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View Diary: Canto XXVII.1: Or, Where Would Dante Put Climate Change Deniers? (89 comments)

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  •  mercy over "justice" (3+ / 0-)
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    Eowyn9, nicteis, marsanges

    I am rereading Dante's Inferno now, and I must admit, though I am greatly appreciative of its aesthetics, I am appalled at its viciousness, especially when it takes a personal turn.  There is no "crime" committed by a human that is repaid "in kind" by eternal torture.  There is no God worth believing in who would order such vengeance.  Even in the fourteenth century, the Church's worldview of God would include impotence, and how could an impotent being condemn highly-fallible and benighted beings such as us to eternal punishment for actions stemming from our ignorance?  Someone in more recent times (was it Pascal?) has written:  "To know all is to pardon all."  I would like to think we have evolved at least enough so that were Dante writing "The Inferno" at this point in time, he would support the doctrine of apocastastasis and and create his hell as a place of learning by gentler means than violence and a place from which everyone graduates to a higher plane.  

    Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless than wants help from us.

    by Fabienne on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:20:52 PM PDT

    •  I don't disagree at all. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, Fabienne

      And let me commend you -- you are the first person besides me who I have EVER heard use the word "apocatastasis." :)

      I do think that God won't force people to choose him. As C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams pointed out, some people may be so enamoured with their own evil, their own false vision of themselves, that they are willing to forgo even Heaven so as not to give up their self-deceptions.

      (Have you ever read "People of the Lie" by Scott Peck? That's the sort of thing I mean.)

      But I agree with C.S. Lewis that everyone who seeks God, or truth, or goodness, will ultimately find it.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:24:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  His "The Great Divorce" uses the device that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9

        Hell and Purgatory are the same place, except that those who choose to leave do.



        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:41:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I love "The Great Divorce" -- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          It was what really got me into Lewis' writings (though I very much loved Narnia as a kid). I think I read it my second year of university -- picked it up in the university bookstore on a whim? After that, I never looked back.

          **glances over at her C.S. Lewis bookshelf** :D

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:43:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah, yes. Hell as a shabby, smoggy town. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9

            And then that luminous gold and purple bus, drifting down through the dark, landing by the bus stop, to offer a ride to anyone who wanted to give the outskirts of heaven a try.  And all you would need to do would be to give up your dearest self-delusions...

            Lewis had his limits, often the thought-limits of his generation. But the inventor of that vivid, unexpected bus -- and Marshwiggles -- and an educated faun in his well-swept cave, and the Dawn Treader, and the rainbow colored floating islands of Perelandra -- you have to love him, if only for the depth and bounty of his imagination.

            Thanks for reminding me what an unexpected kind of place DKos can be, on a good day.  Lefty politics junkies comparing the virtues of various translations of Dante?  Srsly?  

            I haven't thought about John Ciardi in a while.  I have to go read some of his poetry again.  Maybe even some  of his translation of Dante, too.  I'll skip the Inferno; but the other parts have some magnificent imagery.

            --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

            by Fiona West on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 04:40:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've never read any of Ciardi's other poetry -- (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama

              I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the tip.

              Yes, C.S. Lewis had his limitations (as did Dante...as, undoubtedly, all of us do.) But the issues I disagree most with him about (mostly LGBT issues and women's rights) are not the sort of thing that was central to his thought in any case.

              And yes, a wonderful and inspiring imagination. I spent years as a kid playing Narnia. :)

              Re the Inferno: yes, just skip it (though Ciardi's translation certainly isn't bad). I found it the hardest of the three to read...I'm not big on the idea of eternal punishment, honestly, even though I know Dante probably means it (mostly) metaphorically.

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 05:47:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  My personal favorite is the Purgatorio, fwiw. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama

              Definitely easiest for most people to relate to. I doubt any of us are ready to ascend to the highest spheres yet :)

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 05:50:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Oh yes, wanted to add that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama

              I too am amazed there are so many fellow Dante enthusiasts here. Maybe I'm not so alone in my love of old poetry as I'd thought! :)

              "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

              by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 05:54:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Alone? Hardly... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eowyn9, Wee Mama

                I read the entirety of the Divine Comedy at 17, Niven/Pournelle's sci-fi revision a year or two later, and introduced my kids to Dante during their high school years. I even brought it into Sunday School a few years ago...**grin**

                The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                by wesmorgan1 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 05:36:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not the Inferno, I hope ;) (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Wee Mama

                  In Sunday school, that is...it's rather, um, strong stuff.

                  That's quite impressive that you read it at 17 (and got high school-aged kids to read it!). I think I read the entire thing around 21 or so.

                  Maybe there is more hope for our culture than I'd feared. :)

                  "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                  by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 05:52:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes, the Inferno in Sunday School... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Eowyn9, Wee Mama

                    We were studying the doctrine(s) of Hell, and Dante provides an excellent example of the notion of what I would name "granularity" (differing punishments for different sins - compare to the venial/mortal distinction and varying penances in Catholic practice). That's quite a departure from Protestant beliefs, which (in theory, if not practice) tend to throw all sins into the same bucket.

                    Let's just say I'm an unconventional Southern Baptist.  **grin**

                    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

                    by wesmorgan1 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 06:28:02 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I think it's very much a loss to Protestantism (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Wee Mama

                      that its founders rejected the idea of Purgatory (which, granted, is not strictly biblical -- but which makes so much sense that I can't help but think "Well, how else could things realistically work?")

                      Of course, they did it because they wished to eliminate the Catholic idea of selling indulgences. Fair enough. But unfortunately it led to the idea that "if you believe the right set of doctrines, when you die God will magically transform you into a perfect individual and instantly admit you to Heaven, no matter what you did in this life. Poof! No effort, no struggle required."

                      Appealing to the lazy, perhaps, but far from realistic. To my mind the "granularity" of Purgatory makes even more sense than the Inferno, because in Purgatory punishment is redemptive and therefore has to be tailored to the individual, so to speak. If you're in Hell, you're in Hell, period -- you're not leaving and so the particular nature of your torments hardly matters. (Granted, Paradiso is also quite "static" in that sense but its "granularity" is based not so much on people's actions as on their essential nature... Which leads to another chain of quite interesting thoughts...)

                      Anyway, I think Luther and Calvin really tossed out the baby with the bathwater on this one (and don't get me started on predestination, etc, etc...)!

                      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                      by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 07:05:46 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

    •  By the way, have you ever read (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nicteis, Wee Mama, Fabienne

      The Purgatorio? It's the second volume of the set, often described as much more "human" and gentle (and also generally agreed to be a more polished poetic work.)

      It really does portray, as you say, "a place of learning by gentler means than violence and a place from which everyone graduates to a higher plane."

      Also wanted to say that I LOVE your sig line and think it holds a great deal of truth -- which we should all strive to remember.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:30:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank you (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, Wee Mama

        I have read the Purgatorio and the Paradisio (which reminded me of a Busby Berkley musical) a long time ago when I first read the Inferno and I will be rereading them after I finish the Inferno.  My sig line is from Rilke, who wrote many things holding a great deal of truth.  Thanks for the diary.  I wish there were more diaries like this.

        Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless than wants help from us.

        by Fabienne on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 09:10:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I love Rilke. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          Do you know the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Duino Elegies (and other poems)? Absolutely gorgeous (and my favorite.)

          The Purgatorio, I think, has a lot in common with the popular idea of karma/reincarnation to learn from one's past errors, etc. It's kind of amazing how many similarities there are between doctrines from different religions (and to me suggests they are drawing upon some unconscious intuitive form of knowledge about reality.)

          Thanks for the encouragement...I'll have to buckle down and write more poetry! :)

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 09:16:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yep, Dante was one vindictive SOB (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9

      Yet his heart was usually in the right place, and his lines always so.

      I trust by now he has graduated from the third terrace of Mount Purgatory. And I doubt he was surprised to find himself lingering there a long while.

      The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

      by nicteis on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:43:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ooooooh...now I really want to write (0+ / 0-)

        an addition to Paradiso, granting Dante his well-earned place in the Seventh sphere! :)

        I mean, surely he deserves it, if anyone does!

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

        by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:48:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or wait, maybe the Fourth (the Sun) (0+ / 0-)

          would be a better fit. He wasn't actually a monk, after all, though his poetry was obviously highly contemplative.

          "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

          by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:52:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, just a quick clarification -- (0+ / 0-)

      did you mean "omnipotence"? (i.e. able to do anything) or "omniscient" (all-knowing) regarding the Church's worldview of God?

      "Impotence" means inept or unable to do something (i.e. in its most common use, having children ;)) and, though later thinkers might question God's abilities to do certain things -- or anything for that matter -- this certainly wouldn't have been part of the medieval worldview.

      "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

      by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 03:00:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ironically, non-Christians agree with you (0+ / 0-)

      God, as understood by Judaism and Islam, just isn't the vindictive asshole Dante makes the Deity out to be.

      My version:  The Old Testament God is a New Testament invention.

      To be on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.

      by mbayrob on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 06:18:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, I respect Judaism (and Islam) very much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fabienne

        but the Old Testament God murders all people on earth except for Noah and his immediate family.

        A few hundred years later, he commands the Children of Israel to commit genocide against the tribes of Canaan, slaughtering them man, woman and child, and to "show them no mercy." Even livestock are not exempt.

        The traditional Jewish God can be JUST as asshole-y as Dante's (and many commentators, by the way, interpret much of Dante's work as metaphorical. It's probably true that Dante didn't literally think Hell had nine levels, laid out in the exact order he described, etc, etc. I think he's talking more about human evil in a larger sense.)

        It's also worth noting that people who repent even at the moment of death are saved, in Dante's worldview. God is not out to "get" people but rather to save them if they show the slightest inclination to turn from evil.

        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

        by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 06:28:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Distiguish between the text and later religion (0+ / 0-)

          The Flood myth predates the biblical writers.  It was a well established part of the culture of the ancient Middle East.

          Now, in the earlier versions of the myth -- say, as retold in the Epic of Gilgamesh -- the gods are simply annoyed that humanity is keeping Them up at night.  The flood as noise abatement.  At least, the biblical writers gave it a moral purpose.

          But you can't, as you attempt to do, assume that rabinnical Judaism approves of what God does here.  Or even all of the biblical writers.  In the text:  Abraham argues with God about the fate of S'dom and Ammorah.  This text is much closer to Jewish belief:  you can at times question the will of God.  And sometimes, God even listens (as in Exodus).

          What I'm referring to, however, is the perculiar Christian doctrine of Original Sin and Grace.

          Most modern Christian sects hold that due to the "original sin" of Adam and Eve, humans are Damned by default.  Without accepting Grace through the Divine Person of Jesus Christ, Hell is what awaits you.

          To a non-Christian, this belief is outlandish.  Neither Judaism nor Islam see merit in it.  In Judaism: "the righteous of all nations will have a potion in the world to come".  In the Qur'an:  "There will be no compulsion in matters of religion".  Both traditions stress mercy as one of the fundamental attributes of the Divine.  Grace does not exist in either tradition, because God is not so nasty as to warrent it.

          Your use of the Flood example puts you into a long line of Christian apologists going back to at least the 2nd century of your era.  And:

          * You assume a literalism of interpretation much more common among Christians than Jews.
          * You ignore entirely the tradition of extra-biblical interpretation Jews use to read these texts, and
          * You underestimate the influence of your Christian background as to how it might affect or even derange your interpretation of Hebrew Scripture.

          I'm reminded of a line from the Gospels:  "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone".  Christians have no business throwing rocks here.

          To be on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.

          by mbayrob on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 07:01:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not assuming anything. (0+ / 0-)

            You stated that the Christian God was a "vindictive asshole" while the Jewish God was not. I cited some counterexamples from the Jewish scriptures to show that, yes, God is portrayed as just as asshole-y within these scriptures.

            The rest of your post has nothing to do with what I wrote. (By the way, your understanding of Original Sin has little to do with the beliefs of most mainstream Christian churches, except for Evangelical branches, and not all of them.)

            Methinks it is not me doing the assuming here. Sin. First stone.

            ...'Nuff said.

            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

            by Eowyn9 on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 07:09:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  God? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eowyn9

          Any God worthy of Its name would set consciousness free to learn to create productively and would understand for some consciousnesses this takes a very long, long time, but, being all understanding and loving, it would want them to achieve this eventually, no matter how long it took.  A fundamentalist view of an interventionist God, whether held by Christians, Jews, Muslims, or atheists, is very primitive and we should have evolved beyond that long ago.

          Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless than wants help from us.

          by Fabienne on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 09:14:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Couldn't agree with you more. (0+ / 0-)

            I think the idea of a destructive, vindictive God comes more from human failings and our own dark tendencies than anything else.

            Incidentally, you might enjoy this: http://www.mit.edu/...

            "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

            by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 09:19:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Or, as the Orthodox (Eastern) say, "God is never (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eowyn9

              hostile."



              Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

              by Wee Mama on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 05:49:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Are you Eastern Orthodox? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                A friend of mine is Greek Orthodox. I quite identify with the Orthodox approach on many issues -- but on others (e.g. LGBT, women's ordination, etc.) disagree quite strongly. I do think they have a much healthier (and saner!) view of God than the typical Protestant church, though.

                "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 07:31:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm Episcopalian/Anglican, or as an Orthodox monk (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Eowyn9

                  put it, "Oh - you're English Orthodox!"

                  A lot of what makes the Episcopalians and Anglicans different from either the protestants or Roman Catholics are part of our tradition because of Orthodox influence in the first centuries (Cornwall received Christianity from the Alexandrians) and the Elizabethan and Caroline interest in Orthodox theologians. We give it our own spin, though (hence the ordination of women and full inclusion).



                  Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

                  by Wee Mama on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 07:45:51 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I didn't know that about Cornwall -- fascinating! (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Wee Mama

                    I've always found Anglicanism to be a very balanced approach to Christianity, avoiding the extremes of other denominations. And it's produced so many great writers, poets, musicians, thinkers, etc -- in fact, most of the Christian writers I most admire were Anglican.

                    I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist, but more or less left it a while ago (though I still take Saturdays off -- it's just part of my routine now!) I went to an Anglican church for a while, but it was a big downtown cathedral and I always felt a bit lost there. Then I went to the other extreme and joined a small non-denominational community (though one with ties to Methodism). Very nice group of people and mostly quite liberal, so we tend to get along well.

                    I really wish more Protestant churches had the same love of beauty and art in worship that Anglicanism encourages. I'm a musician and writer, so listening to the typical "popular" worship music in most churches can be...painful, to say the least. :( More intellectual rigor would definitely help as well -- mainstream Protestantism seems to be dissolving into mental mush on BOTH left & right sides, i.e. either "anything goes as long as you're a good, caring person" or "just believe in God and you'll be saved." It's sort of sad that after two thousand years of careful thought and argument, this is what we've come to -- and that medieval scholars had on average a much clearer idea what exactly they believed and why than the typical Christian does today.

                    I would really like to see a second Renaissance, to be honest. Maybe one's coming up? :)

                    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                    by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 08:32:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I think the abundance of great Anglican writers (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Eowyn9

                      (you can add Annie Dillard to the list) comes from several things: the literary riches of the Book of Common Prayer, the comfortable and close relationship with scripture (it's to be "inwardly digested," not taken baldfacedly literally), and the Anglican anthropology, which includes both grace and human frailty, with room for both free will and the contingencies of history. It's hard to make an exciting story if you believe in predestination ;-D

                      We end up as the Via Media from our convictions - it's just handy that it ends up avoiding the extremes.



                      Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

                      by Wee Mama on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 08:41:24 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Wow -- an author I'm unfamiliar with (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Wee Mama

                        and whose work, by the look of it, I'll greatly enjoy! Thanks for the tip :)

                        Totally agree about predestination. If it were true, the Christian message would not turn out to be "good news" but rather the worst news EVER told. "Hmm, let's see...we're ruled by a God who picks certain people to spend eternity in Heaven and consigns others to the fiery flames of Hell...without giving them any choice in the matter...I'm supposed to rejoice at THAT?"

                        The whole idea reminds me very much of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (which, at least in Fitzgerald's rendering, has got to be one of the most fatalistic works ever composed):

                        "The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
                        But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
                        And He that toss'd you down into the Field,
                        He knows about it all--He knows--HE knows!"

                        "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

                        by Eowyn9 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 08:49:25 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

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