The Cult of the Supreme Being

One of the main factors contributing to the French Revolution was an intensifying contempt for the relationship between the Catholic church and the State. Robespierre alludes to this dissatisfaction in his writing saying, “He did not create priests to harness us … to the chariots of kings”. Robespierre was one of the most influential figures in the French Revolution, but rather than lead a charge against the Church and religion like some of his revolutionary peers, he is able to rally a cause for revolution fueled by new, but fervent religious grounds. The Cult of the Supreme Being calls asserts the existence of benevolent and divine being, “who, from the beginning of time, decreed for all the ages and for all peoples liberty, good faith, and justice.” It is He who provides the revolutionists with the strength and purpose for their cause Robespierre asserts. Robespierre’s call to action is one based on religious service and natural rights: “Our blood flows for the cause of humanity. Behold our prayer. Behold our sacrifices. Behold the worship we offer Thee.”

Again, this call to sacred action appears in La Marseillaise, which claims a “Sacred love of the fatherland” will guide the revolution to victory over the “impure blood” of their enemies.

From these two readings, it becomes visible just how much the French Revolution is changing perceptions of religion and the people’s place in the State.

One thought on “The Cult of the Supreme Being

  1. I like your analysis and connections between Robespierre and the church. What I also found to be interesting about both of these pieces was the tone hope; after such a violent few years where anger is out poured into the French government, The Cult of the Supreme Being and La Marseillaise distinctly focus on restoring faith in a new and rebuilt system. A positive view of religion and divinity is a reflection of people’s anticipation of moving forward into a new light (as compared to Hobbes view on humanity and divinity, which is more negative and reflects the struggles of the period). I also noticed undertones of idealism and nationalism in both of these pieces: a cry to rally the people under a new united and stable government. These pieces show us the shift in the French mindset, which has gone from anger and destroying the old system to recreating a new one. It also explains to us why the reign of terror (and all of those small political factions from the 3rd estate with different views on how to reconstruct France) may be happening at this time under this new shift in focus.

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