Religious Conviction, Scientific Inquiry, and Medical Knowledge in Early Modern France
This chapter examines how acts of piety changed during the Enlightenment with the focus on rational, scientific understandings of the world. In seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century France, Lenten food habits were criticized because they revealed as much about a believer's commitment to divine inspiration as his rational understandings of dietary nutrition. And, as the eighteenth century progressed, critics of the Church contributed to the desacralization of Lent as they voiced opinions about the hypocrisy and injustice of its dietary rules. With the transfer of authority from the parish priest to the physician granted by the Paris Parliament in 1957, doctors now held the responsibility of determining whether or not a person was “fit” to fast. This very choice, by law, rested primarily on the physical needs and temperament of a particular patient, and secondarily on his or her religious obligation.
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