Is honesty the best policy even if the truth disturbs many people? Kurt Vonnegut bluntly relays his opinion on the war between science and religion and other controversial topics concerning life though his novel, Cat’s Cradle. Consequently, it was banned by the Ohio School Board in 1972, but “without stating an official reason”(Indianapolis Monthly). The debunking of the validity of religious and scientific beliefs, along with the harsh truth embedded within his work has earned Vonnegut a spot on the controversial “Banned Books” list. He addresses the ongoing war between science and religion by blatantly stating that both are faulty.
Throughout Cat’s Cradle, the author claims that religion is based on lies that people wish to believe. On the other hand, he attacks science by asserting that the more advanced technology becomes, the faster and closer we move to self-destruction. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, though straightforward and relentless, merely states his opinion of uncomfortable topics that contravene with the mass ideology, but should not have been banned. At least in high school, students should be educated on satire and are then capable of observing the context of Cat’s Cradle with minimal offense. Understanding Vonnegut’s writing is not a challenge.
His straightforward composition allows many people to comprehend his message. But, since his novel is largely satire, a significant amount of people do not understand the sarcastic tone of this criticism. Satire requires a certain level of education which some people can recognize. As a result of the multiple misunderstood presentations of worldwide topics, Vonnegut’s work was banned for being, “garbage” and “sick. ” He states that religion is based on lies and science leads to destruction which hits on the beliefs of the majority of the society. (ADD EXAMPLES FROM TEXT “everything in this book is a lie”)
In isgust and fear of enraging many people, this novel was banned for merely stating his opinion. Strong beliefs paired with the incapability to understand satire caused an uproar, which is most likely the underlying reason Cat’s Cradle was banned. Vonnegut portrays a very straightforward yet relevant nature. One major theme in his novel is that science and technology will lead to self-destruction. In modern society, technology is making great leaps and has become one of the most prominent aspects in people’s lives. This makes his message about the correlation between advancements in technology much more relevant.
The constant talk of death and destruction may upset people, hence another reason to ban this book, but the aptness of this topic is important. Historically, the destruction technology brings is reflected in the Cold War. The creation of the atomic bomb lead to the devastation of an extensive amount of Japanese territory in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One bomb alone can completely obliterate a city and the innocent people living in it. “The detonation of a nuclear weapon unleashes tremendous destruction,” and lives such as the ones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki(How Stuff Works).
Hiroshima’s population plummeted to 83,000 after the bomb was dropped then steadily rose back to 169,000 in February of 1946(Atomic Bomb Museum). The devastation of just that one city foreshadows the mass destruction that the fast advancements in technology could potentially cause. The relevance of growing technology and science is not limited to the Cold War. When textile factories became the main mode of work in the middle class, the long hours and dirty, cramped spaces nearly killed many workers and children. Vonnegut speaks on the dangers of growing technology which is becoming a more prominent danger in our society.
Adding onto the relevancy of his novel, his nihilistic view is not completely off the mark. People like to feel in control, so they will believe what they want to make their world more stable. According to Van Prooijin “… if people feel they don’t have control over a situation, they’ll try to make sense of it and find out what happened. The sense-making leads them to connect dots that aren’t necessarily connected in reality” (Conspiracy Theories). In this sense, are they really believing in anything other than themselves? Do we create our own reality?
Science has concrete evidence, but religion has faith and a God that watches over and acts as an anchor in one’s life. Both science and religion have their merits which one believes in and lives by, but at the same time they both lead to pseudo security and reach for some intangible result that may never come. Similarly, the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapman reflects a goal that is never reached because of selfish blindness. In this light, Vonnegut’s blunt nihilism is not something to be rejected but observed by both high school students and adults. Another widely observed topic for many countries is the concept of religion.
Vonnegut debunks the nature of all religions. Unlike science, religion has no concrete evidence other than the Bible and the word of God. Many faithful people would argue that Cat’s Cradle should be banned because it contravenes with God’s wish for his people to love him like he loves us. But, it is important to expose students to more than one perspective in order for them to develop their own. The level of dedication and faith one has in their religion will vary directly with the number of protests against this book; the more faithful, the more rigorous the protest.
A current and relevant example of this is ISIS and their attacks on the United States. ISIS believes that the end of the world is coming and that they must follow God’s word and do what he says in order to follow through with His plan for the Earth. They await for, “the army of ‘Rome,” or the West to be defeated which, “will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse”(The Atlantic). Since the Islamic State strongly believes that the apocalypse is coming and that they must support the Lord’s wish, they must provoke the West in order for it to work.
The subject of religion is sensitive and Kurt Vonnegut recognized that he could utilize this sensitivity by satirizing the conflict between science and religion to prove that any form of pure truth can be destructive. The manner in which Cat’s Cradle attacks brutal truths is not limited to religion and science. He also explores the reality of inevitable death. Vonnegut reminds the reader that we are all going to die sometime whether it is meaningful or not. Similarly, the thanatopsis of Virginia Woolf, “The Death of the Moth” comments on the inescapable death by writing, “death is stronger than I am”(Woolf).
Like Woolf’s piece, Cat’s Cradle highlights the inevitable death and the struggles of life that end with death. In the thanatopsis, the moth so desperately in an attempt to escape the enclosure of the window and humans struggle to find a better life before death. These blunt truths and unorthodox opinions have also contributed to this novel being banned. Death is all around us. It is a natural and necessary truth that should not be negatively thought upon. Though it is sad and depressing, it is not all bad. Without death life would not succeed.
Vonnegut’s appropriate use of satire contributes a valid and effective form of criticism. In conclusion, Kurt Vonnegut discusses the conflict between science and religion and other controversial truths. He conveys the theme that the truth can be cruel and portrays this through his own satire and blunt opinions on sensitive subjects. In his novel, he primarily targets the ongoing battle of science and religion by stating that they are both flawed in one way or another. Both are ways in which people seek the truth by using various techniques and both are feared.
For his matter-of-fact tone and satirical criticism, multiple school boards have found this book utterly terrible and sickly. In reality, his novel itself and the way it was written provides a deeper understanding for his theme of false truths. The opening lines of the book state that nothing is true within this book therefore supporting his claim that the truth is a deception. Vonnegut’s novel, Cat’s Cradle, was banned for unfair and unjustified reasons when in fact, it is a well written novel which purposefully satirizes the contrast between science and religion.