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Author: Michela Catto

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, the Society of Jesus was busy changing its interpretation of the Chinese world and denying the possible existence of a society of atheists. To safeguard the Chinese mission, the Jesuit Antonio Provana claimed that European cultural models could not be used in order to interpret China, and that the voices and purported beliefs of the Chinese should be reported on their own terms. The same refusal to interpret Chinese culture through the interpretative schemes that European cultures had inherited (largely from the ancient Greeks or Romans) also filled the pages of the Jesuit journal Mémoires de Trévoux between 1701 and 1719, the period analyzed in this contribution. My article in this special issue argues that, due to the extreme rhetorical caution necessary to the Jesuits in France during the third phase (1700) of the Chinese rites controversy, the Mémoires de Trévoux pursued a cultural policy intended to deny the existence of any atheism whether in a single individual or in a whole nation. This departure from a Eurocentric perspective, as well as the denial of atheism in any form, became themes that forcefully reappeared during the Enlightenment.

Open Access
In: Journal of Jesuit Studies
In: The Rites Controversies in the Early Modern World