We liked to tell ourselves stories about visitors from outer space. In these stories, the aliens often seemed superior, only to lead up to the conclusion that humans were still their betters in some unexpected way. In our vanity, we granted ourselves attributes that made sure we would come out on top of the conflict. Be it our greater courage, diplomatic genius, resistance to nihilistic philosophy, or even just things like pure barbarian vigor or resistance to disease, we humans would always have an ace up the sleeve.
We told ourselves those stories right up until the day we no longer needed fiction, because They had finally arrived. When the aliens declared that they had come to take custody of us and our planet, putting an end to our rape of Earth, to our oppression of our own kind and to us being depraved monsters in general, a few of us cowered in fear and some hippies rejoiced. Most of humanity, however, said
No, thank you and confidently tried to kick them out.
And so it was war. But our stories had been wrong, so wrong. They had no flaws, at all. Of course they were technologically superior. That was to be expected from a civilization that could cross the void between the stars. But they let us know that this was so despite us having had a head start: They had invented the wheel a mere 500 years ago. Each of them was a super genius, by Terran standards. A consequence of that was that their strategic thinking could pull off feats we thought impossible. They somehow managed to make coordinated operations without any central command. Furthermore, they did not entirely rely on technology in their fighting against us. Their code of honor suggested (suggested, not required, as it was rather flexible) that they do not use weapons against a defenseless opponent. Not that it made any difference. They bested us in hand to hand combat with ease, all the while managing to look not like biological tanks, but rather like angelic beings of pure beauty, both in shape and in movement. They put a cat to shame with their elegance, and a honey badger with their ferocity, taking on dozens of human fighters single-handedly. Yet they kept the moral high ground, avoiding to kill or even seriously hurt us whenever possible.
Stubborn as we were, our leaders only considered capitulation when 90 percent of Earth were no longer under human control. I had been chosen to be a part of the human delegation that negotiated our surrender. When it was over and the treaties had been signed, I found some time to talk to a delegate of the other side in private. His name was Yaloaihuwiu Trltspygzr and he had given me the impression of being rather approachable on a personal level. There had been a question burning in my mind, and I just had to ask it:
It was very kind of you to do us the honor of discussing the terms of our future coexistence. I know you didn't have to do this, you could just have kept conquering us and then you could have dictated those terms. How come you have this much respect for us?
Trltspygzr responded immediately, apparently without thinking first what to say:
You are the first human who does not take our respect for granted. You are right to wonder about this, as we certainly did not have any respect for you when we came here
So, what changed your mind? I wondered.
We have analyzed your historical records and found that a little over 2000 years ago, you killed God. Of course it was not permanent. But still, to even attempt such a thing…
Wait a second, I interrupted.
Surely you don’t take these texts at face value? I'm sure almost none of our scholars do.
Yours is not the first generation trying to lessen the impact of these reports, Trltspygzr chided me.
In the past, you have claimed that he whom you killed wasn't really God, or that his mode of existence wasn't really corporeal so you didn't actually kill him, or that you by accident killed someone else. But we see right through your feeble attempts to veil the truth. You should know that unlike your science of history, ours is an exact science. We calculate a 99.6 percent probability that the accounts given in your bible about this incident point to historical fact, as opposed to any of the other versions floating around.
I didn't dare to voice doubt about the exactness of an approach to history developed by a race of supergeniuses. I would look into that later in more detail, as it had certainly piqued my interest. But for now, I decided to assume just for the sake of argument he was right. Besides, for the thing I wanted to know, it did not matter what was true, only what they thought to be true. So I continued where I had interrupted him:
OK then. We have killed God. Do you respect us then because we are such badass bastards?
There's nothing badass about murdering God, or really anyone, when he has made himself vulnerable. That's just nasty and mean. And we already knew you were nasty bastards before we invaded. In fact, it was our main reason.
That hurt. Apparently I had again fallen into the trap of thinking humans were oh so great. Say what you want about our custodians' haughtiness, I for one have grown to see it as quite justified, now even more than back then. So I asked, a little more meekly:
If this is how you think about us, then I'm out of ideas why you should have any respect for us.
Trltspygzr actually smiled now.
I was about to tell you, but you had to interrupt. See, what awes us about you is not to be found within yourselves. Think about it. Just that you still exist, after all you've done and despite of what you are like… No, what fills us with respect for you is the fact that God still loves you, no matter what.