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.


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

Science and Religion

We are currently living in an era defined by a technological renaissance. Humanities machines, weapons, and access to knowledge have surpassed the imaginary limits of many 20th century novelists and—to be quite honest, elicit in me a curious sense of caution as to our limits. The Internet, genomics, Solar-Photovoltaics—these are instruments and ideas that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. My generation has always been exposed to a world of knowledge that hadn’t existed a few years before our birth. The Internet can provide us with the answers to all of our non-transcendental questions almost instantly. To many, religion is regarded merely as the manifestation of the human unknown—meaning, it is the explanation of what we have yet to prove with science. As an atheist myself, I used to frequently dwell on God’s existence, or more appropriately, the disproof for God’s existence that I could piece together using logic into a vain philosophical argument which proved to me nothing. To many, ‘logic’ and religion are incompatible.

Einstein takes a very different standpoint. He argues that religion has the answers to our aspirations and nature—something which cannot be entirely explained using proof. Einstein claims that overzealous nationalism and totalitarianism are destroying the human spirit, by resting their crosshairs on destruction rather than creation. Objective knowledge, he argues, is extremely important and has been colossal in its achievements. But does not, however, come close to giving us the meaning of our existence.

Russia and Religion

Today in class, we had a very interesting discussion about Russia and religion.  Basically, throughout its entire history, Russia’s relationship to religion has been extreme, almost bipolar.  In tsarist Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church was the only acceptable religion, due to its strong link with the tsar. During this time, Jewish people were heavily persecuted in the pogroms.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Communist Party made atheism the official belief system of the Soviet Union.  This was based off Marxism, which taught that religion was “the opiate of the masses.”  At this time, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) was forced to go underground.  Churches could only be open if a KGB officer was present at Mass. People of all faiths were persecuted during the USSR.

Then, in the early 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church made a comeback, this time in an even more conservative form.  Only religions with official historical significance to Russia were considered legitimate:  Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam.  Protestant Christianity has one of the worst receptions in Russia, as the ROC believes Protestants are seeking to convert their parishioners.  It is common for Protestant churches to be shut down.  According to the Forum 18 News Service, a Norwegian organization that reports nation’s violations of religion freedoms, Jehovah’s Witnesses are frequently targeted in Russia.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are often denied freedom of worship, and there is a movement to ban their texts.   Another symptom of Russia’s religious extremism is the rights of LBGT Russians being taken away.

Basically, Russia has existed in a pattern of a religion dominating and then persecuting the other religions. This can be seen as a symptom of the religious trauma Russia has faced.  To suddenly turn from a Russian Orthodox, to an atheist, back to an Orthodox state again in less than 100 years must be traumatic for Russian citizens.  The government needs to realize religious freedom should be extended to all.  Once religious freedom is given, gay rights will hopefully follow. Sadly, ideas such as tolerance and equality cannot be taught.