I recall a short story, probably 1950s, where a corporation is engaged in the manfacture of humanoid robot servants, but finds its sales dropping off due to a campaign by a hellfire preacher, who maintains that it is immoral to manufacture creatures with no souls.

They challenge him to a theological debate with one of their robots. The preacher wins, and the robot is mocked by the audience. However, the preacher butts in and reveals that he is also a robot.

Ring any bells?

  • 2
    I would have thought the opposite, that it's immoral to manufacture robots with souls. If there were any way to tell if they had them or not. What is the question they are debating, whether robots have souls, or whether it is immoral to manufacture robots without souls?
    – user14111
    May 20, 2021 at 7:55
  • I think it was on whether they had souls.
    – Mike Stone
    May 20, 2021 at 8:15
  • Was it in an anthology or a magazine?
    – user14111
    May 20, 2021 at 8:39
  • 2
    This sounds like the sort of thing Asimov would have written in his US Robots stories, but I don't recall one involving a preacher. May 20, 2021 at 10:54
  • 1
    This has some similar elements to Asimov's Evidence, where a politician is accused of being a robot, a heckler challenges him and the politician punches him (which a robot couldn't do), but the speculation/twist is that maybe he could if the heckler were also a robot.
    – GotCarter
    May 21, 2021 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


Thanks for all the suggestions, but I've found it.

It was Unknown Quantitity by Peter Phillips (aka "At No Extra Cost") first published 1949 in New Worlds #5 and anthologised elsewhere.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.