There is an idea that a language is only as successful as the people who speak it. A power base is required to spread a language, and without this power base, the language cannot exist. David Crystal, a British linguist, parallels the major languages that have existed and spread, historically. He explains that two millennium ago, Greek existed at the international language of communication in the Middle East because of the force of Alexander the Great; Latin gained its European influence because of the Roman Empire, and later, when the empire collapsed, through the power of the Catholic church; Arabic’s presence in the Middle East and northern Africa was a result of the spread of Islam thanks to the military force of the Moors in the 8th century; Spanish, Portuguese, and French were able to make their way to the Americas, Africa, and the far East because Renaissance Kings and Queens enacted policies in favor of colonization. Interestingly, these languages had the ability to grow and spread because of the powerful forces behind them.
The spread of language is similar to the spread of religion in this way. In fact, in many instances, the spread of religion and language go hand in hand. And though it is certainly easier to create and present a new religion than it is to do the same with a new language, the new religion still requires some powerful impetus to gain followers. Octavia Butler imagined new religions in Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents that only gained influence thanks to the power bases that support them. Earthseed, for example, might not have the same kind of influential power base that Jaret’s Christianity does, but the fact that Lauren and her community teach people to read, help individuals gain an education in a time when public education is virtually nonexistent, explain the necessity of refining one’s skills, and overall promote a good and stable lifestyle almost makes up for the lack of power the religion actually has. Lauren explains most of the country is illiterate, and therefore a great deal of blind faith occurs. Earthseed believers have the advantage of being able to read, write, and contribute to a community, and this gives them the opportunity to partake in a religion outside of what is considered societally normal. Moreover, though being a member of Acorn does not require belief in Earthseed, most people in the community still practice the religion anyway.
Jarret’s Christianity, on the other hand, has an extremely strong power base – politics. Jarret’s combination of political power and charisma make his religion an extremely desirable one. Furthermore, he presents his views in the right place at the right time. In a America that is crumbling, when war is inevitable and states are seceding, and violence is a commonplace occurrence, the promise of a better America and a better future is exactly what hopeless people need. It is this lack of hope that also allows his followers to overlook the bigoted and violent nature of his religion. Jarret is an obvious representation of Hitler the end of World War I, Germany was in shambles, forced to pay reparations. He calls anyone who does not believe in his cause a witch, Jarret punishes anyone who is “a Moslem, a Jew, a Hundu, a Buddhist, or, in some parts of the country a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Catholic” (23). This programs that incarcerate individuals who do not practice his own version of Christianity are vicious and inhumane, yet he articulates his views “in a mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear” (24). It is the enormous power base that Jarret possesses that allow his religion to succeed.
Historically, languages, peoples, and religions ultimately dissolve. English did not always have the international prowess that it does today, and other languages had to lose their position in the world to make room for new ones. Cultural systems grow, change, adapt, and sometimes, die. As The Book of the Living states, “God is Change, and in the end, God prevails” (47). In the end, the Earthseed believers are able to escape. In the end, Earthseed is able to live on, with the possibility of being spread to new worlds.
Today, in our own world, SolSeed is a religion that people practice based on the tenets of Earthseed. Chances are, SolSeed will never be anything more than a minority religion, but even still, it valuable that religions can exist and spread, both working with and competing against majority religions.