"You claim a soul for a machine, Governor Kempe?"
Bob Kempe, Governor of the human colony on the planet Rehome, was quick to respond to this challenge from the clergyman.
"I do indeed. There is just as much evidence among the Personalia for a soul as there is among the human race."
"Really, Governor? On what basis do you make that claim for machines?"
"Simple, sir. The Personalia have shown exactly the same reactions to death as humans do. They mourn the one who has passed away; they revere the memory of one who has died fighting for justice; they show compassion and concern for others. This latter point includes the intelligent biological species from other planets."
"Other species? You are telling me, are you, that you regard intelligent species from other planets as equivalent to human beings. I find this hard to credit in a man in your exalted position."
"I do indeed, sir. At present, I cannot claim that they have the same exact attributes of humans – we do not know them well enough for that – but they have physical shapes very similar to humans, and minds that seem to work in a similar way to ours. Perhaps, when God made humans, he also made these people as well. Who are we to gainsay that? God is not restricted, is He?"
The clergyman was visibly rattled at this concept. "I do not know that there is any real basis for considering alien beings to be equivalent to humans, Governor. It seems far-fetched; I would not like to give any credence to such a proposition at this time. You do not even offer any rational basis for your assertions. Why should there be any correlation between them and us? Is there any biological mechanism whereby such correlation makes any sense? Are you supposing that sometime in the past humans got to these planets and became such races? I think it highly unlikely!"
It had started with a visit of dignitaries from Earth, interested in viewing the colony on the planet Rehome. They wanted to see what kind of society was developing among this group of settlers. The planet had originally been settled by two alien races belonging to a group from two planets in one stellar system. The group was composed of the Braalians and the Lubarians, and an offshoot: a spacefaring machine race, the Machinations, who were similar to the Personalia. These biological races had an inbuilt "flee" instinct, due to being evolved from a prey species; the Lubarians in particular had this innate fear response, despite their outward show of bossiness towards their partner races. This bossiness was a compensation to hide their fears.
Thus, when the planetary system where the planet now known as "Rehome" lay was attacked by the Invader spacecraft, there was a battle, led by the Machinations as the space-borne component of these allies. The enemy were fought to a standstill by the Machinations, but the Lubarians insisted that the whole group should evacuate this planet in case the enemy ships came back. They did not think the planet could be defended from a bombardment with their remaining forces. And so, when the Personalia and their human passengers arrived, they found the planet empty, and one Machinations vessel acting as a spy ship, keeping an eye on the planet.
This led to a diplomatic meeting between the human/Personalia allies and the Lubarian/Braalian/Machinations group. It ended with the group ceding the planet for a certain degree of human settlement, protected by a Personalia force, with a proviso that the alien group might come back later.
The humans jumped at the chance of a new colony, and established a small settlement on the banks of one of the rivers. The Personalia examined the whole planet from orbit and noted that the six cities abandoned by the alien group were all coastal cities, with one only a few hundred kilometres from the human settlement. Once the settlement started to grow and expand, the humans cast covetous eyes on the abandoned cities. Further diplomatic discussions led to trade arrangements, starting with humanity obtaining full rights to the planet in return for a number of human social inventions such as copyright of literary and visual work; and a system of patent rights; both of which were noted as being vital drivers of creativity. The Personalia were already benefitting by patenting on Earth some of their technical advances, and selling rights to these patents, so they knew this for a fact.
A railway line was built by the humans to link up with an existing railway network between the alien cities, allowing easy movement into the city, now named by the humans as Metropolis. It quickly became the administrative centre of the human colony, and new businesses developed as well. Rehome became a thriving colony, with its own minimal laws and customs aimed at a cohesive and all-inclusive society.
This was what the visitors had come to see, inspect, and give their negative opinions. They had arrived with that objective, based on preconceived ideas.
Among the dignitaries were several religious leaders, dressed in their formal robes of office. They were surprised, and perhaps shocked, to discover that apart from the wedding chapel and reception area for marriages, no Earth religion was allowed to be practised within the planet's boundaries.
Their spokesman, The Most Reverend Father Samuel Piscator was extremely offended at this situation, and told the Governor so. "My dear Governor, this cannot be allowed! You are refusing the most basic right of mankind: the right to worship the Lord."
Governor Kempe was unruffled. "Sir, you malign us. Our planet DOES have an official religion, so acts of worship are permitted, within the precepts of our religion. Our official religion is one of love towards all people, and incorporates parts of the holy works of most of the major religions of Earth in our Holy Book."
"But we have been told that we cannot conduct acts of worship while we are here on our pastoral tour. That seems to be against what you say."
"Allow me to clarify, sir. It is EARTH's organised religions that are banned, and for quite justifiable reasons. Despite the claims of being in favour of love, Earth's religious followers more often exhibit hate towards other religions. We are determined to avoid that here, so our syncretic sympathies led us to set up a single religious body, focussed on love. It is because of that spirit of love that we permit marriages to be performed in the wedding chapel by any authorised clergyman or approved celebrant; but that stops at the boundaries of that chapel. All our settlers have to agree to abide by our religious singularity before they arrive. It is a sine qua non arrangement."
"You, as a political leader, presumed to set up a religious body?"
"Indeed, sir. As you will recall, all of Earth's existing religious bodies were set up by the acts of unauthorised individuals. In our case, it was more an administrative matter. We determined, as a group, that allowing disparate religious views would end up with religious strife; so our conclusion was to avoid that by concentrating religious observance entirely on love for one another. Surely you have no objections to the concept of loving one another?"
Piscator was stuck between a rock and a hard place. "Harrumph! That may be the case, young man, but there are underlying beliefs and comprehension that we uphold, such as the sanctity of the human body and soul; but you apparently deal with machines as equals in every way. They do not have a God-given human body, so they cannot be given the same level of accord that a human merits."
This was the point where discussion of a soul was introduced. This was linked by the clergyman solely to the human shape; a point soon challenged by Bob Kempe.
The Governor displayed his horror at such a stance. "Please be careful, sir. You may justifiably argue for the existence of a soul in every human body, but if God grants a soul to others with non-human bodies, who are we to challenge that God-given soul?"
Governor Kempe saw however that he was talking to a brick wall. The clergyman was not willing to step out of his box and think the unthinkable. At the same time, Bob recognised that there was not a lot of data to support his own assumptions about the aliens who were so human-like. He decided to point out a practical fact of life.
"Of, course, Father Piscator, if you will not grant the Personalia the pleasure of having a Gog-given soul, you must perforce have nothing to do with them, apart from asking them to return you to Earth. They may, as thinking beings, souls or noi souls, elect not to do so, thus abandoning you here, where you cannot perform your religious duties without breaking the law. People who break our laws are usually banished to live alone on another part of this planet."
Piscator was outraged. "Ridiculous! I am a man of the cloth and deserve some respect."
"Exactly, sir. The Personalia are our sole means of transport between the stars, and as such also deserve our respect."
The other was tight-lipped by now.
The Governor closed the conversation down shortly afterwards, and simply reiterated the policy of Rehome. He delighted in showing them round Metropolis, emphasising how easy it had been to turn the mothballed alien structures into a human city, and how cooperative the aliens had been, due to their similarity of thinking patterns.
.... There is more of this story ...