Religion in a Revolutionary Context

Religion remained the primary justification of the French Revolution by the citizens of the third estate. Robespierre, the leader of Public Safety, pushed both ideologies of Supreme “Reason” and “Being” in order to provide a more understandable means to motivate revolutionaries. The state religion at the time revolved around a Deist philosophy, the notion that there is no divine intervention and God is a clockmaker who merely wound up the springs of nature and set them into motion. Logically, because God cannot interrupt the flow of the human course, but simultaneously promoted particular virtues that the monarchy did not reflect, it became justified that it was their right to overthrow the atheistic monarch to perpetuate God’s will. Religious sentiments such as these are extremely powerful. When man and woman can be convinced that their violence is justified and the result will bring them higher fortunes, it is very difficult to stop them.

La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem composed during the French Revolution, contained very violent language that no one could find religiously justifiable without it’s context. Phrases such as “Their impure blood should water our fields”, paired with adjectives like “vengeful”, actually caused it to be banned by Napoleon and Louis XVIII due to its revolutionary implications. These documents reveal that revolutionary culture during the French Revolution was fueled by violence while simultaneously being justified in religious contexts.

One thought on “Religion in a Revolutionary Context

  1. I was also struck by the violent language of La Marseillaise as it is so open about the intentions of those singing it. This is a moment where the revolutionaries- despite all the consequences that may come to them because of the revolutionary acts- fully decide to immerse themselves into the cause. Once they proclaimed lines such as “the bloody flag is raised,” there would certainly be no return to acceptance of the French government. The use of the word “bloody” when referring to the flag- the symbol of their rebellion- shows that they are aware that their campaign is innately violence and harsh at its core; and that they accept those actions as their means for achieving their end goal.

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