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Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment$
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Michael Hunter and David Wootton

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198227366

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198227366.001.0001

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Pierre Charron's ‘Scandalous Book’  

Pierre Charron's ‘Scandalous Book’  

(p.87) 3 Pierre Charron's ‘Scandalous Book’ 
Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment

Tullio Gregory

Oxford University Press

France in the seventeenth century was notorious for atheism. In the 1620s, Marin Mersenne asserted that Paris contained 50,000 atheists. Using Mersenne as a starting point, this chapter assesses Pierre Charron's De la sagesse. Along with the Essais of Michael de Montaigne, this is one of the key texts for understanding the culture of the so-called libertins érudits of France. The context was one in which the disorienting effect of the wars of religion was cross-fertilized with the impact of the skeptical tradition of antiquity and with a relativism born of the Voyages of Discovery. This led to the emergence of an ethos attacking custom and undermining the authority of universal consent. The chapter argues that this had the effect of undercutting the authority of religion and secularizing morality.

Keywords:   Pierre Charron, De la sagesse, libertins érudits, Mersenne, Essais, Montaigne

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