The Cult of the Supreme Being

During the initial stages of the French Revolution there was growing support for the separation of church and state. Many of the contributing members of society from all social strata (the Third Estate), ranging from peasants at the lower end to merchants at the top, began to reject the Catholic Church because it was perceived as a tool of repression and subjugation. Several of the revolution’s leaders initially tried to completely distance French society from any degree of religious inclination. These “radical” thinkers of the age garnered a large amount of support for a new doctrine called the Cult of Reason, which incorporated atheistic views centered on the guiding concept of reason to help guide society’s operation.

Although the Cult of Reason gained an initial foothold in French society, one of the very outspoken and influential leaders of the Committee of Public Safety, Maximilian Robespierre, did not agree with the godless aspect of this new ideological framework. He instead developed his own religious system called The Cult of the Supreme Being. This construct differed from the latter in that it contained elements of religion, deism in particular, and argued that civic virtue and respect for fellow man would aptly serve the all-powerful “creator.” In the document, The Cult of the Supreme Being, Robespierre wrote, “The Author of Nature has bound all mortals by a boundless chain of love and happiness. Perish the tyrants who have dared to break it!” This quote demonstrates how Robespierre believed that humanity was designed to exist in a state of harmony and equilibrium, but certain evil individuals (tyrants) have polluted the system’s design by oppressing fellow men. Robespierre believed that it is the duty of all Frenchman to worship the Supreme Being by taking revolutionary actions to dethrone the tyrants, thus restoring the natural and intended state of nature that the Godhead had intended. He was able to justify revolutionary actions through this paradigm.

Question:

What do you believe are the pros and cons of a religious society?

4 thoughts on “The Cult of the Supreme Being

  1. First, your introduction provides the reader a great background of the setting before you begin your explanation of the reading. The Cult of the Supreme Being was an attempt by Maximilian Robespierre to introduce a nationalisitc religion based on deism, providing very atheistic views and going in opposition from previous religious beliefs in French society. Your quote from the reading provides insight to revolutionary tactics Robespierre was attempting to take by giving his readers a sense of a new and refreshed society if they adopted his ideas. The pros of a religious society is the belief and hope it instills in its followers and the belief of a new life after death. The cons of a religious society are the senses of hierarchy it creates and, according to Robespierre and deism, it interferes with the destiny of man.

  2. I had not thought about the fact that the song is “easy for everyone to sing, hum, or whisper along” and would therefore promote the idea of equality; it is an excellent observation! As to your question as to what makes a song more effective at communicating attitudes and thoughts than a longer work of prose, I think that the catchy nature of song is once again responsible. In addition to this quality making the song easy to sing allow with, it also makes it simple to remember and transmit to others.

    You asked about other revolutionary songs in comparison to “La Marseillaise,” but I would actually like to contrast the French national anthem with that of the United Kingdom: “God Save the Queen.” Just from the title of the song, the difference becomes apparent. The difference in the message of their national anthems underlines a key difference between the mindsets of the two countries. In the UK, the queen is mainly a figurehead, but she still holds an important position in the hearts and minds of many Brits, and even many Americans. The Queen represents the UK. However, the French national anthem makes it clear that any king would be a tyrant.

  3. First of all, sorry about my previous comment–as you can probably tell, it was not intended for this post, but for Tyler’s, and I accidentally copy and pasted the wrong one from the Word document I was using. But onto the correct comment…

    One of the major pros of a religious society is the role that religion plays in bringing people together as creating a sense of community where one might not have existed before. As we discussed in class, the Third Estate encompassed a number of social strata in itself; the peasant woman struggling to feed her nine children has little in common with the skilled artisan. However, in a religious society, if everyone is worshipping the same God and especially if they are seen as equal in His eyes, then society becomes a little bit less divided.

    On the other hand, a con of religious society is that it gives people something to rally around other than the society’s leader, which is this case could be considered to be Robespierre.

  4. I agree with the main points of this post in that the construction of the different religions system, “The Cult of the Supreme Being”, was key in analyzing civic virtue and respect for your fellow man. In reference to the question you pose, the concept of a religious society is very exclusive. The pros surround the following:
    1.) Being apart of a majority that has the same beliefs as you; enlightening, positive nature.
    2.) No conflicting beliefs surrounding issues that need changing.
    On the contrary, the cons are:
    1.) One is outcasted, or seen as a wrongdoer, if not apart of that society.
    2.) Small groups with different beliefs, could potentially lead to revolts against the majority.

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