Skip to main content

Theophilanthropy

THEOPHILANTHROPY

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, 17961801 (Paris 1903). p. de la gorce, Histoire religieuse de la révolution française, 5 v. (Paris 190923). a. latreille, L'église catholique et la révolution française, 2 v. (Paris 194650). c. ledrÉ, L'église de France sous la révolution (Paris 1949). j. leflon, La crise révolutionnaire, 17891846 (Fliche-Martin 20; 1949). g. lefebvre, The French Revolution, tr. e. m. evanson et al., 2 v. (New York 196164). j. brugerette, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 15:1:518523.

[m. lawlor]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Theophilanthropy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Theophilanthropy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/theophilanthropy

"Theophilanthropy." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/theophilanthropy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

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

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • 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.