The French Revolution, Genocide, and the Secular Left
The 228th Bastille Day has just been celebrated in France – at least by some. Not everyone is crazy about the storming of the Bastille and the terror and bloodshed that followed. The French Revolution has rightly been seen by many as a precursor to so much political violence and mob rule of the left today.
In her 2011 book on leftist radicalism, Demonic, Ann Coulter reminds us that “To understand liberals, we must understand the French Revolution.” She continues, “Liberals don’t like to talk about the French Revolution because it is the history of them.”
In my review of her book I said this:
Anything associated with the old order was targeted by the mobs, but anything having to do with the church was especially focused on. Priests, nuns and lay people were massacred in large numbers, while churches were destroyed and one sacrilege after another was carried out.
Some of the gruesome descriptions of what the mobs did to ordinary men, women and children are almost too hard to stomach. Rape, torture, mutilation, and hideous forms of killing were the norm. If one had to illustrate the actions of the demonic, surely this was it. It seemed there were not enough guillotines to keep up with all the carnage and slaughter.
And all the while the crowds were cheering this on. The Jacobin program of “de-Christianization” was especially ferocious and repellent. Indeed, “the word ‘vandalisme’ had to be invented to describe” their actions as they desecrated churches, looted Christian properties, and destroyed sacred art. The revolutionaries sought to “completely destroy Christianity and replace it with a religion of the state”.
Anything associated with Christianity was open to attack. Citizens were even forced to drop their Christian names. A new Revolutionary Calendar was established, with the months renamed, and even clocks were redesigned in decimal time.
If you wondered why the radical secular left in the West today is getting increasingly irrational, violent and frenzied, all you have to do is go back and examine what began on July 14, 1789. The radicalism of that period has been repeated ever since by secular left activists.
Paul Bois has just penned a piece on this and is worth quoting from at length:
People typically think of the “Reign of Terror” ushered in by Robespierre and his Jacobin club as an era of grotesque political executions where kangaroo courts would sentence crown loyalists and traitors to death by way of the iconic guillotine as the crowds of Paris celebrated. It was all of this, yes, but it was all of this and much more.
In September 1792, an event known as the September Massacres claimed the lives of 1200 to 1400 people in less than four days when revolutionary mobs stormed the Paris jails and murdered men, women, and children by hacking them to pieces or bashing their skulls in. Of those killed, 233 were Catholic priests that refused the oath demanded of them in the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy,” which placed the Church under state control.
Spurned on by rebellions in the countryside, the revolutionaries by 1793 would jettison the principles laid out in the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” with the institution of a secret police that would monitor citizen activity and arrest anyone they deemed unfriendly to the revolution. Informants were stationed everywhere, and people could be carted off to the guillotine for so much as addressing people in the old-fashioned “Monsieur” and “Madame” instead of the state sanctioned “citoyen” (citizen). Even back in 1793, leftists were butchering common terms.
Robespierre and the Jacobins regarded the Catholic Church and Christianity in general as little more than a cloying reminder of France’s monarchical and superstitious past. To fully sever from it, they launched an era of dechristianization that included the state’s confiscation of Church property, the destruction of Christian icons, and instituting of bizarre civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and the Cult of the Supreme Being. All priests and clergymen that did not swear the oath mandated in the “Civil Constitution” were liable to execution on site.
None felt this dechristianization quite so harshly as the peasants in the coastal region of the Vendée, who became subject to what some historians have classified as the first modern genocide, with the current death toll 170,000.
Back in 2008 John Zmirak wrote about Bastille Day, noting that it was in fact a “baptism of blood”. A revised version of his piece appeared two years ago and he also looked at Vendée:
But the first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793. It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at pious peasants in the Vendée region of France. By its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.
This story is little discussed in France. Indeed, a devout historian who teaches at a French university once told me, “We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.”
It was ordinary farmers of the Vendée and Brittany regions who rose up in 1793 against the middle-class radicals in Paris who controlled the country. The ideologues of the Revolution had already
-Executed the king and queen, and left their young son to die of disease in prison.
Seized the Cathedral of Notre Dame, stripped it of Christian symbols, and enshrined a prostitute as the “Goddess of Reason” on the altar;
-Declared a revolutionary “war of liberation” against most of the other countries in Europe;
-Suspended all Protestant services, in deference to the state’s cult of Reason;
-Seized all church property from Catholics, expelling thousands of monks, priests and nuns to fend for themselves, then sold the property to their cronies to raise money for their wars;
-Ordered all clergy to swear allegiance to the government instead of the church; and
-Launched the first universal conscription in history, drafting ordinary people — most of them devout peasants bewildered by the slogans that held sway in Paris—to fight for the Revolution.
When the Parisians came to take away their sons for the army, the Vendeans finally fought back and launched a counter-revolution in the name of “God and King.” It quickly spread across the northwest of France, tying down the government’s professional armies — fighting untrained bands of devout guerillas, many of them armed only with muskets suited to hunting.
He quotes writer Sophie Masson on this:
The atrocities multiplied, the exterminations systematic and initiated from the very top, and carried out with glee at the bottom. At least 300,000 people were massacred during that time, and those of the intruders who refused to do the job were either shot or discredited utterly. But still the people resisted. Still there were those who hid in the forests and ambushed, who fought as bravely as lions but were butchered like pigs when they were caught. No quarter was given; all the leaders were shot, beheaded, or hanged. Many were not even allowed to rest in peace; the body of the last leader was cut up and distributed to scientists; his head was pickled in a jar, the brain examined to see where the seed of rebellion lay in the mind of a savage. . . .
When we think of more recent massacres, bloodbaths and genocides committed by other secular left regimes such as godless communism, we can’t help but see a straight line from what happened over two centuries ago. It is the same lust for power, the same commitment to violence, and the same hatred of ordinary men (all in the name of mankind) being played out all over again.
Bastille Day is not something to celebrate. The French Revolution, like the Russian Revolution and other ideological upheavals, was a bloody disaster resulting in the death of countless individuals. Whether under Robespierre or Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Castro, these atheist revolutionaries sought to bring their own version of heaven to earth.
But hell on earth was instead the actual result. As G.K. Chesterton put it in Orthodoxy: “The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.”
22 Replies to “The French Revolution, Genocide, and the Secular Left”
There is nothing new under the sun.
Thanks bill. Didn’t Jesus say that the truth will set you free – or was that somebody else? In my view this is one of your incredible articles. Thank you and God bless you.
Sue’s comment is so true. Human nature hasn’t changed. I’ve long held an interest in the French Revolution and so much the history books don’t often tell us. When compared to the American revolution you see a marked contrast between the two – as one was based on deeply religious tenets and the other was based on a form of early socialism. Once you move away from a God based belief there can only be horror and chaos as what happened in France in 1793. Unfortunately those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Thanks Elizabeth and yes quite right: there was a massive difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. I examine some of the major differences here:
Likewise Elizabeth, the Wesleyan revival in England has been credited with saving that country from such a revolution.
The revolution goes on here right now but it is much more “civilized”.
We need another revival to change the heart of our nation back to God.
I appreciate the quote from Chesterton.
It is true that unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.
They though to destroy it but only wrecked the world that carried the evidence of the kingdom.
Most people today believe that man is not fallen, thus not a source of evil. Evil we are told, exists in certain genes, social constructs, inanimate objects like guns, and other such nonsense. The following quotes tell a different story. They place evil right in the hearts of men:
“Nonpersons or potential persons cannot be wronged…because death does not deprive them of something they value.” (John Harris, Sir David Alliance professor of bioethics, University of Manchester, England)
“Saying homo sapiens are a ‘plague species,’ the London Zoo opened a new exhibit featuring–eight humans. We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man’s place in the planet’s ecosystem.” (Human Beings: Plague Species; WorldNet Daily, 2005)
“Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.” (Earth First! Journal editor John Daily)
“To feed a starving child is to exacerbate the world population problem.” (Yale professor Lamont Cole)
“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States.” (Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund)
“Until such time as homo sapiens decide to rejoin nature, (we) can only hope for the right virus to come along.” (David Graber, research biologist with the National Park Service)
“In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine, and the like would fill the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention…the real enemy…is humanity itself.” (The First Global Revolution, published by the Club of Rome)
“In Guyana, within 2 years, it (DDT) had almost eliminated malaria…my chief quarrel with DDT…is that it has greatly added to the population problem.” (Alexander King, former president of the Club of Rome)
“The damage people cause is a function of demographics…One American burdens the earth much more than 20 Bangladeshes….In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day.” (Jacques Cousteau, the UNESCO Courier, Nov. 1991)
“Cut the population by 90%” (Dr. Sam Keen, Gorbachev Conference in San Francisco)
Wow – that was educational! Thanks Bill for your great summary of the French Revolution. I remember in Year 8 at school we touched on it in a very cursory way. Our history teacher was not suited to the profession. She merely read from several sources while the class drew pictures, sent notes and generally looked blank. So all I remembered from those classes was something about Marie Antoinette supposedly scoffing, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (Let them eat cake!) which was most likely not even true, as she had a reputation for generosity towards the poor) and the horrors of the guillotine.
I recall more from Charles Dickens’ book ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – Madame Defarge, and, of course, the grand finale: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Now, looking at the French Revolution within the context of today’s leftist ideology, it makes a lot more sense. Mankind without God leads to inevitable disaster. And we have the added evils of eugenics, secularism and the ever rising radicalism of those who believe only in their individual rights. But God is not mocked, and righteousness will eventually prevail when our Lord returns.
Thank you Bill. The parallels with the present are so clear. Very sobering! At school all we learned was about the “heroism” of the poor rising up against their rich oppressors!!
I have faced the left at pro Australian rallies in Melboune. I have seen their hatred and heard the chant that “if it wasn’t for the coppers we’d be f%@##d. ”
We are only one decision away from similar occurences as the French Revolution.
A refreshing reminder of some truths about the French Revolution, and its celebration on Bastille Day. As you point out ever-so-economically, the evils of Communist regimes derive directly from those terrible events. Intentionally or unconsciously, tyrants have been inspired by the same demonic spirits that thirst for the death of humans created in God’s image.
Voltaire’s pre-Revolutionary catch-cry, “Écrasez l’infâme !” was later to be echoed in the twilight of the 19th Century in Nietzsche’s stridently anti-Christian, blasphemously titled Ecce Homo.
The infamies perpetrated in revolutionary Paris, where Reason was enshrined as a goddess for a brief season, served only to prove the moral bankruptcy of The Age of Reason… Reason, once severed from the Everlasting Word, becomes not a goddess, but as Sceptic, David Hume maintained, a pathetic slave of man’s passions.
The French Revolution was the terrible price paid by a kingdom which chose to support a corrupt, venial ecclesiastical system and brutally suppressed those who sought a purer expression of faith.
The kingdom of Christ has never been “of this world”…
I studied the French Revolution in year 12 (30 odd years ago) and was not taught any of what you have just written about. Thank you for this fresh insight. Much food for thought.
Can be dangerous to follow the mob and the fashion.
1 Timothy 4:1 ff. & 2 Timothy 3:1 ff. Indeed, ‘Demonic’. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds of the enemy of God and of man. It is time to nail up or use sticky tape a notice like: “This business is closed for 1 hour from 1pm for prayer for revival” as did one such in mid 19th century New York. (or was that Chicago) let it be in Melbourne and every other city, town, village of this land and God will come and save us. But if He does not save us it will be our judgment for not heeding the warnings of His Word. We are in the war and the enemy is demonic. As in your next post, Bill we must do what we can now. Thank you watchman!
I’ve been wondering why La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, is still being sung today, given its language of violence and bloody gore. I remember singing it at school at the tender age of ten, and wondering how on earth this could be a country’s anthem. It is certainly rather different from the British, Australian and U.S. counterparts! Composed during the French Revolution, and often criticized since then for its revolutionary theme, it seems strangely out of place today.
I’d like to echo Ann’s comment above – even as a student who took a keen interest at school, we covered Chinese and German history in much more detail and glossed over this in very brief mentions. I had no idea there had been such a genocide… nor that it wasn’t just the rich and oppressive who were executed.
I am continuing to think about this article Bill. I can see how we can be quite blind about such “celebrations”. Is this how Aboriginal people view our Australia Day? Have you any articles that address this? Thank you!
Thanks Jennifer, but that might be a case of apples and oranges. There is no real moral equivalence between the two, and yes I have discussed this elsewhere, eg:
Thanks Bill. That’s quite an eye opener but shouldn’t be surprising. Any society that denies the Word of God with the ten commandments will, eventually, turn savage. It’s only because of God’s law that mankind is not running naked, bloodied, wild-eyed and completely barbaric in the streets. Unfortunately our own society is drifting away from God’s law too. It won’t take long before the generation raised on lawlessness, sexual perversion and an amoral mindset will grow and bear their fruits!
Helpful article Bill. Aspects of the left betray their lineage. Does the SBS series The Handmaids Tale link to this?
I had no idea about the bloody origins of Bastille Day and the targeting of Christians. Thanks, Bill.