'superstitious' or 'fanatical' people did.19 Thus the frequently re-edited and copied Christian Religion Proved by Facts (1722), by the abbe Houtteville, purported to supply 'solid foundations' based on clear 'rules of evidence' and logical 'demonstrations'. Likewise, the abbe Gerard aimed to convert people to Catholicism by using 'clear' and 'evident' principles and 'reasonable' arguments;20 he took pains to answer the attacks of deists and atheists point by point. He tried to prove that it was they who were unreasonable, they who offered illogical and contradictory arguments, they who had fallen prey to their 'bizarre imagination[s]'.21 The Christian religion might contain things that were 'above reason', but they were never 'against' reason. Mysteries could at times appear 'obscure', but they were never 'absurd'.22 Any reasonable person who examined the many historical proofs, logical demonstrations and reasonable arguments provided by sincere and knowledgeable Catholics would necessarily convert to their religion.
Thus Enlightened French Catholics used a similar language to that of their counterparts in the rest of Europe. Not surprisingly, they also read and admired the writings of Enlightened Protestant apologists such as Jacques Abbadie, William Warburton, Turrettini, and Vernet. It was perhaps with the aid of such Protestant writings that an Enlightened Catholic like the abbe Bergier acquired a greater interest in history and learned to appreciate the uses of accommodation theory. Indeed, in greater numbers and with increasing emphasis, Enlightened French Catholics turned to history to validate their religion and to provide empirical proofs in support of revelation. Then, at mid-century, another, more interesting and novel argument came to the fore. Stated powerfully by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, this argument held that Christianity was not only compatible with reasonable and Enlightened values; it was conducive to them. Over the course of history, Christianity had served as an agent of progress, furthering all the things modern men held dear: philosophy, justice, equality, and good government. Following Turgot, this idea became fairly common in Enlightened Catholic writings. According to the abbe Gerard, for example, it was Christianity that, over the centuries, had done the most to destroy tyranny, soften manners, humanize princes, civilize the most barbaric peoples, abolish slavery, diminish the horrors of war, weaken the spirit of conquest, render peace more constant and secure, and bind all nations by a more human, more moral and more extensive law of nations.23
Christianity, then, was not just a 'bridle' to the unsociable passions; it was also a 'spur' to the civilizing process.
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