Sunday, January 28, 2007

Queerness, Memorial Services, and Mussolini: Your Thoughts...

My two cents on the matter are this: I don’t classify sodomy or homosexuality as violence against one’s body or as mistreating one’s body. It is simply how some people express themselves and their sexuality. I think it is ironic that Dante puts sodomites in Hell under the classification of “Violent Against Nature” while modern day rhetoric (and Betsy) speaks of the biological naturalness of being homosexual, (an anachronism for Dante’s day, I know). I agree that it’s in the genes: you don’t choose to be homosexual. So it would seem the tables have turned, and what was once unnatural is now natural.

If sodomy, or more broadly, homosexuality, or broader still, “being queer” is no longer understood to be “unnatural”, is simply identifying as one of these enough to automatically relegate you to Hell? Not in my book. This just goes to show how much outside forces influence religion and our understanding of it. Our current understanding of homosexuality and what it is biologically informs our treatment of the subject, just as Dante’s Hell is informed by the thinking of his day.

We were talking in class about how the sins Dante places in Hell are often against natural law rather than religious law. For me this just drives home the point that religion is man-made. We created the houses of worship (churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc.), the religious texts and rules to follow, the rituals and ceremonies, not God (or god, or gods, or whatever). Nowhere is this more evident to me than at memorial services, of which I attended TWO this weekend. We need an afterlife, or the idea of one, to help us cope with our loss. Memorial services aren’t for that person, they’re for the rest of us. Many people need the comfort of knowing that that person is in a “better place.” I spent a lot of time this weekend wondering what does come after life, if anything? Is the thing we’re all meditating on and crying about really there? Who knows? We can (and do) spend our whole lives wondering about it, and everyone and their brother seems to have a different conviction, but who’s right? How do we know which teacher to believe, or trust, or follow?

This reminds me of my sophomore year of high school, when we read a novel version of Dante’s Inferno, (entitled Inferno, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, in case any of you were wondering), where the main character is led around Hell not by Virgil, but by a man named Benito. At the end of the book we find out that it is Benito Mussolini who we’ve been following around the whole time. That was a trip, (especially since at the time my knowledge of WWII history was horrendously sub-par, so I was like: ‘Mussolini? Who’s that?’ and the effect was lost on me). The loosely tied in point remains: be careful who you follow and whose doctrine you ascribe to.

So then, the question remains: what comes next? Natalie was wondering who else Dante would put in Hell, Betsy was saying that people who hurt other people would go to her own little Hell (which I think I agree with), and Rachel started touching on who she thinks will or will not end up in Hell and Heaven. I’m interested to see these ideas flushed out more, in either an academic or personal sense. Academically speaking, how would you arrange a Dantean afterlife? Who’s going to be where? Are there levels? Personally speaking, what do you ‘really’ believe it’s going to be like?


Deacon Chris said...

Natural law IS religious law for Dante.

Hell's Belle said...

Everyone has a right to their own opinion but you obviously don't understand the difference between religion and faith. Dante is one of the faithful but he is only a human. We study him for the impact he had as a writer and philosopher, not because his world view is in keeping with our own. I find it kind of offensive to slam on religion in general as if it's all crap just because you disagree with Dante.