Study Guide

Orange Is the New Black Religion

By Piper Kerman

Religion

Chapter 7
Piper Kerman

I found the religious prostrations of my saber-rattling born-again neighbors tedious. (7.3)

Piper is of the belief that you can believe what you want, but just keep it to yourself. Unlike when someone comes to your door (you can shut it in their face) or tries to proselytize to you on the street (you can tell them to shut their face), you can't get away from it in prison.

Pop and her crew pulled out all the stops for Easter dinner. (7.8)

Whether you're religious or not, there's nothing like a good holiday dinner. And in prison, the holiday dinners might be the only legit good ones you get.

There were a host of religious opportunities at Danbury: a Friday Mass for Catholics […], a Spanish Christian service on weekends; a Buddhist meditation group and also rabbinical visits on Wednesdays; and a wacky weekly nondenominational be-in led by volunteers armed with acoustic guitars and scented candles. (7.1)

There are lots of worship options in prison. It's like an all-you-can-worship buffet.

Chapter 10

Ghada was one of the handful of Muslim women I met in prison […] but it seemed that the guards frequently confiscated her head scarves. (10.9)

Okay, we take back what we said about freedom of religion: There doesn't seem to be any reason not to have a religious exemption for headwear.

Chapter 12

Every evening when she was finished with work in the kitchen, Vanessa would return to her cube, climb up in her bed, and bring out a contraband tape player, obtained somehow through the chapel. Her absolute favorite gospel song, detailing the fact that Jesus was loving, forgiving, and helping us to take every step, would soar over the cube walls. (12.24)

We're surprised the prison doesn't have some sort of regulation for loud music. Would the guards let any type of music play loud? What if it were Eminem? Or Celine Dion? Or Rebecca Black?

Chapter 15

What Gisela was describing to me was an exquisitely intimate and happy love. (15.34)

We wonder if Piper really had a conversation before with someone who was a true believer. Maybe her view on faith would have changed earlier if she had talked to someone in the outside world like she talks to Gisela in prison.

I believed that everyone should be able to practice according to their own preferences and beliefs, but an awful lot of pilgrims in prison seem to be making it up as they go along, in silly ways. (15.32)

Are people just desperate to cling onto any form of faith they can while in prison? Or does this faith run deeper?

Piper Kerman

I wasn't inclined to formal prayer, but I was less skeptical about faith than I had been when I entered prison. (15.30)

Piper starts to have a little turn-around about faith while in prison. She realizes that people have to cling to hope, wherever they find it.

Was it such a bad thing if faith helped someone understand what others needed from them, rather than just thinking about themselves? (15.36)

Piper appreciates the giving, selfless nature of religion. Which is another reason the people who play their music and preach loudly annoy her: They're doing it for themselves, not for others.

Chapter 18
Piper Kerman

"I'll tell you what, Crystal. You go to church, and I'm gonna ask you to pray for me. And this week when I go down to the gym, I'm gonna work out for you. Is that a deal?" (18.82)

We imagine that both Crystal and Piper experience similar positive effects, one through prayer, one through exercise.