Introductory; Pierre Viret’s ‘Déistes’ at Lyon, and Two Characters in Bodin

  • C. J. Betts
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 104)


Deism, the religious attitude typical of the Enlightenment in France, England and elsewhere, was never a religion in the usual sense, although for a short time in the French Revolution the worship of the Supreme Being was officially instituted. It was a religion for individuals, especially the educated laity, and was most often presented as the result of the individual’s unaided reflections on God and man. Its monuments are literary and philosophical, the greatest of them being, in France, Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique and Rousseau’s Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard, in Emile.1 Both date from the apogee of the French Enlightenment, the 1760s. Together with numerous other works they are the culmination of a movement which had reached maturity less than thirty years previously, with Voltaire’s Lettres philosophiques. Until then the story of deism is one of clandestinity, sporadic appearances and false starts, going back as far as the middle of the sixteenth century as regards the word itself, but lacking any sort of continuity until the last decades of the seventeenth.


Eighteenth Century Sixteenth Century Christian Belief Religious Attitude Religious Tolerance 
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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1984

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  • C. J. Betts

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