Bokononism is a fictional religion practiced by many of the characters in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Cat’s Cradle.’ It is based on the concept of ‘foma,’ which are defined as harmless untruths. The primary tenet of Bokononism is to ‘Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.’

Many of the sacred texts of Bokononism were written in the form of calypsos. The foundation of Bokononism is that all religion, including Bokononism and all its texts, is formed entirely of lies; however, one who believes and adheres to these lies will at least have peace of mind, and perhaps live a good life.

Bokonon, a character in the novel, is the founder of the religion. He was born Lionel Boyd Johnson and attended the London School of Economics and Political Science, only for his education to be cut short by World War I. ‘Bokonon’ was the way the natives of San Lorenzo, the fictional Caribbean island-nation where the shipwrecked Johnson started his religion, pronounced his family name in their unique dialect of English.

Bokonon established Bokononism with Earl McCabe, his partner in ruling the island, when all the duo’s efforts to raise the standard of living on the island failed, as a means to help the poor islanders escape their miserable reality by practicing a simple religion. Arranging with McCabe that Bokononism be outlawed and eternally persecuted by the government, he went to live in the jungle, supposedly hiding, thus trying to lure the population into Bokononism as a kind of forbidden fruit.


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