- L'ateismo trionfato overo riconoscimento filosofico della religione universale contra l'antichristianesmo macchiavellesco
The importance of Germana Ernst's edition of L'ateismo trionfante is that in volume 1 she has published a critical edition of the first (Italian) version of Campanella's important work. It shows us what Campanella had written before inquisitors and other censors had read it and forced him to make changes in the Latin versions of the work. Volume 2 is a photographic copy of Campanella's original manuscript that was the basis of Ernst's edited translation in the first volume: Ms Barb. Lat. 4458 of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
L'ateismo trionfanto was first written between 1605 and 1607 when it was rewritten in Latin. This Italian text was never published until Ernst's current edition, although Campanella had hopes of getting its Latin translation published through the help of Gaspare Schoppe in Germany in the years soon after its composition. (Schoppe suggested the first half of the title to Campanella; the second half of the title was Campanella's preferred version.) It was finally given an imprimatur in Italy in 1631, but was then soon taken off the market due to the criticism of an "unknown censor" (thought by Luigi Firpo to have been Alessandro Vitrizio [xlviii]). The Latin version was published once again in Paris (1636) after Campanella's release from prison and his immigration to France.
The modern reader of the book's short title might think it obvious why it raised the hackles of ecclesiastical censors, for it would seem that the book is about [End Page 589] triumphant "atheism." This is not the case, however. To Campanella, "atheism" did not mean the nonexistence of God but rather the belief in a Calvinist God predestining the eternal fate of human beings who have no free will and therefore no ability to chose good over evil. Campanella therefore saw his book as an attack on this triumphant Protestant theology that threatened God with charges of cruelty and injustice. He also argued that Christianity was the true religion (compared with all other religions in the world) because it was based on natural reason and natural law, with Jesus as the epitome of law and reason. Yet his Catholic opponents did not see this work as an attack on predestination. Luca Wadding (1588–1657) wrote, "This is the cardinal point of heresy, [for] it confounds the law of nature and the law of Christ"; and Niccolò Riccardi, il Padre Mostro, said, "If he is not Pelagius, I don't know who else would be" (xlv).
In L'ateismo trionfanto, Campanella also accounts as heretics of the true Christian religion such writers as Niccolò Machiavelli and others who assert that the ends justify the means. The philosophy of Machiavellisti endangers the work of the universal Christian monarchy. He says that all the anti-Christian evils of his age come from Machiavelli.
So what is Campanella's Christian view in L'ateismo trionfato? According to him, the Catholic faith is the most perfect form of the Christian faiths. He asserts that Catholicism is in line with "natural reason" and Aristotelianism, particularly in its Thomistic form. This opinion is no surprise since Campanella was a Dominican. All people, he says, can recognize Jesus as Reason Itself. Campanella therefore believes that all people are Christian when they live according to the lights of reason, even though they may not be members of the Catholic Church or may not know Jesus. This last view was dangerous, verging on heresy, according to Campanella's censors, for he seemed to draw many ideas from Origen which, coupled with his Pelagianism, allowed him to be read as an extreme Pelagian who believed all men would be saved.
Consequently, although Campanella clearly believed in God and disbelieved in predestination, his book seemed too liberal for the likes of his critical inquisitorial readers. No wonder, then...