Introduction: Religion and the Secular Concept of Subjectivity
By the 1740’s, long before Voltaire had been read in every corner of Europe, the outlines of the emergent secular culture were discernible. This secular counter-culture is not just a construct in my imagination as I hunt for anticipations of later currents of thought; anti-religious cynicism and skepticism about the claims of knowledge and the potential of values were wide-spread. Yet the Catholic Church, ever-vigilant against the threat of heresy and especially sensitive since the Reformation, did not appear unduly excited. In France, the energies of the religious were consumed by the struggle between Jesuits and Jansenists in the first part of the eighteenth century. The Church did make efforts to combat the spread of rural dechristianization through the expansion of the internal mission, the mission to countries and landscapes already Catholic, but the secession of the impoverished was at least as much a problem for the Church’s disposition to charity as it was for the preservation of its religious hegemony over culture.
KeywordsEighteenth Century External World Christian Religion Modern Thought Chronological Time
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