Cat's Cradle: Religion and Satire
What is religion? There is no one correct answer, however, one definition that seems to cover every aspect of most established religions is, " the most comprehensive and intensive manner of valuing known to human beings" (Pecorino). In Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut takes this definition and creates his own religion in order to satirize all others. Bokononism, Vonnegut's contrived religion, is built on foma, or harmless untruths. Bokononists believe that good societies can only be built by keeping a high tension between good and evil at all times, and that there is no such thing as absolute evil (Schatt 64). They have created their own language with words such as karass, a group of people organized by God to do his work for him (Vonnegut 2), and granfalloon, a false karass (91). Kurt Vonnegut uses the Bokononist's religious scripture, The Books of Bokonon, to satirize all other holy scriptures. He also uses a Bokononist ritual, boko-maru, to mock other spiritual rituals and ceremonies. Finally, Vonnegut uses the apocalyptic ending of Cat's Cradle to scoff at many religions' beliefs in what will happen when the world ends. In Kurt Vonnegut's science fiction novel Cat's Cradle, the author uses satire to target religious themes.
The Books of Bokonon are the religious texts of Bokononism. They were originally created by two men, Lionel B. Johnson and Earl McCabe. The two men wash up on the shore of San Lorenzo, a small, corrupt, poverty-stricken island. The people, desperate for money and happiness, let the two men rule their island. However, as McCabe becomes a tyrant, the townspeople start to consider rebellion. In order to quell the people's anger, Johnson creates the religion Bokononism and writes The Books of Bokonon. In order for the religion to gain popularity, McCabe bans the religion and makes Johnson an outlaw. The idea works and the religion spreads to almost every resident of San Lorenzo. The citizens of San Lorenzo stop their threats and are happy (Schatt 62). The Books of Bokonon are a satire of other religious texts because, as nearly everyone knows, most religions have some sort of holy text. Judaism has the Torah, Christianity has the Bible, Islam has the Koran, Hinduism has the Shrutí, etc. (Wilson). Who knows who wrote these religious scriptures and why? The Books of Bokonon was written for political gain (Schatt 62). Johnson, the author, becomes a crazy, disheveled, cynical, old man while he continues to write (Vonnegut 286-287). Maybe the Torah, Bible, Koran, and Shrutí are just some ancient man's way to influence and control the masses. The Books of Bokonon are just one way in which Vonnegut satirizes religious themes.
In Cat's Cradle, the ritual boko-maru is another way Kurt Vonnegut targets religious themes. Boko-maru is a ritual that all Bokononists perform on a regular basis. They rub their bare feet together with another Bokononist almost as if they...