“It hurts me as an English major to see how quick we all are to reject anything we disagree with! That's not what getting a university education is about. If you can't see past the cultural biases, what's the point of spending $300 on a class about a famous religious allegory?” Who said anything about rejecting Dante? I’m just trying to process him and I don’t believe I’ve said that I hate Dante, or dislike his poetry, or anything of that nature. I’m engaging in conversation with Dante, trying my damnedest to see past my own cultural biases through to what he’s trying to say and how he’s trying to say it. I think it’s rude and naïve of you to assume that the rest of us are incapable of seeing past these cultural biases, or of being as enlightened and in touch with Dante as you seem to think you are.
“Everyone has the right to their own opinion but you obviously don’t understand the difference between religion and faith.” Actually Rhiannon, I do. I wrote a lot of stuff that I didn’t end up including in that last blog post about how religion and spirituality are two wildly different things for me. For me, religion is associated with manmade institutions, excessive rituals, hate, exclusion, and discrimination. Spirituality, on the other hand, I understand as a personal relationship with a god, or higher power, or deeper connection to the universe in some way, personally, not through the conduit of a church or clergy.
“I find it kind of offensive to slam on religion in general as if it’s all crap just because you disagree with Dante.” Whoa. Thanks for assuming that my disenchantment with religious institutions stems from my “disagreeing with Dante.” Actually, if you must know, my distaste for religion predates this class by a few years. Assuming that I would get such strong convictions from reading an antiquated POEM is giving me way too little credit and Dante way too much. And if I am disagreeing with Dante, it’s not so much with him as with the cultural machine he is writing from. Obviously his views are not entirely his own, but belong to his era, his peers, his country, his culture as well. And if you’re getting offended by my posts, which have been my own processing of Dante and what he can mean to me in my life, that’s your prerogative. Maybe you should stop taking my posts (and yourself) so seriously.
My last post was a lot of me trying to personally process Dante in the context of my own experiences and values. Dante is writing from a very different space and time from me, and it has been difficult to figure out how to read and appreciate him. I TOTALLY agree with the point Prof.
I agree with Prof. Anderson in his blackboard comments, where he talks about how this poem is about freedom and part of Dante’s purpose here was to inspire us to exercise our free wills. I grew up in a Christianity where I was taught about Satan and the force of evil in our lives. Sin was always talked about in terms of temptation, and succumbing to temptation. The very nature of human nature, and the strength and persuasion and craftiness of the devil were always referenced as contributing factors to sin. It’s interesting to think about how even though you were strongly encouraged to take personal responsibility for sins so that you could repent and be forgiven, there was always some other factor that watered this down. Dante, on the other hand, is saying that it’s all you. Your sins are your choices. Dante’s devil is not around every corner, trying to tempt you from leading the good life. It is your own human failing, your own action of turning your eyes from what is good that is to blame. But, just as you decide what to fill your life with, so too you have the power to choose Christ and choose where you will be eternally. In this I think Dante is being a little progressive and forward. We are not timid creatures, tossed about by the gods and the demons, the forces of nature and good and evil, with absolutely no power or say in our lives. We are strong, intelligent, free-willed individuals, made in the image of God, with the freedom and ability to choose him or not. We are awesome! The characters we encounter in the Inferno have taken that free will and ran with it, in the opposite direction of God, and so they’re burning, gnawing each other’s necks, freezing, running around, being pursued and hacked apart and clawed by demons. This IS scary to us, because, in the words of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Is complete freedom, complete control of our situation, really what we want? Isn’t it easier to show up in church every Sunday morning, robotically nodding your head as you’re told what to do and what not to do, as opposed to getting out there in the real world and making up your own mind about things?