Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Why was religion important to Noah's mother in Born a Crime?

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In Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime," religion played a crucial role in his mother's life as it filled the void left by absent men, providing her with a strong sense of community and a moral framework. She attended three different churches, each fulfilling a unique spiritual need. Additionally, Christianity was adopted by many in the Black community due to colonial influences, as it was deemed more acceptable than native African religions.

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Trevor Noah explains that religion was important to his mother—and many of the women in Soweto—because it "filled the void left by absent men." In Noah's case, it was illegal for Noah's white father to marry Noah's Black mother, so she was left to raise Noah largely alone—it was not safe that anybody know who his father was.

When Noah would ask his mother if it was hard to raise a child without a husband, she would say:

Just because I live without a man doesn’t mean I’ve never had a husband. God is my husband.

Religion became a substitute for men. Religion also provided Noah's mother, grandmother, aunt, and the neighboring women with a strong sense of community. They would get together four times a week for worship and prayer, which helped them bond together and share their problems and joys.

It's also clear that Noah's mother was seeking meaning through religion as she endeavored to live a moral life. Noah says, for example, that she went to three different churches because each one fulfilled a deeply felt need for her:

The first church offered jubilant praise of the Lord. The second church offered deep analysis of the scripture, which my mom loved. The third church offered passion and catharsis; it was a place where you truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit inside you.

Noah also notes that his mother and most of the Black community were Christian because of colonialism. As he explains, following native religions was seen as superstitious to the colonizers but Christianity seemed normal, and so it was the easiest path for the colonized to take:

If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.

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