I truly don’t know if human beings need religions or ideologies, but history seems to indicate that we do. Every time a culture attempts to base its social values on entirely non-spiritual things, that very agnostic value-system becomes a new religion.
People from England, France, Germany, etc. migrated to North and South America and to Australia in order to practice religions that were banned or looked down upon in Europe. Once they got to the New World, some of them started religions that did not harmonize with the social mores of their neighbors. Animal sacrifice, child marriage, and polygamy were three of the customs sanctioned by various religions that caused them to be ostracized. So the devotees moved further west, into less populated territory.
I think this will happen when humans begin to migrate to the moon and Mars. I don’t discuss this much in Mars Girls, although I’m building another novel (Isidis Rising) where dissidents sequester themselves in a Martian enclave.
Another source of new religion on Mars will be the ideology of human diaspora: the idea that human beings should propagate throughout the universe. This isn’t a new idea; many science fiction fans are drawn to the idea expressed by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.” You could call space colonization a religion. It’s certainly the closest thing to a religion that I personally have.
I play around with this idea of humans having a spiritual duty to populate the universe by crossing it with the concepts of Richard C. Hoagland, who in A Mars Cat and his Boy (forthcoming) is considered a saint or even Messiah by the Facers. They believe that Hoagland discovered a series of clues in the Cydonia landscape on Mars pointing to an exoplanet which is the true home of humanity. They believe that they must build a generation starship and colonize (or re-colonize) this exoplanet.
My Facers wear red robes over their environment suits, and on their foreheads they wear a “face-bindi” bioactive replica of the Face on Mars, which changes expression capriciously. They believe all people should be fertile and reproduce as much as possible. They have no sanctions against any type of sex as long as it leads to making babies, or at least doesn’t prevent it. Homosexuality is perfectly fine with them, they say, except that individuals, regardless of their orientation, are obliged to have heterosex at least once a month.
The Facers’ drive toward fertility tries to make up for the fact that many of their children contract leukemia from cosmic rays because Mars has no shielding magnetic field. (This plays a role in Mars Girls, too, but in an oblique way.)
The Facers mostly live in The Citadel, which is located near the Face on Mars and some pyramids which devotees believe they can see.
Another religion is a hybrid between conservative Catholicism and Mormonism. Both groups sent a mission to Mars to convert the Red Planet. They happened to occupy berths in the same Aldrin Cycler (an asteroid conceived by the charismatic astronaut Buzz Aldrin which carries humans from Earth to Mars and also back again). When their lander crashes, they live in close quarters and try to proselytize each other. The result is that the Mormon women eventually convince the Jesuits to give up their vows of chastity and marry them. The resultant sect sends cheerful missionaries all over Mars to save the souls of Martian colonists. They particularly like cookies made out of chlorella, so most Pharmers bake up a batch when expecting Jesuit-Mormon missionaries — which could be anytime.
(Incidentally, I am told that chlorella tastes awful. But I don’t know that for a fact.)
Another ideology on my Mars is the Land Ethic Nomads. These are extreme environmentalists who are attempting to keep Mars in its pristine, pre-human state. Their basic philosophy is that there might be life hidden somewhere in Martian subsurface water, and it would be tragic to destroy it, or to never know if it is simply a terrestrial hitchhiker. This is actually based on a spirited exchange of views I had with Dr. Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society, a brilliant visionary whose ideas and work are very much at the heart of my own work.
Anyway, the Land Ethic Nomads are comprised of people who have been born on Mars and believe humanity should not deface the planet with our own biology, plus people who have traveled to Mars for the express purpose of convincing all the colonists to destroy and sterilize their habitats and return to Earth.
In a way, I guess some of the people on Mars worship money. Nanoannie’s parents are so motivated by the desire to become wealthy through their research that they change their names to terms for various currency, such as Escudo and Krona.
So, there you have it. Mars Girls is definitely about what it’s like to be born and live on Mars, but it’s also about the social forces and the spiritual ideas that drive Martian culture. There’s more there; it’s a story about two girls with very different personalities who are caught in a dangerous web and escape through their own ingenuity.
I had a ball writing it and playing all these ideas against each other. Realize, please, that these religious ideas are just in the background. The real story is about Kapera and Nanoannie, two feisty girls with definite ideas about how they will fight and strive and survive. And triumph.