The Offense of Dante


Having seen the destruction of one Medieval masterpiece this week, a self-described "human rights" organization is advocating that we should go for two.  The NGO, Gherush92, explained that Dante's Divine Comedy is -- well, the scope of their complaint embraces every modern heresy.  It's everything that good-hearted people should hate.

Via Media comments that they have a few more suggestions for books that should not be presented to school-age children:
  • The Bible. This deeply problematic tome has incited full-fledged religious wars and been used to justify slavery, anti-semitism, homophobia and countless other injustices. It should be banned posthaste, along with any works which make reference to its contents, such as Paradise Lost, Dr. Faustus and the collected writings of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Pride and Prejudice. Far from being a harmless romantic tale, Jane Austen’s novel is an offensively heteronormative work that implicitly privileges the so-called traditional family and marriage over alternative social arrangements. (We recommend substituting the morally superior Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on your syllabi.)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird. Promotes cruelty to animals.
  • The Qur’an. Rejects other religions as inferior. Frequently misread by a small but rambunctious minority of readers as a call to wage holy war on modernity and various national landmarks. Has something against pork, threatening livelihoods of many innocent farmers.
  • No Country for Old Men. Ageism.
  • Sherlock Holmes. While ostensibly centering around the exploits of the sleuth of Baker Street, this sinister series in fact promulgates anti-Mormon and anti-Jewish bigotry along the way. Case closed. Permanently.
  • The map of the cosmology, which can be enlarged, was drawn in the 19th century by an Italian scholar and man of letters named Michelangelo Caetani di Sermoneta.  It shows one of the ways in which the Comedy is helpful to students:  it graphically illustrates the Western worldview's dual debt to ancient Greece and the religious tradition.  Plato takes the (apparently eternal) circular movement of the heavens to be evidence of a semi-divine attempt to replicate the unchanging perfection of the Forms.  The "sphere of fixed stars" and the other celestial spheres were a feature of Greek astronomy that was important especially to Aristotle's physics and metaphysics; its central place in Dante's view of reality was shared not only by Christian thinkers like Aquinas, but by Jewish ones like Maimonides and Gersonides, and Islamic thinkers -- especially Avicenna, who made those spheres the mechanism of God's creation and providence.

    Every one of these thinkers is subject to the same complaint as Dante:  each of them is entirely certain of the truth of their faith, and the inferiority of others.  Maimonides' writings, when they touch on race as such, are at least as racist as anything Dante imagined; Avicenna's writings on women will be shockingly offensive to everyone outside of the Islamic world today.

    Nevertheless, the student will learn more from any one of these thinkers than from the whole corpus produced by "human rights organizations" working today.  Take what you want from them, and leave what you don't; but if you were to make a list of the thousand greatest minds in history, few of these names would be absent from it.  A guide who provides as useful an introduction to this rich landscape as Dante is invaluable.

    The student, in any case, must be trained early to be courageous in the encounter with new ideas, and capable of sorting the good from the bad.  That particular talent, I believe, is called "discrimination."

    15 comments:

    MikeD said...

    I'm glad someone pointed out the massive blindspot the NGO had regarding religious texts. To claim that the Bible is a "deeply problematic tome has incited full-fledged religious wars and been used to justify slavery, anti-semitism, homophobia and countless other injustices" is to completely ignore the Koran. WHICH I am sure the NGO will continue to ignore. After all, asking the UN to ban that and all references to it won't just be ignored, but would be hazardous to their health.

    bthun said...

    A United Nations advisory NGO has made a startling discovery:

    If I were King, I would send out a proclamation announcing that the advisory panel is bat-guano crazy and shall be removed from any positions of influence.

    At the same time I would announce that the U.S. invites the U.N. to relocate to The Hague, and that WE are reducing the U.S. contribution to the U.N. based upon their <fill in the blank> works.

    As far as the rest of the censorship suggestions from Via Media, what Grim said... Unless the Guillotine makes a comeback.

    Yeah, it's a good thing I'm not King. =;^}

    E Hines said...

    The student, in any case, must be trained early to be courageous in the encounter with new ideas, and capable of sorting the good from the bad.

    Give it here, Rosa. I'll decide.

    Eric Hines

    Tom said...

    Actually, the Koran is listed, though as The Qur’an (4th bullet point).

    MikeD said...

    That was listed by users, not the NGO.

    Assistant Village Idiot said...

    I visited their site, and am wondering where the science part comes in. They seem to think having a data base of stuff they think will be useful gets them over that threshold.

    MikeD said...

    Ho ho ho! I don't care what you've got in your database, it doesn't magically turn from subjective opinion into scientific fact. Otherwise, I could be a very rich DBA.

    BillT said...

    They seem to think having a data base of stuff they think will be useful gets them over that threshold.

    They'll be even more enthusiastic in defending said database if it's irrelevant to the subject under discussion...

    bthun said...

    Hey, hey! I have it on good if not gaseous authority that the data is settled!

    There, take that deniers!

    BillT said...

    Why are we suddenly addressing thread on this thread?

    bthun said...

    Hmmm... OK, the stretch necessary to weave that comment into the database matter was a bit *coughs* threadbare.

    Grim said...

    That you admit it shows strong moral fiber.

    Tom said...

    MikeD: Oops. My bad.

    MikeD said...

    No worries Tom, I actually read it the same way on my first pass. :)

    Osama Zain said...

    So good topic really i like any post talking about Ancient Greece but i want to say thing to u Ancient Greece not that only ... you can see in Ancient Greece Demography and the Spartan Economy and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,