Octavia Butler in her ingenious work “Parable of the Sower” introduces the concept of religion in an apocalyptic disintegrated world through her protagonist, Lauren. The society of looming darkness in the novel is already crumbling because there is no hope of striving except the ideology of religion for the survivors on Earth. However, many of the characters including Lauren who have faith in a better life see the ideology of religion as the only hope in the dying apocalyptic society. Butler through the characters of Lauren and her father represents the character development, religious differences, and lifestyle choices among believers and non-believers. This article emphasizes the religious differences Lauren and her father share and how the ideology of religion as a driving force pushes humans beyond their boundaries to rebuild the world.
In the very beginning of the “Parable of Sower,” Lauren in a secluded community begins to inquire about the idea and principles of God, unable to leave the walls, she is stranded in because of the dangers in the outside world. Her relationship with God and religion sprouts from the knowledge that comes from the teachings of the Church because her father Reverend Olamina who is a preacher sees religion as the important element in his family life. He as a pastor strives to set the religious code within his community to separate his people from the savages. He has instilled his Christian values and beliefs upon Lauren to help her develop good morals within herself but she abandons his beliefs and begins to inquire about the ideas taught to her.
From a very early start, she devotes herself to a self-developed belief “God is change” through her personal religious ideology which she has given the name “Earthseed” an entirely different religious notion from her father’s. Her statement at the beginning of chapter 2 “My father’s God stopped being my God” reveals the fact that she has abandoned her father’s religious values three years ago. However, she is still subjected to her father’s Christian beliefs as she states in her diary that she has let her “father baptize me to all three names of God” and also adds that “God isn’t mine anymore” ultimately makes the argument that she wants to “change the God” or wants her perceived God to “change the world.” This might be due to her condition of hyperempathy as she feels the pain of the world and the people around her therefore wants God to pick up the pieces of the broken world and rebuild the universe.
Moreover, Butler throughout the 5 chapters has not depicted why Lauren abandons Christianity and why she has not become an atheist instead she adopts her own source of reasoning based on her hyperempathy to make Earthseed a savior for humanity. She believes that Christian values provide a false sense of hope to the people striving against the brutal reality of the world. In contrast, she shares the central principle of her Earthseed “God is change” to depict that change is inevitable so instead of praying for mercy from God, people should seek ways to change the world themselves. She unlike the characters in the story does not accept the faith of the Earth and keeps striving to improve the quality of life for people through Earthseed. Lauren’s brother, Keith Olamina, on the other hand, fits the theme of atheism or non-believers as he believes God’s way as an “adults’ way” so that people can scare others “into doing what they want.” The beginning of chapter 3 through a poem precedes that Earthseed’s followers do not need to “worship” God instead the victims of God need to find the power to “shape” the God to address change and hope in the world.
In short, Lauren’s Earthseed belief system wants followers to be the seeds that can carry the world and humanity to wherever life takes them through “change” and “constant growth” for creating an ideal world to save humanity from chaos. In addition, her religious belief offers the hope and motivation to make up a reason for the followers to keep on living in the near future and also a warning to the dying humanity.
Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. Grand Central Publishing, 2019.