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Religion and revolution
On May 16, 2017, a round table was held on the Russian and French Revolutions: Contrasting Interpretations. French scholar Philippe Pichot-Bravard presented a paper on Religion and the French Revolution.

As Mr. Pichot-Bravard put it, the leading Enlightenment thinkers immediately came out as enemies of Christianity. In the 16th century, the fight against Christianity was the preserve of a relatively small group of individuals and the majority of the French population remained faithful Catholics. When, however, the revolutionaries seized power, they resolved to impose their anti-Christian views on the whole population. Their dream was to construct a society based on rational thought, individualism, and materialism, Mr. Pichot-Bravard said.
The aim of the Revolution was to regenerate society entirely, that is, to create a new world from which Jesus Christ would be expelled and where an anti-Christian religion would be introduced. The revolutionaries counted the Catholic Church among their enemies, but at the same time understood the important role that religion played in organizing society. For this same reason, they decided to create a so-called civil religion of their own to replace Christianity. The Declaration of the Rights of Man expels God from any state where it is enacted. Man becomes the center of everything, Mr. Pichot-Bravard emphasized.

The civil religion designed to replace Christianity copied its outward forms. These included a civil mass first celebrated a year after the storming of the Bastille in 1790. In lieu of a priest, government minister Talleyrand conducted the mass, which involved worshipping the State in the place of Christ.

After the talk, those present were given the chance to ask the speaker questions. Victor Petrovitch Lega, the head of the Department of Philosophy at Saint Tikhons University, asked why Bastille Day is viewed positively in France, whereas November 7, the beginning of the Russian Revolution, is viewed negatively in Russia?

In Mr. Pichot-Bravards view, the reason for this is that, in France, there are still supporters of the gruesome French Revolution. With regard to its stance on the Revolution, French society is divided into three parts: reds, supporters of the first revolution; blues, supporters of the second revolution; and whites, opponents of both revolutions. The reason why French people generally have a positive stance on Bastille Day can be found in a confusion of concepts. In official discourse, the good revolution of 1788 is contrasted with the bad revolution of 1792, when the bloodshed and executions started. But this is a mistake, Mr. Pichot-Bravard said, since the bloodshed and executions began immediately during the first revolution, and the difference is only in the scale of the murders.

I am already very old, and I remember the Brezhnev era; if you had told me then that communism would be toppled in Russia, I never would have believed it. Now, turning to you, we await the rebirth of French spirituality, Mr. Pichot-Bravard concluded his presentation.

Philippe Pichot-Bravard holds a doctorate in law, and is a professor of the University of West Brittany, France. He is the author of the book The French Revolution (La Révolution française).

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