Supreme Being, Cult of the
SUPREME BEING, CULT OF THE
A religious belief established during the french revolution by a decree of the National Convention (May 7, 1794). The feast of the Supreme Being was celebrated on June 8, 1794, to replace Pentecost Sunday. Maximilien robespierre and his supporters, particularly Georges Couthon, who claimed that atheism was aristocratic and belief in a Supreme Being was republican, inaugurated the new cult with an elaborate ceremony in the Tuileries Gardens. Jacques David, the official painter of the Revolution, and Gardel, ballet master at the opera, designed the pageant, which the National Convention and a large concourse of Parisians attended. Robespierre presided as pontiff, although some of his colleagues referred to him as dictator or tyrant. This function marked the apex of Robespierre's domination; even during the ceremony murmurs assailed him. The cult was based on the ideas of rousseau and had two tenets: the existence of a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. The temple of this Being was the universe; nature was His priest. The only worship to be rendered to this Supreme Being was the practice of "the duties of man"; chief among these were detestation of tyranny and defense of the oppressed. The cult was philosophically and theologically weak, and it depended on rhetoric to gain adherents.
Extreme radicals considered the cult reactionary, since it burned atheism in effigy and replaced it by a fireproof symbol of wisdom. Some naïve Catholics concluded that the cult marked the end of the Revolution's period of dechristianization. The city proletariat was not convinced by this spiritualist propaganda. Even the Parisians who participated in the cult's inauguration considered it part of the religion of patriotism. They had grown accustomed to references to the Supreme Being in official statements since 1789. The official cult was short-lived; when Robespierre fell (July 28, 1794), it quickly disappeared. A similar cult, theophilanthropy, replaced it. Both used Volney's Catéchisme du citoyen as their handbook.
Bibliography: f. aulard, Le Culte de la raison et de l'être suprême (1793–94) (Paris 1892). a. sicard, À la recherche d'une religion civile (Paris 1895). a. mathiez, Contributions à l'histoire religieuse de la révolution française (Paris 1907). r. r. palmer, Twelve Who Ruled (Princeton 1941). a. latreille, L'Église catholique et la Révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 1946–50). g. lefebvre, The French Revolution, tr. e. m. evanson et al., 2 v. (New York 1961–64).
"Supreme Being, Cult of the." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/supreme-being-cult
"Supreme Being, Cult of the." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/supreme-being-cult
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.