Episode 60: A Reasonable Cult

Aaron mispronounces his way to liberty and reason, then Shea casts reason aside so Pikachu can defeat the Confederacy.

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that tries to wash clean the stains of Catholicism only to suffer the pruney fingers of failure to fallacious French fielty.

I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are:

I’m Shea, and this week I learned that oftentimes, men will have a lower antibody count after receiving the vaccine than women, but have a higher unclebody count.

This Week’s Beer

The Rise Guys P1 Pilsner – Thomas Creek Brewery

Donated by the awesome Mr. Bible Pants

  • No BA Score…
  • Pilsner
  • 5% ABV
  • Aaron: 8
  • Shea: 7



Today I’d like to talk about the religion of science and rationality.

You know, “scientism” or whatever evolution-denying idiots call it. More accurately, it’s “the Cult of Reason” or originally Culte de la Rasion, their motto, two scoops of la rasions in each theory.

So, let’s visit France in the late 1700s. Some of you might be aware that it was a terribly boring time in human history. Everyone just sat around eating cake and teasing baby Napoleon about his inability to defend the tiny island nation of Pulau-Pulau from the Daring Dragoon.

All in all, it was a boring time so the French sought to spice things up by taking a break from bread-theft to kick the Roman Catholic Church out of their glorious republic.

And so, we can introduce revolutionary minds like Joseph Fouche—who I think still practices medicine in Washington, smart guy; Jacques Hebert—not the author of all-time best selling sci-fi series Dune, lame; Antoine-Francuis Momoro—a pioneer in name hyphenation; and Jean-Paul Marat, a bath-time trailblazer.

Jean-Paul, who was still nearly 200 years from becoming Pope, spent his idle time eating cheese in his bathtub and working on L’Ami du Peuple, or “Friends of People”. According to historian Jeremy D. Popkin, it was “the most celebrated radical paper [of the time]”, presumably because of its excellent coverage of the early X-Games.

Jean-Paul was himself a fan of the half-pipe. So much so that he spent almost the entirety of the last three years of his life in his bathtub perfecting his sweet, 720* slip-splash maneuver, now called, to use the jargon of the sport, *le Dermatitis Herpetiformis” — you’ll have to forgive the pronunciation, my French is pretty rusty. The maneuver apparently required the liberal application of vinegar to the forehead followed by a series of bath-time spins until the “perennial” region was properly red, blistered, and itchy. He really suffered for his art. But it was this selfless dedication to his pursuits that, in 1795, led him to become the face of the Cult of Reason.

Literally, they replaced crucifixes in Paris with bust sculptures—because, living in a tub no one had ever seen him below the collarbones—of Jean-Paul.

Still, weird water sports aside his writings would spark a fire in the bellies of the anti-clearicalist francophones and, in 1792, Antoine-Francois Momoro founded the Cult or Reason as a replacement for Catholicism.

The conversion saw famous sites like Notre-Dame’s Cathedral being converted to a Temple of Reason, complete with a new altar inscribed “To Philosophy”. A number of churches were similarly converted all over France as the Church of Reason became the official state-sponsored secular religion.

Venerating philosophers the temples were decorated with ornate busts of history’s best thinkers… well… those who were considered history’s best thinkers by drunks in 1794, but still, better than pedophiles. Speaking of Catholic Priests, many were rounded up and informed their services were no longer needed. Either by deportation to anyone else or through the good, old-fashioned, application of gaieties.

The cult’s values were largely anthropocentric. Believing in human superiority through the pursuit of capital “T” truth and Liberty. Both big buzz words at the time…

The cult of reason still encouraged congregational meetings and other aspects of religion like worship and devotional displays to the idea of reason. Which… woof, talk about ground ripe for weeds. Still, a distinction was always drawn between the rational respect of Reason and the veneration of an idol,

“There is one thing that one must not tire telling people,” Momoro explained, “Liberty, reason, truth are only abstract beings. They are not gods, for properly speaking, they are part of ourselves.”

About a year into the Cult of Reason’s rein in France came the Festival of Reason. At which Jean-Baptiste du Val-de-Grace, Barron de Clootz, or as he’s commonly known Anacharsis Clootz, declared that henceforward there would be “one God only, le Peuple” or “the people”. With the intent being that for a civil, secular, religion the people should be at the center, making it “an explicit religion of man”.

It was around this time that followers of not-author Hebert, called the Hebertist Faction, did what all new followers of a new religion do—they took it way, way too far.

Zealous in their support of the dechristianization of France the Hebertist fictionists were all too happy to violently enforce their anti-theist policies. In 1793 they pushed through the Law of Suspects, which many historians consider the start of the Reign of Terror. So that’s not ideal.

Speaking of terror, back to Joseph Fouche. In addition to forcing people to submit to tiny bits of cloth over their faces, the tyrant, he also did… you know… actual tyrannical things. He was a military commander at the time who employed brutal, but efficient, tactics to spread the creed of the Cult of Reason. Not exactly what we’d call a Humanist by today’s standards… or any day’s standard for that matter. His orders went so far as to have all the crosses removed from cemeteries’ headstones, and on 22 September 1793, declared a new civic religion that was all but identical to the Cult of Reason, with the notable except of having himself as the center of course, at what he called the “Feast of Brutus”, which he was never able to make a thing.

So, everything is going well. God is out, Reason with a capital “R” is in and thus we buried homophobia, sexism, indoctrination, and crusades in the same cesspool as the Roman Catholic Church…

Except that’s not at all what happened.

As is the case with most people who finally work their way out from under the oppressive, puritanical, thumb of the church, Parisians immediately joined a frat, tried molly, shagged themselves raw, and passed out naked in their neighbors rose bushes.

The Festival of Reason almost immediately devolved into a drunken orgy. Momoro’s wife, Sophie, who was playing the role of the Goddess of Reason who “impersonated Liberty” herself was said to have dressed “provocatively” and, according to Thomas Carlyle, “made one of the best Goddesses of Reason; though her teeth were a little defective.” Because you can’t just let a lady have a win eh.

Falling from grace, Maximillien Robespierre, having seized considerable power during the Reign of Terror, decried the Cult of Reason and began work replacing it with the deistic Cult of the Supreme Being. This is another show in and of itself, but in a nutshell, was designed to be a religion of Jehova-God but without all the, you know, excessive power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The church was happy to use this as a foothold in French culture until Robespierre’s death in 1974 when Napoleon restored Catholicism in France.

For their part, the Hebertists were rounded up and sent to the guillotine on 24, march, 1794. Followed shortly thereafter on the 31st by Momoro, Hebert, Ronsin, and other Reason leaders.

As for Jean-Paul Marat, we opened with him, so we may as well close on him. Having run a revolution and a religion from his bathtub as well as any man could, despite his wife’s protestations, Jean-Paul gave an audience to Charlotte Corday, a woman claiming to have vital intelligence for him. What she actually had was a big ass knife in her corset, which she deposited in his sternum. Charlotte was guillotined in July for the murder.

Following his death, tiny sculptures of Jean-Paul in his bathtub were made and sold to children and patriots to do as they pleased. And, most commonly, what they pleased was burning it in effigy. One was famously thrown into the Paris sewer system by a child yelling “Marat, voila ton Pantheon” or “Marat, here is your pantheon [it’s poo, you’re a poo-god, ha, take that]” … Ok, I might have taken some Le Libertas with that translation, but yeah, poo-god of the people.

And that does it for that time France was officially an atheistic country for a few, violent, tub-based years. So the next time someone asks you what the world would be like without god you can confidently answer, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and decadent bath times. Add a pinch of human decency and you’ve got the recipe for one hell of a great society.

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4 Years, 2 Months, 2 Days

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Pokemon Go was officially released on July 6th, 2016 and as of 2020 has had 1.1 billion downloads. It has been active for 4 years, 11 months, and 27 days, as of release. That’s a pretty good amount of people for the amount of time. On the other hand, the Confederacy started on February 8th, 1861, had between 750,000 and 1 million members, and was dissolved on April 9th, 1865. It was active for 4 years, 2 months, and 2 days… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions but I feel like the south should be happy we are just removing the Confederate monuments and not replacing them with Picachu, which was around longer and has more active members and a lot less hate.

So in honor of Pokemon Go officially lasting longer than the Confederacy I thought I’d bring you a fun story about one of the first confederate flags and where you can find it.

So we will start at the beginning but first I’ll tell you that Minnesota has it and Virginia and lots of other racists want it.

Minnesota had only been a state for three years when it committed soldiers to fight for the Union in the Civil War. Just one day after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey offered up 1,000 men for national service. Within two weeks, the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was filled with 1,009 men from St. Paul and nearby towns. The Regiment was part of the Army of the Potomac and engaged in fighting at the First Battle of Bull Run in Virginia and the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. But the regiment might be most remembered for its efforts at the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863. You’ll be pleased to find out that the release date of this episode is July 2nd, 2021, 158 years later.

So… Marshall Sherman was a 40-year-old house painter in St. Paul when he joined the 1st Minnesota Infantry as a private in the Union army. Described as a soft-spoken gentleman in historical accounts, Sherman fought in the Battle of Gettysburg alongside the rest of the 1st Minnesota.

This brutal confrontation became the site of the highest number of casualties of the Civil War. One Union soldier from Minnesota described the Battle of Gettysburg as such:

“If men ever become devils that was one of the times. We were crazy with the excitement of the fight. We just rushed in like wild beasts. Men swore and cursed and struggled and fought, grappled in hand-to-hand fight, threw stones, clubbed their muskets, kicked, yelled, and hurrahed.”

On the third and final day of fighting at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, Pvt Marshall Sherman took the Confederate battle flag belonging to 28th Virginia Infantry. After Pickett’s Charge, a massive turning point that led the Union to victory, Sherman emerged with the tattered flag. It was one of 25 Confederate flags captured by the Union Army that day.

It was said that amid the firefight, Sherman eyed a Virginian “shouting like mad,” according to a Roanoke Times recollection. He was barefoot, the legend goes, as he charged the Virginian with his bayonet. Jabbing at the enemy, Sherman said “Throw down that flag or I’ll run you through.”

Marshall Sherman received a Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing the Confederate battle flag at Gettysburg. Like all other captured battle flags, the 28th Virginia flag was sent to the War Department for storage. During this era, very little concern was paid to Confederate flags taken during the war. For decades, they were stored in the basement office of the War Department’s building’s superintendent. Sometimes, government officials would borrow flags for different public events or purposes. Many battle flags never made it back to the War Department, including the battle flag that Sherman captured at Gettysburg.

In 1888, Congress ordered all captured Confederate battle flags in possession of the War Department be itemized and accounted for. The flag that Sherman captured 25 years prior was listed as loaned and never returned.

As it turns out, the flag had been on public display at the St. Paul Cyclorama since 1886. This massive public spectacle showcased large panoramas and portrayed major events of the Civil War.

The location of Virginia’s 28th battle flag was quite an open secret in Minnesota. But it seems no one told Congress, and no War Department official asked about it.

At the 35th reunion of 1st Minnesota veterans in 1902, the same Confederate battle flag was brought out for the event. It was soon after placed in possession of the Minnesota Historical Society. This would serve as the last time the 28th Virginia battle flag was mentioned in Minnesota state history until 1996.

Exactly one hundred years after his death, Marshall Sherman was reunited with his captured Confederate battle flag at a commemoration event honoring his death. The flag was placed near his grave during the ceremony.

However, this public remembrance renewed interest in the flag’s history, probably because they were racist. Many Virginians became upset that Minnesota held on to one of their Confederate battle flags from the Civil War.

In 1998 Civil war reenactors who represented the 28th Virginia regiment, officially asked for the return of the flag. They appealed directly to the Minnesota Historical Society, who then asked the state attorney general office for help. A Minnesota historian said: “Blood has been shed for that flag. . Who are we to return it?” And Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III said that despite a 1905 order that Civil War relics be returned, Virginia had no right to it. From legalese, “tough shit.”

In 2000, both the Virginia House and Senate passed a resolution that formally requested Minnesota return the flag. Arguing “federal property cannot be abandoned or disposed of without Congressional assent.” Since Congress never gave the flag away Minnesota is illegally in possession of it. Again, the Minnesota Historical Society refused.

On February 29, 2000, Minnesota Gov. Jesse “the body” Ventura answered questions about the controversy concerning 28th Virginia’s battle flag. When asked if he would consider giving Sherman’s captured Confederate flag to Virginia, The Body replied:

“Absolutely not. Why? I mean, we won… We took it. That makes it our heritage.” He may have also threatened to toss the Virginia house in the ring, but don’t quote me.

A decade later — and 150 years after 80 percent of the First Minnesota Regiment died or was wounded at Gettysburg — Virginia’s governor, Bob McDonnell, asked to borrow the flag, again.

From Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton; “We declined that invitation. … It was taken in a battle with the cost of the blood of all these Minnesotans. It would be a sacrilege to return it to them. It’s something that was earned through the incredible courage and valor of the men who gave their lives and risked their lives to obtain it. As far as I’m concerned it is a closed subject.”

To this day, the Confederate battle flag that Union soldier Marshall Sherman captured more than 150 years ago remains in Minnesota’s possession.

To end my story here are a few other things that have lasted longer than the confederacy:

  • RuPaul’s Drag race- 12 years, 4 months, 29 days
  • President Obama- 8 years
  • Prohibition- 13 years, 10 months, 19 days
  • Microsoft Zune- 5 years, 6 months, 19 days
  • Surge soda- 6 years, 4 months, 6 days

I have a closer “heritage” to Surge and my Zune than the Confederacy.


Thanks for listening to us this week. I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that you can’t run a revolution from the bathtub, the bare minimum you need a throne-limo with a trunk-jakoozie before anyone will take you seriously.

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Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.

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