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The Installation Of The Goddess Of Reason








At length the zeal of the infuriated Atheists in France hurried them to
the perpetration of one of the most ridiculous, and at the same time
impious transactions which ever disgraced the annals of any nation. It
was no less than a formal renunciation of the existence of a Supreme
Being, and the installation of the Goddess of Reason, in 1793.

"There is," says Scott, "a fanaticism of atheism, as well as of
superstitious belief; and a philosopher can harbour and express as much
malice against those who persevere in believing what he is pleased to
denounce as unworthy of credence, as an ignorant and bigoted priest can
bear against a man who cannot yield faith to dogmata which he thinks
insufficiently proved." Accordingly, the throne being totally
annihilated, it appeared to the philosophers of the school of Hebert,
(who was author of the most gross and beastly periodical paper of the
time, called the Pere du Chene) that in totally destroying such
vestiges of religion and public worship as were still retained by the
people of France, there was room for a splendid triumph of liberal
opinions. It was not enough, they said, for a regenerate nation to have
dethroned earthly kings, unless she stretched out the arm of defiance
towards those powers which superstition had represented as reigning over
boundless space.

An unhappy man, named Gobet, constitutional bishop of Paris, was brought
forward to play the principal part in the most impudent and scandalous
farce ever acted in the face of a national representation.

It is said that the leaders of the scene had some difficulty in inducing
the bishop to comply with the task assigned him, which, after all, he
executed, not without present tears and subsequent remorse. But he did
play the part prescribed. He was brought forward in full procession, to
declare to the convention, that the religion which he had taught so many
years, was, in every respect, a piece of priestcraft, which had no
foundation either in history or sacred truth. He disowned, in solemn and
explicit terms, the existence of the Deity to whose worship he had been
consecrated, and devoted himself in future to the homage of liberty,
equality, virtue, and morality. He then laid on the table his episcopal
decorations, and received a fraternal embrace from the president of the
convention. Several apostate priests followed the example of this
prelate.

The gold and silver plate of the churches was seized upon and
desecrated, processions entered the convention, travestied in priestly
garments, and singing the most profane hymns; while many of the chalices
and sacred vessels were applied by Chaumette and Hebert to the
celebration of their own impious orgies. The world for the first time,
heard an assembly of men, born and educated in civilization, and
assuming the right to govern one of the finest of the European nations,
uplift their united voice to deny the most solemn truth which man's soul
receives, and renounce unanimously the belief and worship of a Deity.
For a short time the same mad profanity continued to be acted upon.

One of the ceremonies of this insane time stands unrivalled for
absurdity, combined with impiety. The doors of the convention were
thrown open to a band of musicians; preceded by whom, the members of the
municipal body entered in solemn procession, singing a hymn in praise of
liberty, and escorting, as the object of their future worship, a veiled
female, whom they termed the Goddess of Reason. Being brought within the
bar, she was unveiled with great form, and placed on the right hand of
the president; when she was generally recognized as a dancing-girl of
the opera, with whose charms most of the persons present were acquainted
from her appearance on the stage, while the experience of individuals
was farther extended. To this person, as the fittest representative of
that reason whom they worshipped the national convention of France
rendered public homage.

This impious and ridiculous mummery had a certain fashion; and the
installation of the Goddess of reason was renewed and imitated
throughout the nation, in such places where the inhabitants desired to
show themselves equal to all the heights of the revolution. The churches
were, in most districts of France, closed against priests and
worshippers--the bells were broken and cast into cannon--the whole
ecclesiastical establishment destroyed--and the republican inscription
over the cemeteries, declaring death to be perpetual sleep, announced to
those who lived under that dominion, that they were to hope no redress
even in the next world.

Intimately connected with these laws affecting religion, was that which
reduced the union of marriage, the most sacred engagement which human
beings can form, and the permanence of which leads most strongly to the
consolidation of society, to the state of a mere civil contract of a
transitory character, which any two persons might engage in, and cast
loose at pleasure, when their taste was changed, or their appetite
gratified. If fiends had set themselves to work, to discover a mode of
most effectually destroying whatever is venerable, graceful, or
permanent in domestic life, and of obtaining at the same time an
assurance that the mischief which it was their object to create should
be perpetuated from one generation to another, they could not have
invented a more effectual plan than the degradation of marriage into a
state of mere occasional co-habitation, or licensed concubinage. Sophie
Arnoult, an actress famous for the witty things she said, described the
republican marriage as the sacrament of adultery.





Next: Fall Of Danton Robespierre Marat And Other Jacobins

Previous: Scenes At Marseilles And Lyons



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