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 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.
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.
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."