Davies describes the French Revolution, when early constitutional reformers were replaced by waves of ever more radical revolutionaries. Within a few years the radicals were tearing apart Catholicism in France. A new calendar was developed without Sundays, priests and bishops were forced to swear allegiance to an anti-clerical constitution, Church property was nationalised and religious orders destroyed. Disobedient priests were executed or deported, and thousands of them fled France.
In some parts of France, religious peasants became ever more upset with the anti-religious turn of the new government. Gangs of 'urban republicans' blundered into rural areas to loot churches, while the state enacted conscription laws which forced Catholic peasants 'to die for an atheist Republic which they had never wanted in the first place'. A counter-revolution emerged in the Vendée to the west of France armed with 'scythes, pitchforks, and fowling-pieces'. The government's response was genocidal. A French general reported to the government in 1793:
The Vendée is no more... I have buried it in the woods and marshes of Savenay... According to your orders, I have trampled their children beneath our horses' feet; I have massacred their women, so they will no longer give birth to brigands. I do not have a single prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated them all. The roads are sown with corpses. At Savenay, brigands are arriving all the time claiming to surrender, and we are shooting them non-stop... Mercy is not a revolutionary sentiment.
The French had difficulty in killing prisoners fast enough, so they jammed them onto a fleet of ships, which they sank at night, refloating them for the next cargo of doomed people the next day.
So one of the first staunchly secular governments in modern history was more barbaric and brutal than the religious state it replaced. This suggests again that a defence of liberalism is more important than an assault on religion.