The Cult of Reason (French : Culte de la Raison) was France's first established state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Catholicism during the French Revolution. After holding sway for barely a year, in 1794 it was officially replaced by the rival Cult of the Supreme Being, promoted by Robespierre. Both cults were officially banned in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte with his Law on Cults of 18 Germinal, Year X.
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy, a country whose rulers have both secular and spiritual authority. State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but the state does not need be under the control of the religion nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state.
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Opposition to the Roman Catholic Church was integral among the causes of the French Revolution, and this anti-clericalism solidified into official government policy in 1792 after the First French Republic was declared. Most of the dechristianisation of France was motivated by political and economic concerns, and philosophical alternatives to the Church developed more slowly. Among the growing heterodoxy, the so-called Culte de la Raison became defined by some of the most radical revolutionaries like Jacques Hébert, Antoine-François Momoro, Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette, and Joseph Fouché.
The causes of the French Revolution can be attributed to several intertwining factors:
Anti-clericalism is opposition to religious authority, typically in social or political matters. Historical anti-clericalism has mainly been opposed to the influence of Roman Catholicism. Anti-clericalism is related to secularism, which seeks to remove the church from all aspects of public and political life, and its involvement in the everyday life of the citizen.
Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution.
Considerable debate has always persisted about the religiosity of the Cult of Reason.It was a hodgepodge of ideas and activities, a "multifarious phenomenon, marked by disorderliness". The Cult encompassed various elements of anticlericalism, including subordination of priests to secular authority, wealth confiscation from the Church, and doctrinal heresies both petty and profound. It was atheistic, but celebrated different core principles according to locale and leadership: most famous was Reason, but others were Liberty, Nature, and the victory of the Revolution.
Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and adapting or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics, and art, and is normally considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality.
Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases. In modern politics, liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views. In philosophy, liberty involves free will as contrasted with determinism. In theology, liberty is freedom from the effects of "sin, spiritual servitude, [or] worldly ties". Sometimes liberty is differentiated from freedom by using the word "freedom" primarily, if not exclusively, to mean the ability to do as one wills and what one has the power to do; and using the word "liberty" to mean the absence of arbitrary restraints, taking into account the rights of all involved. In this sense, the exercise of liberty is subject to capability and limited by the rights of others. Thus liberty entails the responsible use of freedom under the rule of law without depriving anyone else of their freedom. Freedom is more broad in that it represents a total lack of restraint or the unrestrained ability to fulfill one's desires. For example, a person can have the freedom to murder, but not have the liberty to murder, as the latter example deprives others of their right not to be harmed. Liberty can be taken away as a form of punishment. In many countries, people can be deprived of their liberty if they are convicted of criminal acts.
Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, or material world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. Although humans are part of nature, human activity is often understood as a separate category from other natural phenomena.
One of the more philosophical proponents was Antoine-François Momoro in Paris. In his hands, the capital city's Cult of Reason was explicitly anthropocentric. Its goal was the perfection of mankind through the attainment of Truth and Liberty, and its guiding principle to this goal was the exercise of Reason. In the manner of conventional religion, it encouraged acts of congregational worship and devotional displays to the ideal of Reason.A careful distinction was always drawn between the rational respect of Reason and the veneration of an idol: "There is one thing that one must not tire telling people," Momoro explained, "Liberty, reason, truth are only abstract beings. They are not gods, for properly speaking, they are part of ourselves."
Anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Anthropocentrism interprets or regards the world in terms of human values and experiences. The term can be used interchangeably with humanocentrism, and some refer to the concept as human supremacy or human exceptionalism. Anthropocentrism is considered to be profoundly embedded in many modern human cultures and conscious acts. It is a major concept in the field of environmental ethics and environmental philosophy, where it is often considered to be the root cause of problems created by human action within the ecosphere.
Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Truth is also sometimes defined in modern contexts as an idea of "truth to self", or authenticity.
An ideal is a principle or value that one actively pursues as a goal, usually in the context of ethics, and one's prioritization of ideals can serve to indicate the extent of one's dedication to each. For example, someone who espouses the ideal of honesty, but is willing to lie to protect a friend, demonstrates not only devotion to friendship, but also belief in its supersedence of honesty in importance.
The overarching theme of the Cult was summarized by Anacharsis Clootz, who declared at the Festival of Reason that henceforward there would be "one God only, Le Peuple". —inspired by the works of Rousseau, Quatremère de Quincy, and Jacques-Louis David, it presented "an explicit religion of man".The Cult was intended as a civic religion
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.
Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy was a French armchair archaeologist and architectural theorist, a Freemason, and an effective arts administrator and influential writer on art.
Jacques-Louis David was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward classical austerity and severity and heightened feeling, harmonizing with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Régime.
Adherence to the Cult of Reason became a defining attribute of the Hébertist faction. It was also pervasive among the ranks of the sans-culottes . Numerous political factions, anti-clerical groups and events only loosely connected to the cult have come to be amalgamated with its name.
The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, seems to have been used for the first time on 28 February 1791 by officer Gauthier in a deregatory sense, speaking about a "sans-culottes army". The word came in vogue during the demonstration of 20 June 1792.
As a military commander dispatched by the Jacobins to enforce their new laws, Fouché led a particularly zealous campaign of dechristianisation. His methods were brutal but efficient, and helped spread the developing creed through many parts of France. In his jurisdictions, Fouché ordered all crosses and statues removed from graveyards, and he gave the cult one of its elemental tenets when he decreed that all cemetery gates must bear only one inscription—"Death is an eternal sleep." Fouché went so far as to declare a new civic religion of his own, virtually interchangeable with what would become known as the Cult of Reason, at a ceremony he dubbed the "Feast of Brutus" on 22 September 1793.
The official nationwide Fête de la Raison, supervised by Hébert and Momoro on 20 Brumaire, Year II (10 November 1793) came to epitomize the new republican way of religion. In ceremonies devised and organised by Chaumette, churches across France were transformed into modern Temples of Reason. The largest ceremony of all was at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The Christian altar was dismantled and an altar to Liberty was installed and the inscription "To Philosophy" was carved in stone over the cathedral's doors.Festive girls in white Roman dress and tricolor sashes milled around a costumed Goddess of Reason who "impersonated Liberty". A flame burned on the altar which was symbolic of truth. To avoid statuary and idolatry, the Goddess figures were portrayed by living women, and in Paris the role was played by Momoro's wife, Sophie, who is said to have dressed "provocatively" and, according to Thomas Carlyle, "made one of the best Goddesses of Reason; though her teeth were a little defective."
Before his retirement, Georges Danton had warned against dechristianizers and their "rhetorical excesses", but support for the Cult only increased in the zealous early years of the First Republic. By late 1793, it was conceivable that the Convention might accept the invitation to attend the Paris festival en masse, but the unshakeable opposition of Maximilien Robespierre and others like him prevented it from becoming an official affair.Undeterred, Chaumette and Hébert proudly led a sizable delegation of deputies to Notre Dame.
Many contemporary accounts reported the Festival of Reason as a "lurid", "licentious" affair of scandalous "depravities",although some scholars have disputed their veracity. These accounts, real or embellished, galvanized anti-revolutionary forces and even caused many dedicated Jacobins like Robespierre to publicly separate themselves from the radical faction. Robespierre particularly scorned the Cult and denounced the festivals as "ridiculous farces".
In the spring of 1794, the Cult of Reason was faced with official repudiation when Robespierre, nearing complete dictatorial power during the Reign of Terror, announced his own establishment of a new, deistic religion for the Republic, the Cult of the Supreme Being.Robespierre denounced the Hébertistes on various philosophical and political grounds, specifically rejecting their perceived atheism. When Hébert, Momoro, Ronsin, Vincent, and others were sent to the guillotine on 4 Germinal, Year II (24 March 1794), the cult lost its most influential leadership; when Chaumette and other Hébertistes followed them four days later, the Cult of Reason effectively ceased to exist. Both cults were officially banned in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte with his Law on Cults of 18 Germinal, Year X.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established in which multiple massacres and public executions occurred in response to revolutionary fervor, anti-clerical sentiment, and frivolous accusations of treason by Maximilien Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety.
The Committee of Public Safety, created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto, interim, and executive government in France during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), a stage of the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety succeeded the previous Committee of General Defence and assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. As a wartime measure, the Committee—composed at first of nine and later of twelve members—was given broad supervisory powers over military, judicial and legislative efforts. It was formed as an administrative body to supervise and expedite the work of the executive bodies of the Convention and of the government ministers appointed by the Convention. As the Committee tried to meet the dangers of a coalition of European nations and counter-revolutionary forces within the country, it became more and more powerful.
The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency includes the Reign of Terror, during which time well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.
Pierre Gaspard Chaumette was a French politician of the Revolutionary period who served as the president of the Paris Commune and played a leading role in the establishment of the Reign of Terror. He was one of the ultra-radical enragés of the revolution, an ardent critic of Christianity who was one of the leaders of the dechristianization of France. His radical positions resulted in his alienation from Maximilien Robespierre, and he was arrested on charges of being a counterrevolutionary and executed.
The Mountain was a political group during the French Revolution. Its members, called the Montagnards, sat on the highest benches in the National Assembly.
Georges Auguste Couthon was a French politician and lawyer known for his service as a deputy in the Legislative Assembly during the French Revolution. Couthon was elected to the Committee of Public Safety on 30 May 1793 and served as a close associate of Maximilien Robespierre and Louis Antoine de Saint-Just until his arrest and execution in 1794 during the period of the Reign of Terror. Couthon played an important role in the development of the Law of 22 Prairial, which was responsible for a sharp increase in the number of executions of accused counter-revolutionaries.
Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gobel was a French Catholic cleric and politician of the Revolution. He was executed during the Reign of Terror.
The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established in France by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. It was intended to become the state religion of the new French Republic and a replacement for Roman Catholicism and its rival, the Cult of Reason.
François Hanriot was a French Jacobin leader and street orator of the Revolution. He played a vital role in the Insurrection and subsequently the fall of the Girondins.
The Hébertists, or Exaggerators were a radical revolutionary political group associated with the populist journalist Jacques Hébert, a member of the Cordeliers club. They came to power during the Reign of Terror and played a significant role in the French Revolution.
The dechristianization of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of the results of a number of separate policies conducted by various governments of France between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Concordat of 1801, forming the basis of the later and less radical laïcité policies. The goal of the campaign between 1793 and 1794 ranged from the public reclamation of the massive amounts of land, power, and money held by the Catholic Church in France to the termination of Catholic religious practice and of the religion itself. There has been much scholarly debate over whether the movement was popularly motivated.
The Women's March on Versailles, also known as the October March, the October Days or simply the March on Versailles, was one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution. The march began among women in the marketplaces of Paris who, on the morning of 5 October 1789, were near rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread. Their demonstrations quickly became intertwined with the activities of revolutionaries, who were seeking liberal political reforms and a constitutional monarchy for France. The market women and their various allies grew into a mob of thousands. Encouraged by revolutionary agitators, they ransacked the city armory for weapons and marched to the Palace of Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace, and in a dramatic and violent confrontation, they successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd compelled the king, his family, and most of the French Assembly to return with them to Paris.
Charles-Philippe Ronsin was a French general of the Revolutionary Army of the First French Republic, commanding the large Parisian division of l'Armée Révolutionnaire. He was an extreme radical leader of the French Revolution, and one of the many followers of Jacques-René Hébert, known as the Hébertists.
François-Nicolas Vincent was the Secretary General of the War Ministry in the First French Republic, and a significant figure in the French Revolution. A member of the Cordelier Club, he is best known as a radical sans-culottes leader and prominent member of the Hébertist faction.
Antoine-François Momoro was a French printer, bookseller and politician during the French Revolution. An important figure in the Cordeliers club and in Hébertisme, he is the originator of the phrase ″Unité, Indivisibilité de la République; Liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la mort″, one of the mottoes of the French Republic.
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician who was one of the best known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, he campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, and the abolition both of celibacy for the clergy and of slavery. Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to carry arms in self-defence. Robespierre played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French monarchy in August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention.
Irreligion and atheism have a long history and a large demographic constitution in France, with the advancement of atheism and the deprecation of theistic religion dating back as far as the French Revolution. In 2015, according to estimates, at least 29% of the country's population identifies as atheists and 63% identifies as non-religious.
Holbach carried the cult of reason and nature to its culmination in an atheistic denial of the deists' Supreme Being, and made the most influential attack on rational religion ...
During the French Revolution in 1793 the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, an atheistic doctrine intended to replace Christianity.
In May, he proposed an entire cycle of revolutionary festivals, to begin with the Festival of the Supreme Being. This latter was intended to celebrate a new civil religion as opposed to Christianity as it was to the atheism of the extreme dechristianizers (whose earlier Cult of Reason Robespierre and his associates had repudiated).
He was an active member of the faction that successfully campaigned for the atheistic 'Cult of Reason', which was officially proclaimed on November 10, 1793.