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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Napoleon I: Religious opportunism

Napoleon I's Deathbed  (by Horace Vernet)
Napoleon Bonaparte is often praised for his religious tolerance.  This quality was not so much due to faith as it was to opportunism.

Wikipedia explains that although Napoleon was “piously raised and received a Christian education,” he could best be described as a deist who recognized the redeeming social value of religion.

Napoleon I therefore practiced a kind of “When in Rome…” religious philosophy.  Although he allegedly admired the Prophet
Muhammad, Bonaparte nevertheless stated:  It is by making myself a Moslem that I established myself in Egypt.

His “religious tolerance” extended to other traditions, as well.  Bonaparte explained:  It is by making myself a Catholic that I brought peace to Brittany and Vendee…  If I governed a nation of Jews, I should
reestablish the Temple of Solomon.

Bonaparte often emphasized Roman Catholicism (he was crowned Emperor Napoleon I by Pope Pius VII) because he believed that Catholicism’s “splendorous ceremonies and sublime moral[s] better act over the imagination of the people than other religions.”

Although he is said to have privately favored “the Mohammedan religion” because there are “fewer incredible things in it,” Napoleon (ever the opportunist) was “anointed by a priest before his death.”


Copyright August 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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