French Revolution 1793

The Marquis de Sade: Petition in Support of Temples to the Cult of Reason

Source: Henri d'Almeras, Le Marquis de Sade: l'Homme et l'écrivain. Paris, A. Michel, 1906;
Translated: from the original for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2012.

Translator’s note: After being freed by the revolution from his imprisonment under a sentence dating from the ancien régime, the Marquis de Sade became the secretary of the revolutionary Section des Piques. In 1793 he was the author of the section’s petition calling for the conversion of churches to temples to the cult of Reason.


The reign of philosophy has finally annihilated that of imposture. Man is finally becoming enlightened and, destroying with one hand the frivolous playthings of a divine religion it raises with the other an altar to the divinity dearest to its heart. Reason replaces Mary in our temples, and the incense that burned at the knees of an adulterous woman will only be lighted anew at the feet of the goddess who smashed our chains.

Legislators: do not blind us. This rapid advance is more the work of our Republican mores than of the progress of our reason. It is to the energy of our government alone that we owe this rigorous élan. Philosophy has for some time laughed at the mummeries of Catholicism, but if it dared raise its voice the government forced it to silence in the dungeons of the Bastille. And how could tyranny not have spread superstition? Both are nourished in the same cradle, both are the daughters of fanaticism, both served by useless beings, called “priests” in the temple and “monarchs” on the throne: they could not form the same foundations and protect each other.

The republican government alone could, in smashing the scepter, wipe out with one blow a bloody religion which, with its sacred daggers, so often murdered men in the name of the god they only accepted in order to serve the passions of his impure henchmen. There can be no doubt but that with new morals we must adopt a new religion, and that of a Jewish slave of the Romans is only appropriate for the children of Scaevola.

Legislators, the path has been laid out. Let us go down it with a firm step, and above all let us be consequent by sending the courtesan from Galilee for a rest from the troubles she took making us believe for eighteen centuries that a woman can give birth without ceasing to be a virgin. Let us dismiss all her acolytes: it is only at the temple of reason that we can yet revere Sulpicius, Paul, Mary Magdalene and Catherine. Let the precious monuments soiled by lies be immediately consecrated to more majestic uses; let us adore virtues where we saw chimeras; let the emblem of moral virtue be placed in every church on the same altar where worthless vows were offered to phantoms. May that expressive emblem, in setting our hearts aflame, have us pass immediately from idolatry to wisdom. May filial piety, grandeur of soul, courage, equality, good faith, love of the fatherland, beneficence, may all these virtues, I say, each erected in one of our former temples, become the only objects of our homage.