Although Mathabane takes his mother’s side on most things, he completely disagrees with her about religion. His mother is now a devout Christian, but Mathabane considers Christianity abusive and exploitative and resents the way it makes black people content to accept their fate rather than fight for a better life. Still, Mathabane thinks some higher power must exist. He often shares his antagonism toward Christianity with a migrant worker named Limela, who rages against the religion as a “clever ploy though which whites [seek] to keep blacks forever slaves.”
Mathabane’s belief that Christianity makes people weak, content to suffer their lot rather than fight for change, echoes his father’s tribal teaching that he has no free will. Although Mathabane’s view of Christianity slowly changes, it is worth pointing out that his current criticisms are true—the apartheid government often uses Christianity as an exploitative tool to uphold its regime.
One evening, while Mathabane is sitting with Limela in his shack, a preacher and one his followers invite themselves in. Limela furiously argues with them. Mathabane enjoys the conflict and joins in, charging that the Bible is only “speculation.” When the preacher tells Mathabane he’ll burn in hell for blasphemy, Mathabane counters that his life already is a hell, so one more won’t make a difference. Limela cheers him on. When they finally argue the priest away, he leaves a few religious pamphlets for them to read. Mathabane and Limela make a fire of them in the yard.
Though cynical, Mathabane’s argument rightly suggests that for people who suffer hellish conditions on Earth—as he already has—the threat of another hell holds far less significance than for a white person who has known peace and comfort all of his or her life. Threatening pain and suffering against someone whose whole life has been pain and suffering has little effect.