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Two Women in Pursuit of Truth

Does the way we seek truth matter? Two symbolic French women offer us a poignant answer.

By Sabrina Petersen with Betsy Mayer

During the French Revolution, freedom from tyranny was sought apart from God—a knee-jerk reaction to bad religion which had been promoted by the papacy and the monarchy. But instead of abandoning religion, French revolutionaries reinvented it.

The historian Walter Scott describes how the revolutionaries inaugurated their new religion of “reason.” They made a grand procession to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris while “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.”1 At the cathedral’s altar, they removed the Catholic symbols of faith and elevated a promiscuous woman as a symbol of the nation’s  new, highest authority—human logic and reason.2

The goddess of liberty and human reason is still used today as a symbol of the modern French Republic. But where did reason without God lead

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  1. Walter Scott, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey), 1827, p. 325.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Pitirim Sorokin, The Sociology of Revolution, 1967.

  4. Vishal Mangalwadi, “Why the West Attracts Immigrants,” Truth Matters [Video].

  5. Mangalwadi, “The Opening of the Western Mind,” Truth Matters [Video].

  6. Samuel Gregg, “How the West Integrates—and Disintegrates—Reason and Faith,” Social Trends Institute,, July 29, 2019.

  7. Eric Metaxas (Producer), The Eric Metaxas Radio Show (2019, Aug 13) [Audio podcast].

  8. Mangalwadi, “The Source of the Scientific Revolution,” Truth Matters [Video].

  9. Stephanie Slade, “Samuel Gregg’s Struggle for the West,” Intercollegiate Studies Institute,, Dec. 9, 2019.

  10. See reference 7.

Image credits

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About the author

Sabrina Petersen is the associate editor of Last Generation magazine. Betsy Mayer is the managing editor.