Cults & Sects
Published in

Cults & Sects

from Butler’s notebooks

parable of the sower (2)

god is change

Lauren Oya Olamina on the road, from her father’s funeral service to the founding of Acorn.

What we’re reading

  • Butler, Parable of the Sower, chapters 13–24

Discussion prompts

There are more specific questions below, but my biggest questions are:

  • what did y’all think of this book?
  • if Parable of the Sower were your only example of how new religions came into being, how would you describe the process? What are the characteristics of an NRM if we use Earthseed as our template?


I did a whole thread about Butler, Sower, and the space between Afrofuturity and hope on twitter.

Parable of the Sower, chapters 13–24

Olamina’s understanding of Earthseed doesn’t change much once she’s forced to leave her home. But she does start sharing her understanding with her fellow travelers. How does she introduce her companions to Earthseed? Why does she approach sharing Earthseed the way(s) she does?

What kind of conversions — if we can call them that — does Olamina inspire? Who joins, and how to folks come to join Earthseed? Do all the converts accept everything about Olamina’s vision?

Bankole frequently insists that Earthseed is too simple to be a religion. And the core of Earthseed is deceptively simple: God is change. What does Olamina mean when she says God is change?

At its root, religion is a way that helps people make sense of their world and provides directions for how to live and what happens after. How does Earthseed explain the companions’ current plight, and what does Earthseed think they should build — or shape — toward? How does one do Earthseed?

“We are a harvest of survivors.”

(Butler 2000, 295)

Parable of the Sower is Earthseed’s origin story, from Lauren Oya Olamina’s notebooks — reminiscent of Butler’s own — to the founding of Acorn. What’s Olamina’s vision for Acorn? What act brings Acorn into being?

We’re going to refer back to this novel often, as Butler has given us such a strong foundation for understanding the ways new religion take shape. I know the subject material is challenging; thank you for sticking with it. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

But I also told you not to ask questions without offering possible answers, so here’s my take on the rest of Sower:



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Megan Goodwin

Megan Goodwin

author of _Abusing Religion_, co-host of “Keeping It 101: A Killjoy’s Introduction to Religion Podcast,” and wikipedia-certified expert on (ugh) cults