What follows is a brief excerpt from my book, The Martian, the Angel and the Robot. By the time you would reach this point, the story takes some things for granted. So I’ll fill in the gaps. The three characters here are the title characters, Fred, a martian, Will, an angel, and Bob, a robot from a mechanical world. They are all strangers to Earth, masquerading as humans when they leave their house. The story describes alien views of day to day life. This is their first conversation about religion. It opens with a question from the martian, and he isn’t even certain what religion is.
“Should we go to church?”
“Should we go to church?,” Fred repeated.
“Church?,” Bob asked, “where humans gather to believe in God?”
Will was as dumbfounded as Bob by the question. “Why can’t you believe in God right here?”
Fred looked back and forth at his friends. “I don’t know.”
Bob whirred slightly. Some minor part of his robot anatomy had slipped, so he let out some strange sounds from time to time. It seemed to embarrass him slightly. “Sorry about that. It’ll pass as soon as I tighten up the Q dials right.” He shifted weight and the whirring was quieted a bit. The moment, however uncomfortable, had granted him time to develop the pertinent question. As obvious as it was, neither he nor Will realized that it should have been the first words spoken in response to Fred’s unexpected query. “What makes you think we should go to church?”
“Mrs. White thinks we should go to church.”
“Mrs. White wants us to go to church.” Will was in his angelic form. This was not the first time the others noticed that confusion could dim his aura slightly. “Who the hell is Mrs. White?”
“We tend her lawn.”
“She’s one of your customers,” Bob said.
Will chuckled, “Well I don’t think they do that for anyone else.”
“Right. Sorry. Why does Mrs. White care if Will and I go to church? We’ve never met the woman.”
“No, not us in particular. She thinks that everyone should go to church.”
“She told you this?”
“Among other things, yes.”
“Okay,” Will said, “Fred, you know how we’ve told you to organize your thoughts better? This is a real good example of the kind of thing that confuses us.”
“Sorry. Back on Mars it was much simpler to get your ideas out. Besides, as a drone, I didn’t have too many ideas that needed articulation.”
Bob admitted, “The articulation of ideas is not always a valued skill on this world either.”
“This idea specifically though,” Will said, “why would we go to church? Seriously. I don’t even know why humans go to church.”
Bob had to admit, “I’ve meant to read more about local religion. I haven’t gotten to it yet. I wasn’t even a believer back home. You can imagine my surprise when I started talking to an angel.”
Will got annoyed, “I am very tired of being associated with this. It might not be wrong to define my homeworld as a higher form of existence, but even if it is, there is more than one step between this kind of reality and the kind of reality that humans imagine as godly.”
Fred told them, “I’m very curious about church. Some humans seem to think church is a good thing. Some think it is vital. Some think it is worthless. I work with every one of those kinds of humans. If I went to church, then maybe I could figure that out.”
“Fred,” Bob said, “if the humans can’t figure it out, then how could you?”
“An alien perspective might be more objective.”
Will and Bob looked at each other with that special sort of posture that indicated a surprised respect for their housemate’s point of view. Will had to say, “Maybe we really should go to church.”
Bob almost agreed, but he was hit with an obvious problem. “Which one? They all say different things.”
“They aren’t compatible?,” Will asked.
“No. Most aren’t, anyway. That’s why there are so many of them.”
“What kind of sense does that make?”
“None, as far as I can tell,” Bob said. “People kill each other over these intangibles.”
“Really?,” Fred said. He couldn’t imagine a human killing another human. It happened among martians, but they had motives for it that humans couldn’t possibly have. “Why would churches make humans kill each other?”
“You really don’t know much about this world do you?,” Will asked.
With a condescending tone intended for the natives, Fred said, “I know where to buy soda pop and I know how to drive a car. Seriously, explain this to me, why would humans kill each other over this? I can imagine them arguing, but killing each other?”
“I don’t know,” Will said. “But then I don’t completely understand their idea of God either. It was different where I came from. It’s strange. What we’re talking about, it’s not a rare thing. A lot of humans have been killed over religion.”
Fred knew the word, but he wanted it explained, “What exactly is religion?”
“Religion?,” Bob said. “It’s what they have at churches.”
“This is starting to sound like total nonsense,” Fred said. “Bob, do you have anything I can read about religion and churches? I don’t think you two know much about it. No offense.”
“None taken,” Bob said, “because I don’t. Some things about human behavior are mystifying.”