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

uperstitious 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


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.