Berry their own like many others have done.

Berry Washington

Prof. Sloan Davis

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What
is the true Religion?

         In his satirical novel, Vonnegut persuades
his readers to recognize human desire for ethical and moral guidance, peoples’
need to believe in something larger than themselves, and the use for religion
to structure the life of people have been looked at and adapted since the early
Egyptian times where beliefs that man where created to work for the gods. Kurt
Vonnegut’s fictional novel Cat’s Cradle indirectly explores issues that
parallels into topics such as religion, political power and much more. Over many
centuries there has been different cultural religion advancements and for this
each country adapted a religion in their own region and multiple religions has
been invented. All of them sharing some of the same values, standards, patterns,
and even beliefs that a higher power will look over them and prove safety,
wealth, and this would be the only way to afterlife but there are many myths
regarding whose god was the one and truly god (religion in ancient world).      

           Vonnegut’s novel is narrated by a
character named Jonah (John). Jonah sets out to write an anthropological book
based off of what key people were doing on the day that the atomic bomb was
dropped on Hiroshima and on his quest John discovers another religion.
Throughout Vonnegut’s novel by him creating a false religion you can clearly
say he do not believe in any one religion and that one can start their own like
many others have done. In Vonnegut’s novel, readers notice that there are
numerous religious references such as names and terms throughout it. In the
opening of the novel, it can already be seen. Vonnegut starts his novel off
with the narrator introducing himself “Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly
did. They called me John.” (Vonnegut 1). From this opening line readers can
already see a biblical reference, that reference being “Jonah”. The name Jonah
derives from the Hebrew bible, meaning “dove” it’s known to be the name of a
prophet who disobeyed God he was to deliver bad news. It’s ironic that Vonnegut
choose to name this character the same as the prophet that was sent to an
island to see the devastation of this island and be there when the day of the
world end like in the bible verse (2 king 14:25).  Already early on in the novel it can be seen
that a parallel between religion and the post-war world which the story take
place in are intertwining. It can be assumed that by the author uses of the
reference Jonah, a disobedient prophet of god, which the novel also revolves
around the theme of deception among people in society. Deception implicated
among people shows a weakness and distrust in their religion and to be one with
faith you have to be one with your religious life.

          Vonnegut deals a lot with fantasy in his
book, Cat’s Cradle. From the beginning, he talks about the religion that he
follows: Bokonism. The oldest religion to be recognized in the ancient
centuries and still practiced today was Hinduism which I believe Vonnegut got
the name Bokonism from. This is not a real religion; however, he has rules,
songs, scriptures, and opinions of a person that practices this fantasy
religion. Within his description of this religion however is black humor as
well. I think that by him making up this whole religion and an entire island of
people who follow it, is in a way mocking today’s religion and the way that
people are dedicated to their beliefs. 
        This Bokonism is basically
telling the religious believer that everything that they read or hear is a lie,
is built on foma, or harmless untruths, and that they need to think for
themselves. I think one of the greatest parts that shows black humor is where
Bokonon arrives on land, completely naked, and has a revelation. “A fish
pitched up by the angry sea, I gasped on land, And I became me.” From
this passage there again, Vonnegut use similarities from the Holy Bible with
this character; in the Bible Johan was swallowed up by a big fish after god
casted him overboard because he disobeyed Gods order and was later spit out on
land just like this character who arrived to the island but only he took over
and began his own religion.  Johan tried
to escape god because he did not want to deliver bad new to the people of Ninevites
which later in the chapter verse God does spare their lives. In the Bible,
Johan set up camp and waited to see what was going to happen to the people.
Johan got upset because he wanted God to destroy them the people (Holy Bible).

    Vonnegut
does add a twist in the novel from the Bible Verse because Johan does get to
witness the devastation of this island. 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 (Vonnegut 47). The religion of
Bokonon sets up a good vs evil mentality. The people of San Lorenzo seem to
enjoy this game because it aligns them with the side of good. 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), the word karass I believe originated
from the word karma in Hinduism which meant in the performance of that duty,
and granfalloon, a false karass a group of people who imagine they have a
connection that does not really exist. An example is “Hoosiers”; which
are people from Indiana, and Hoosiers have no true spiritual destiny in common,
so really share little more than a name. (91). Kurt Vonnegut uses the
Bokononist’s religious scripture, The Books of Bokonon, to satirize all other
holy scriptures and The Holy Bible which is full of different book within. He
also uses a Bokononist ritual, boko-maru, the supreme act of worship of the
Bokononists, which is an intimate act consisting of prolonged physical contact
between the naked soles of the feet of two persons to mock other spiritual
rituals and ceremonies. Also vin-dit, a sudden shove in the direction of
Bokononism in any Christian religion people do not force nor shove another into
a religion; Christians want a person to give themselves to religion; it’s a
great honor and one should not be forced into salvation but it should be
embraced. 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.
      Also, it very interesting how it
was illegal to practice Bokonism, yet everyone on the island, including Papa
practices it. It’s almost as if Vonnegut is
trying to tell us how other religions are
practicing religion but not living by the rules to which the public cannot see
you embrace your faith. Christian religions teach their members’ that living by
the bible is the way to a noble life and anything less would be against morals.
On the island the people could not show nor practice their religion which goes
against human morals and religious aspects if a person was to speak on the
religion are practices they would be subject to punishment and to make sure
that everyone would follow this rule they made up the irony that people would
get the hook as the symbolic way for law. Vonnegut also, posted signs around
the island in the novel to my sure that the people in San Lorezono would not be
caught practicing Bokononism one of those sign said ” This is a Christian
Nation all foot play will be punished by the hook” (Vonnegut 61).
       Vonnegut also deals a lot with
surrealism. It was funny how he made everything in Johns life sort of just fit
together, like it was meant to happen. Like the Bokonon worshipers, they
believed that everyone fit in a karass and all followed a similar
life plan, rotated in, out and around each other. For example, Jonah went
on a plan to find Frank Hoenikker, and who does he sit next to, but the senator
who is reading a book written by the man who own the hotel (Phillip Castle) who
is a Bokononist, and in love with the woman who will soon be Jonah wife giving
to him by Frank Hoenikker as an incentive that John will be the next president.
And there was Hazel who said “the thing I like is that they all speak English
and they’re all Christian. That makes things so much eaiser”(Vonnegut 43). Of
course, the irony is that San Lorenzo isn’t a Christian country at all. But
since Hazel doesn’t know that, she feels completely comfortable there. It’s her
personal illusion covering the reality of the situation.

       Vonnegut in a contemporary world where
conventional religions no longer offer people a sense of community or spiritual
fulfillment. People create new morals and religious structures to give their
lives meaning. Religious participation and the strength of religious belief in
a given society is a function of the ability of national religious institutions
to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of their citizens. New religions and
modern society emerge from symbolic images and the moral principles the church
is trying to uphold. For this reason people will conduct their life according
to a specific religion, religious participation is for the member to practice.
The adaptation of religion is a standard and a transformation of one’s self
which requires a degree of people to follow and practice but not imposed or
pressured on the believers not only to follow particular morals but hold
themselves to a higher standard. At the ending of the novel Cats Cradle Vonnegut let the character
John and Mona find a note after the people were kicked saying “To Whom it may
concern: These people around you are almost all of the survivors on San Lorenzo
of the winds that followed the freezing of the sea. These people made a captive
of the spurious holy man named Bokonon. They brought him here, placed him at
their center, and commanded him to tell them exactly what God Almighty was up
to and what they should now do. The mountebank told them that God was surely
trying to kill them, possibly because he was through with them, and that they should
have the good manner to die. This as you can see, they did” (Vonnegut 120). And
now for the darker side of religion. Although most of the novel discusses how
religion can be a good, decent thing, this section shows you the power religion
have over people.

        Religion is Universal with many
different people; Vonnegut say the use of state religion as part of the social
development is wrong, and that some states have political interest over the
churches. Churches and religion play a major role in social status and for
social solidarity where the church would provide welfare for the local
communities.   

    In conclusion Vonnegut shows how anyone can
believe in things like religion and that people join a religion to fit into
society. And religion can help bring peace within a community if everyone
believes or share in the same values. But on the other hand, what is the true
religion? Every culture believe that they have the one and true religion and
they say it the way but nobody can say their religion is so there are many
religions around and one can choose what to practice and they should not be
told they are not a believer.

 

 

Work
cited

Book of Jonah. Wikipedia,
Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Dec. 2017,

Gideons
International. The Holy Bible : Containing the Old and New Testaments ;
Translated Out of the Original Tongues and with the Former Translations
Diligently Compared and Revised ; Commonly Known As the Authorized (King James)
Version. Nashville, Tenn., Gideons International, 1978.

 Religion in the Ancient World. Ancient History
Encyclopedia,

Vonnegut, Kurt. Cat’s
Cradle. New York, N.Y.: ELL PUBLISHING CO.,            1963.
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