Recently a group of Islamic State sympathisers entered a Catholic Church in Normandy, France, during Mass, took hostages and murdered a priest.
Naturally, the French authorities condemned this violent act. This line in particular caught my eye:
François Hollande, the French president, promised to win the war against terrorism. In a televised address to the nation he said: “To attack a church, kill a priest, is to profane the republic.”
The republic? The irony here was a little rich. The republic, established by the French Revolution? The revolution in which clergy were literally being killed by those advocating atheism and reason, because the clergy represented allegiance to a foreign power? The republic whose violent birth is still celebrated on Bastille Day, commemorating a day of shocking violence, killings and beheading? Surely there is a fundamental disconnect here. I mean sure, of course I get that Mr Hollande condemns the attack. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But there doesn’t seem to be much careful, consistent thought to this statement in a French context, that an attack on the Church is an attack on the Republic.
I took to Twitter thus: “A Muslim kills a priest and he’s bad. Atheists murder the religious and people celebrate Bastille Day because of it. You silly Frenchies.” Yes its short and snarky, but such is Twitter.
The Tweet was shared by a self-proclaimed Atheist Missionary, garnering responses from fellow atheists like these (I have censored for profanity, which is not my general style):
“ahahahaha We’re laughing AT you, Godboy.
Are you insane? Or just that f****ng dense?
Murder in the name of”
“That’s worse than the “Stalin killed millions in the name of atheism” horses**t.”
“Are you [sic] f****ng moron?
Nevermind. Yes, you are. This tweet will be used as evidence against you.”
Naturally, such vacuous volleys from the peanut gallery don’t present anything with which to rationally interact. But they do present themselves like the tip of an iceberg of ignorance fueled by unwillingness to accept reality. We know that atheists aren’t like that. Religious people are, and that is the filter through which we read all of history, screaming down anyone who suggests otherwise.
Saying that atheists had nothing to do with the French revolution’s sometimes hideously violent dechristianisation of France is like saying that the Roman Catholic Church had nothing to do with the Spanish Inquisition.
Even a casual stroll through Wikipedia could be of some assistance to those trapped in the narrative that atheists couldn’t possibly have carried out the terrible actions associated with France’s reign of terror.
One of the purges of the French revolution is referred to as a process of “dechristianisation,” and included horrific bloodletting of clergy.
Priests were among those drowned in mass executions (noyades) for treason under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Carrier; priests and nuns were among the mass executions at Lyons, for separatism, on the orders of Joseph Fouché and Collot d’Herbois. Hundreds more priests were imprisoned and made to suffer in abominable conditions in the port of Rochefort.
Joseph Fouché was heavily involved in the atheist “Cult of Reason,” although his biographical notes at Wikipedia say that later in life he, ironically, was Catholic (I can’t find an account of his turning point).
Hundreds of clergy were summarily executed in the “September Massacres,” 191 of them being beatified by the Catholic Church as saints.
The article on “Irreligion in France” is decidedly tame in its description of the French Revolution:
The French Revolution marked a turning point for the ascendancy of atheism to a preeminent position as a cognitive and cultural stance against papal supremacy and the Holy Roman Empire across Europe and throughout the world. Now known as the atheist Cult of Reason ideology, established by Jacques Hébert, Pierre Gaspard Chaumette and their supporters and intended as a replacement for Christianity, and was replete with ceremonious destruction of Christian relics, conversion of churches into Temples of Reason and the personification of Reason as a goddess;
Atheism is happily identified as the motivator for the actions listed, but the list is truncated so as to exclude the killing of clergy. Still, a careful reader can connect the dots.
The point is, Twitter atheist apologists who let rip rhetorical jabs about history haven’t so much as a Wikipedia level understanding of the issues they pontificate on – although I realise, of course, that not all atheists are like such Twitter apologists (and nor, thankfully, are they anything like those atheists who were whipped up into a frenzy during the French Revolution). Did you know that you can be an atheist and also admit the wrong done by other atheists without giving in to a pathological need to smooth over history until it makes you feel more comfortable? The truth of your worldview does not depend on you insecurely trying to blot out any facts you find inconvenient or awkward.