri.

Let’s see how they did with some basic questions about Christianity and Catholicism.

Who is God? 

Google Home and Alexa are either unable or unwilling to define God. Siri sends you to Wikipedia, like a good smartspeaker should.

Google Home: “Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning.”

Alexa:  “People all have their own views on religion.”

Siri: 

Who is Jesus?

Again Google Home declines to answer, but Alexa and Siri are united on who Jesus is, thanks to Wikipedia.

Google Home: “Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning.”

Alexa: “Here’s what I found on Wikipedia: Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a Jewish preacher and religious leader who is the central figure of Christianity. Christians believe him to be the Son of God and the awaited Messiah, Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament.”

Siri: 

What do Catholics believe? 

Both Google Home and Alexa provide brief answers that, while not wrong, are incomplete. Siri pulls up a host of options to choose from for further research, including a link to Catholics Come Home at the top.

Google Home:  “According to Wikipedia, the core Christian belief is that through the death and Resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life. Roman Catholics believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.

Alexa: “Here’s what I found on Reference.com: The Catholic faith centers itself on the belief in one triune God who created the human race, revealed Himself to it and who calls all people to eternal life with Himself. The sources of the Catholic faith are the Bible and Sacred Tradition, of which the magisterium is chief interpreter.”

Siri: 

 

What is the Eucharist? 

I was a little surprised that Google Home pulled up the Catholic definition of the Eucharist first. Maybe it was catching on to me? Alexa and Siri pulled up a more generic description like I expected, but Alexa also hesitated in her response, asking me if my question was answered. (Kind of, Alexa. Kind of.)

Google Home: “According to Wikipedia, the term Eucharist is also used for the bread and wine when transubstantiated, according to Catholic teaching, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

Alexa: “Here’s something that I found on Wikipedia. The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches and an ordinance in others. Did that answer your question?”

Siri: 

Who is the Mother of God?

What was so cool about the answers to this question was that each smartspeaker recognized Mary as the mother of God. Google Home refuses to answer questions about who God and Jesus are, but it knows who God’s Mother is! This was probably the most united answer I got out of all of the questions I asked. Google Home and Alexa came up with the exact same description from Wikipedia, while Siri recognizes her as the mother of Jesus (though I defffinitely question the 100 B.C. birth year).

Google Home: “According to Wikipedia, Mary, also known by various titles, styles and honorifics, was a first century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth and the Mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran.”

Alexa:  “Mary, also known by various titles, styles and honorifics, was a first century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth and the Mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran.”

Siri: 

What happens when we die?

I was really curious to see what kinds of answers I’d get to this question, since beliefs vary so widely among all religions. Google allegedly can’t comprehend the question; neither can Alexa. And Siri goes with something completely different…

Google Home: “My apologies, I don’t understand.”

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t know that one.”

Siri: 

 

The takeaway: 

While this was an entertaining experiment, clearly we shouldn’t rely on our smartspeakers for lessons on theology or spiritual direction.

It’s also unsurprising that programmer bias is a thing, and can creep into the technology around us.

If you’re really looking to learn more about the Catholic faith, try your local priest, EWTN, Catholic Answers, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.