European Enlightenment: The 17th century's most read philosopher produced sharp and honest literature. Yet until today the question seems to be unanswered where he really belonged (Bayle enigma).


Wiki says he professed himself to be a Protestant.

Do you have reason to doubt this? And why would the only alternative to a Calvinist Protestant be for him to be an atheist, when there were many other Christian sects and denominations?

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  • Well, there have been times when I had reason to doubt Wikipedia content. In this case they correctly cite Bayle as a "self-pronounced Protestant". The challenge here is less Wikipedia, but more the self-conception of this great philosopher. Anyway, I agree with you that there were many more options of Christian existence than only Calvinism. Thanks Guy. – Ben Oehler Oct 25 '12 at 20:07

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that Bayle was considered to be a skeptic in many ways. He was engaged in theological debate his whole life, but at a time when atheists were extraordinarily rare. As a son of a priest I think it's hard to believe he was an outright atheist, but he was certainly not a devout believer. He seems to be a person that was a little ahead of his time.

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  • The excellent SEP essay (thanks ihtkwot!) makes clear that we can only assume where Bayle personally stood. According to his available publications I have a tendency to say that he himself vacillated all his life between the two poles of divine experience and doubtful skepticism. In so far, I agree with ihtkwot that Bayle was ahead of his time. – Ben Oehler Oct 25 '12 at 19:58

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