Little Bits of History

A New Cult

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 8, 2014
Cult of the Supreme Being

Cult of the Supreme Being

June 8, 1794: The national celebration of the Supreme Being begins. The Cult of the Supreme Being was a form of deism established by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. The hope was that this new cult would be the state religion for the new French Republic. The Revolution brought many radical changes to France. One of the more important ones included the change to religion. Prior to the revolts, France was mostly a Catholic state. Afterwards, an official rejection of religion was the norm. First came the Cult of Reason which melded many atheistic views into an anthropocentric philosophy. No gods were worshiped, the guiding principle was Reason.

Robespierre was appalled by the dismissal of God or Divinity. He was incensed by the “scandalous scenes” and “wild masquerades” associated with the Cult of Reason. Late in 1793, he denounced the Cult and all those who practiced it. Instead, he came up with his own version of a proper Revolutionary religion. This religion was mostly his own design and he called it the Cult of the Supreme Being or Le culte de l’Être suprême. It was formally announced before the French National Convention on May 7, 1794.

According to Robespierre, reason is only a means to an end and the singular end is simply virtue. He wanted to move the French people beyond deism and gave them a more rational devotion to the Godhead. The main creed of the Cult consisted in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. This was practiced by carrying out a more Greek or Roman type of civic minded duty. The type of virtue envisioned by Robespierre could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. He used his religious principles to denounce many radicals who disagreed with him which led many to the guillotine.

To inaugurate the new religion, Robespierre stated that 10 Prairial Year II (this date) would be the first day of a national celebration and future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day of the new French Republican Calendar. Every locality was required to hold a commemorative event, but the one in Paris was of massive scale. It was there that Robespierre took control of the event and declared the truth and “social utility” of this new religion. Apparently, the French citizens were not as taken with his theological efficacy and the entire Cult event helped to bring about his fall from grace and led to his own execution on July 28, 1794.

Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?

Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.

The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.

By sealing our work with our blood, we may see at least the bright dawn of universal happiness. – all from Maximilien Robespierre

Also on this day: We All Scream for Ice Cream – In 1786, the first advertisement for commercially made ice cream is published.
Uncle Miltie – In 1948, Texaco Star Theater debuted.
Newspeak – In 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 was published.
They did what? – In 1959, mail was delivered by missile.


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