In the second half of Part Five of Red Mars, the concept of the Martian colonists adopting a planetary wide religion is explored once again, as John interacts with, and comes to love the religion of the Sufis. Religion has not existed on Mars to this point as an organized or widely accepted part of life. There are pockets here and there worshipping what they will, but the entire Martian colony has been slow to adopt any belief system. John is enthralled with the dance of the Sufis and their worship of the planet. Religion has great power in that it can be used as a uniting force to bring together disparate peoples. It is unknown if John values the religion for it’s uniting power or if he truly identifies with the belief system. It is in this way that religions can prove dangerous as well, as men who crave power can use it to their advantage in order to institute control over large populations. John doesn’t seem interested in such an idea, but it is easy to see how a man like Frank, John’s eventual killer, would be enamored with the power that could come with putting himself at the head of such a religion.
To this point life on Mars has seemed harmonious enough, with little in the way of conflict or violence among the colonists. However, once religion is introduced into the equation there, it is unknown if the colony will take one of violence or serenity. History seems to support the former, as with the rise of any religion, offshoots are a common development. From there, it is only a matter of time until one sect of the religion deviates from the main body and begins establishing itself as it’s own entity. Once this happens conflict is sure to follow, as the two denounce the other repeatedly in an attempt to sway the greater majority of people. After this religious wars can follow, bloody affairs in which the followers of each selective group kill each other for not believing in their chosen religion.
Mars is a world rife with potential, but it has not been exposed to a great many variables yet. It has hummed along like a machine, with everyone there looking to achieve set goals, particularly to make Mars livable for future generations of humans. The times are changing however, and many of the colonists are looking for something to believe in beyond just the mission that they were sent there for. Mars is evolving, slowly becoming more and more similar to the Earth that the colonists left behind. On it’s current course Mars figures to be a multi religious and ethnic planet with thousands of different cultures and ideas. It remains to be seen however if this will prove for the betterment or the detriment of the planet and the burgeoning civilization there.