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Cult of Reason and Robespierre

Continued from Exploring Deism Its Origins and History

Summery:

The Cult of Reason (culte de la Raison 1792-94) was a creed based on atheism devised during the French Revolution. It was stopped by Maximilien Robespierre, a Deist, who instituted the Cult of the Supreme Being. Both of these cults were the outcome of the "de-Christianization" of French society during the Revolution and part of the Reign of Terror. Several Parisian churches were transformed into Temples of Reason, notably the Church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis in the Marais. The churches were closed in May 1793 and more securely, 24 November 1793, when the Catholic Mass was forbidden. Notre Dame of Strasbourg was turned into a Temple of Reason.

The Cult of Reason was celebrated in a carnival atmosphere of parades, ransacking of churches, ceremonious iconoclasm, in which religious and royal images were defaced, and ceremonies which substituted the "martyrs of the Revolution" for Christian martyrs. Others devised and organized the Cult of Reason centered upon a young woman designated the Goddess of Reason. (Extract Wiki)

Deist Maximilien Francois Marie Isidore de Robespierre (6 May 1758 - 28 July 1794) is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.

Robespierre was influenced by 18th century Enlightenment philosophes such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu, and he was a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie. His supporters called him "The Incorruptible", while his adversaries called him the "Tyrant" and bloodthirsty dictator.






The Cult of Reason (culte de la Raison 1792-94) was a creed based on atheism devised during the French Revolution. It was stopped by Maximilien Robespierre, a Deist, who instituted the Cult of the Supreme Being. Both of these cults were the outcome of the "de-Christianization" of French society during the Revolution and part of the Reign of Terror.

Several Parisian churches were transformed into Temples of Reason, notably the Church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis in the Marais. The churches were closed in May 1793 and more securely, 24 November 1793, when the Catholic Mass was forbidden. Notre Dame of Strasbourg turned into a Temple of Reason: irrational disorder and violent iconoclasm are presented in this hostile image.



The Cult of Reason was celebrated in a carnival atmosphere of parades, ransacking of churches, ceremonious iconoclasm, in which religious and royal images were defaced, and ceremonies which substituted the "martyrs of the Revolution" for Christian martyrs. Others devised and organized the Cult of Reason centered upon a young woman designated the Goddess of Reason. (Extract Wiki)

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (6 May 1758 - 28 July 1794) is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his arrest and execution in 1794.

Robespierre was influenced by 18th century Enlightenment philosophes such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu, and he was a capable articulator of the beliefs of the left-wing bourgeoisie. His supporters called him "The Incorruptible", while his adversaries called him the "Tyrant" and bloodthirsty dictator.

Another major divisive force in contemporary politics was the Convention's wide-ranging attempt not merely to restrain the citizenry but to transform it into a more rational and secular society. In a far-reaching break with tradition and with Christianity, the revolutionaries inaugurated a new calendar of twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks.

This calendar eliminated Sunday, the traditional day of markets, of socializing, and of Church attendance in favor of a republican holiday every ten days. Showing some restraint in its desire to remake time and space, the Convention rejected a proposed revolutionary clock that would have divided each day into 20 hours of 100 minutes each, but commissioned a study that created the metric system for redefining weights and measures.

Furthermore, the revolutionaries imagined education as the keystone of the French nation and planned to institute universal primary education. They also wanted to improve secondary and higher education as a means of demonstrating the glory of the French nation and the "enlightenment" of its citizens. These goals were to apply not only to the heartland of France, but also to conquered Italian-, German-, and Flemish- speaking territories. However, most all these grandiose plans were shelved because the war made the more propagandistic ingredients of the revolutionary civic education the only feasible options.

Perhaps the Revolution's most radical and divisive initiative was the move to "de-Christianize" France and institute a civil religion based entirely on "reason." Inspired by Enlightenment criticisms of the Catholic Church and in many ways embodying the Revolution's desire to transform French society at the most fundamental level, the Cult of Reason proved highly controversial in practice.

Robespierre himself thought the seemingly atheistic Cult of Reason excessive and counter to the objective of establishing a republic of virtue. Seeking to preserve a religion based on the notion of a higher power that would replace Christianity, Robespierre organized the Festival of the Supreme Being held in June 1794, casting himself in the title role.

In retrospect, this attempt to arrive at a compromise between deism and atheism seems to have precipitated Robespierre's fall and the end of the Terror. Robespierre's proposed synthesis of Enlightenment views on religion and republican values troubled some, who thought that "The Incorruptible" had now lost all self-restraint and was paving the way for a dictatorship. Others feared that he was abandoning the dechristianization campaign and that their activities would now expose them to the Terror.

These fears mounted when two days later Robespierre pushed through the Law of 22 Prairial (10 June 1794), which put the apparatus of the Terror directly under the control of the Committee of Public Safety and thus increased the possibility of explicit political prosecutions and executions. Robespierre justified the new law as a necessary instrument to instill virtue in the citizenry, but these remarks merely persuaded people that he sought to eliminate his opponents and establish a personal dictatorship.

By the end of July, Robespierre's enemies had begun circulating false rumors in Paris suggesting that he intended to make himself king. Even his base of support at the Jacobin Club was eroding because he continued to rely on Terror to achieve his political goals. Those who feared another purge helped his detractors pass a resolution in the Convention condemning him and his followers, which led to their arrest and execution.

The leaders of the coup against Robespierre acted to save themselves from the Terror, not to end the Terror as such or to dissolve the Committee of Public Safety. It would take several months before this fear of further purges would bring the authorities to repeal the law of 22 Prairial, emasculate the CPS, eliminate the revolutionary tribunals, and abandon the maximums. By the late fall, however, this transition would be complete and a new era of the Revolution would have begun.

Ref.
Wikipedia
http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/
http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/chap7c.html

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