The Topics Of Religion and Science In Cat’s Cradle

Categories: Kurt Vonnegut Plot

Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle continuously brings up the topics of religion and science to compare them in how they create character schemes and plot development. He does so by comparing literal truths in the world versus abstract truths and tries the best to keep humanity intact but finds out it’s too late.

Science in Cat’s Cradle is used to find the truth but is also the most heavily criticized because of how it goes about finding answers. Vonnegut dislikes the idea that truth is mainly for good.

He views the world as obsessed with personal gain due to the fact of materialism winning over what is necessary for survival. For example the bartender talking about how protein was a literal necessity for survival. Later in the text Vonnegut introduces Felix Hoeniker’s invention “ice-nine” for the marines to get out of the mud. Its first purpose was to freeze any liquid it comes into contact with. But Felix soon realizes its alternate purpose could be destructive to nations across the world by leaving them without resources, condemning them to death.

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Another example is the multitude of Hoenikker Experiments, with Felix having ice-nine and Frank in his hobby shop and his bug fights. Vonnegut soon presents that knowledge in science won’t always bring answers in a humane way. But with their discoveries come along with consequences because they want to find the truth. This can be unsettling to many due to the fact that science can help humanity but at the same time can harm or destroy the world.

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When Felix started his experiments on “ice-nine” he expressed how he didn’t care about the repercussions on humanity of his “weapon”. This shows a downfall in science when Felix’s “ice-nine” would later on lead to the end of humanity as they knew it. But unfortunately he passed, leaving the fate of the world to his three children (Frank, Newt and Angela) after his death. This leads to the end because the children couldn’t contain the truth of how powerful ice-nine was to the world.

Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle introduces religion as being as powerful as science but less dangerous because you can find truth in religion but as a foma. In Cat’s Cradle Vonnegut states that religion is made up of harmless lies to believe because men need to think they are doing right. With Bokonon’s lies prove more elaborate than the Hoenikkers’ because religion allows men to feel good and feel pleased for what they believe in.

A central idea of Vonnegut’s religion is that you have to find your own purpose in life because if you don’t follow or achieve it you won’t find happiness or satisfaction. Bokononism provides its followers with more complex lies around every corner to keep them from seeing the literal truth, which is that life is brutal and short. This happens on the little island of San Lorenzo; the occupants of the island believe the lies which give Bokonon the power he needs. He tells them that even though they are suffering they are gaining the experience they need.

But by the end of the book Vonnegut doesn’t make it picture clear to the audience if it was really worth finding the literal truth if the world had to end to find it. When the abstract truth could have possibly prevented the ending but this was how Jonah wanted his own book to end.

Updated: Feb 28, 2024
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The Topics Of Religion and Science In Cat’s Cradle. (2024, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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