Bayle et les reliques. “La pente dans cet endroit-là est très glissante”

In his work as a critic and historian, Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) amplified the achievement of Calvinist theologians in their denunciation of the superstitions and idolatry associated with the cult of relics. The anthropological reflection which he built on this denunciation remains Protestant in character, notwithstanding Bayle’s pursuit of a certain degree of impartial universalism. His approach is marked by his personal experiences, ethical convictions, and taste for rich erudition, as well as his vivid awareness of the significance of religious violence. This leads him in the end to a rather unexpected recognition of the risks posed to all—Protestants included—once a religion or confession obtains a majority position.