A religious cult established during the french rev olution as a substitute for Catholic beliefs and practices. Jean Baptiste Chemin-Dupontès, who initiated it in his Manuel de Théophilantropes (1796), drew his inspiration chiefly from voltaire and rousseau. In April 1797, the theophilanthropists met in Paris at the Institute for Blind Workingmen of Valentin Haüy. Once they won the patronage of Révellière-Lépeaux, a member of the Directory, they shared with other cults the use of the Notre Dame cathedral and 17 other Parisian churches. grÉgoire, leader of the Constitutional clergy, vigorously opposed this simultaneous possession of places of worship, and became theophilanthropy's chief critic. Except for curious crowds at the first few assemblies, the cult had little appeal to the masses, accustomed to the richer symbolism of the Catholic liturgy. It did attract a heterogeneous élite of scientists, politicians, and artists, including Jacques David. Theophilanthrophy never became a state religion, but it was used by the Directory as a counterweight to Catholic doctrine. By 1799 it was in complete decline. The concordat of 1801 excluded the cult from the churches, and in March 1802, it was legally prohibited.
Theophilanthropy was a form of deism, founded on belief in the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. But its deity was a Voltairean "God of reason"; and its concept of future life did not admit a resurrection of the body. Its morality consisted of a tolerance, which theoretically permitted no attack on other cults, and solidarity, which emphasized love of country and of the Republic. There were no other obligations and no sanctions. Whoever accepted these principles could be admitted to membership by a profession of faith in fraternity and in humanity. Presiding over religious services often was a functionary dressed in a white tunic, blue robe, and rose cincture, symbolizing the Republic's tricolor. Services lasted about an hour and a half, beginning with an invocation to the Father of Nature, followed by a silent examination of conscience, a discourse or reading from the Scriptures, the Koran, Zoroaster, Seneca, Voltaire, Fénelon, or, above all, Rousseau; and concluded with the singing of patriotic songs. Homage was frequently paid to great men who had honored humanity, such as Socrates, St. Vincent de Paul, Rousseau, or George Washington. There were also simple rites for baptisms, marriages, and funerals. The main purpose of theophilanthropy was the establishment of a religion completely free of dogma and all moral strictures other than the broadest generalities.
Bibliography: a. mathiez, La Théophilanthropie et le culte décadaire, 1796–1801 (Paris 1903). p. de la gorce, Histoire religieuse de la révolution française, 5 v. (Paris 1909–23). a. latreille, L'église catholique et la révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 1946–50). c. ledrÉ, L'église de France sous la révolution (Paris 1949). j. leflon, La crise révolutionnaire, 1789–1846 (Fliche-Martin 20; 1949). g. lefebvre, The French Revolution, tr. e. m. evanson et al., 2 v. (New York 1961–64). j. brugerette, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 15:1:518–523.
"Theophilanthropy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/theophilanthropy
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