De-Christianisation and the Supreme Being

Since the issuing of the Clerical Oath which separated juring and non-juring priests, there were already some who viewed non-juring priests as effectively being counter-revolutionaries. This sentiment strengthened, especially among the sans-culottes, as the Revolution radicalised further during the Reign of Terror.

By late 1793, Hébert supported and led the sans-culottes in the de-Christianisation campaign of France. Initially unopposed by the Jacobin Government, the de-Christianisation campaign harassed clergy to forego their celibacy and forcefully converted churches into Temples of Reason, as part of the Cult of Reason that Hébert had co-founded. Yet as the campaign rolled on, it became progressively more violent with mass drownings of 1800 non-juring priests and rebels in Nantes. The de-Christianisation campaign further aggravated the remaining Catholic population in the country, which fuelled yet more revolts and riots in regional areas, further straining the ability of the government to maintain a unified nation.

As a counterpoint to traditional Gallican Christian faith, Robespierre had envisioned the Cult of the Supreme Being, as a foundation of the Republic of Virtue. In the Cult of the Supreme Being, citizens were to be patriotic, selfless, self-sacrificing and would always place society first above all else. On 8 June 1794, Robespierre declared that it was to be the Festival of the Supreme Being. However, the Festival became a public mockery with the general populace openly deriding Robespierre, a significant act since this was considered the height of the Terror when the majority were fearful of being executed at the slightest indication of lack of revolutionary zeal.

It was this firm belief in the Supreme Being, coupled with increasing attempts at political centralisation from Robespierre, which finally led to the end of the de-Christianisation campaign through the arrest and execution of Hébert in March 1794, and a push away from the formerly close ties between the Jacobins and the sans-culottes.


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