Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of Deism intended to replace Christianity as the national religion of France. It emphasized the existence of a single god, the immortality of the human soul, and placed considerable weight on natural observation and reason. Though somewhat consistent with Christian principles, these beliefs were aimed to promote public well being, rather than the well being of the church.
The Cult of the Supreme Being was designed to adapt the belief in god to the Enlightenment. Robespierre wanted to find a middle ground between devout Christianity and Atheism. He denounced complete de-Christianization, which sought to completely rid France of the religion, but also condemned the church and king for disfiguring “Divinity by superstition,” and associating “it with their crimes.”
Robespierre argued that the Christian Church had become corrupt, and that Christianity had become a way for the Clergy steal money from the Third Estate, and an excuse for the Nobility retain power. He Stated that God “did not create kings to devour the human race. He did not create priests to harness us, like vile animals, to the chariots of kings and to give to the world examples of baseness, pride, perfidy, avarice, debauchery, and falsehood,” rather “he created the universe to proclaim His power. He created men to help each other, to love each other mutually, and to attain to happiness by the way of virtue.” Robespierre saw the Cult of the Supreme Being as the way to reach this mutual happiness.
In looking at Robespierre and his essay on the “Cult of a Supreme Being,” one begins to see brilliant he was, for he could truly capture an audience with his words. Some examples of these words are,”The monster which the genius of kings had vomited over France has gone back into nothingness,” (Robespierre) and “Armed in turn with the daggers of fanaticism and the poisons of atheism, kings have always conspired to assassinate humanity,” (Robespierre). His writing is very matter-of-fact, for Robespierre knows that in order to make his audience feel the hatred for the King, he must be clear and concise in his writing, saying things like “kings have always conspired to assassinate humanity.” Ultimately, Robespierre does a tremendous job in his writing, for he wrote with passion and inspired his audience to take a hard look at the King’s injustices.
I would agree with @myersjac that, not only did Robespierre write “Cult of a Supreme Being” to inspire/describe ultimate happiness, but to uproot absolute power. The piece’s main significance to the reader was to question whether the monarch truly had divine rights to rule. I wonder who the intended audience of “Cult of a Supreme Being” was, and if it had wide enough readership to be a major force in the revolution.