Ban the Divine Comedy? Really?

Oh, come on, now!

It is a world-renowned work of literature and one of the foundation stones of the Italian language, but Dante’s Divine Comedy has been condemned as racist, homophobic, anti-Islamist and anti-Semitic.

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president.

So this is where the bastardization of the meaning “tolerance” has taken us: People who fancy themselves as broad-minded intellectuals support the banning of classic books, and for that matter, they call for the banning of speech, too, but only from the mouths of some persons, not all.

Do people not see how going down this path eventually backfires on the folks who walk it, or how an unhealthy precedent put into place to serve one agenda becomes something worse when the other side gets to play by the new rule?

The paradox of modern so-called “liberalism” — which has nothing at all to do with actual liberalism — is that if they had their “open-minded” way, the world and all of our perspectives would be forced into a most unnatural narrowness. The very same people who understood that it was a bad and reactionary thing to burn Beatles albums have themselves become reactionary ideologues who will betray the foundational ideas of the nation and its constitution in order to enforce conformity to their own sensibilities, leaving no room for individual thinking, dissent or, yeah, personal conscience.

This suggests a basic fear of allowing people to think freely — to ponder anything outside of the assigned and approved lines — so that they may only think “correctly,” And that’s a most illiberal idea, indeed.

The words “Liberal” and “Liberty” share a root in freedom. But increasingly, the root seems to have split, raising some very strange bushes.

There is nothing at all liberal about a totalitarian mindset, no matter how it is presented.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Tim

    I don’t think the group wants to ban the book entirely, but remove it from schools (still pretty outrageous in my opinion though… like prohibiting Shakespeare from being studied in American or English highschools).

    It’s odd that they want to get rid of all three books of the Comedy and not just the Inferno. You would think Purgatory and Paradiso would pass today’s standards for “tolerance”.

    It was heartening to see those defending the Comedy, one of whom was a homosexual activist I believe, saying that the “ban” was tolerance run amok. There may be limits to modern tolerance after all.

  • lovemysoldier

    Repressive tolerance. Marcuse believed straight up tolerance benefits the Right.

    Personally, I try to avoid the temptation to contemplate their logic. It is a distraction and, in the end, amounts to something along the lines of “but, but we’re special snowflakes and you’re not!”

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    This isn’t about tolerance run amok—this is part of the ongoing war.

    Gerush 92 is affiliated with the UN, which, these days, is run by kleptocrats, and Islamic dictators.

    If they ban it from Schools, they will soon be banning it from bookstores, and everywhere else a kid could get their hands on it; after all, it’s for the good of the kiddies, so they won’t all grow up to be crazed bigots (/Sarc.)

    (And, really, if kids aren’t allowed to learn about good literature in school, how likely is it that they’re going to pick it up someplace? Especially in today’s kid-lit climate of “Harry Potter conquers the Publishing Industry”, “Twilight Meets Trixie, the Werewolf Hunter” and, “The Money Games” (Soon to be major motion picture!)

    And, if they get away banning Dante, they will move on to Shakespeare, Chaucer, Mark Twain (a very politically incorrect writer!) the great poets, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesteron. Because few, if any, really good writers would pass today’s idiot tolerance standards.

    And tolerance isn’t what this is about. They don’t care that Dante’s “Purgatorio” and “Paradiso” aren’t intolerant. They’re Christian. That’s what they don’t like about them.

  • David K. Monroe

    If political correctness had its way, we’d have nothing to read but porn.

  • SKay

    Your assessment of the UN is exactly right Rhinestone. You are also right about their motive–Christianity.

  • Mike M.

    The “Liberal” is 180-degrees opposite what it sold itself as. It is the classic wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    We are just a few steps away, perilously close to, what always and without fail follows after liberalism gains ascendency: people end up in gas chambers, forced labor camps, gulags and mass graves. Equality has its going price.

    Leonard Cohen’s The Future from 1992:

    “Give me back the Berlin wall
    give me Stalin and Saint Paul
    I’ve seen the future brother:
    It is murder.”

    I’m doing the rosary. We have maybe 8 months to decide our future. Obama is the absolute incarnation of the one side. If he wins it is tend to the sick and wounded time; it is run for the hills if you can outrun them time. His side is the most manifestly diabolical we have ever seen in America, maybe ever. What they will do with unbridled power and no “America” to check them is beyond fear. It is the Apocalypse.

  • dry valleys

    Geert Wilders wants to ban the Koran. I’ve got a really great suggestion, that the government doesn’t ban books at all.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Darn. I had just managed to let the 78-degree sunshine (in March! in Ohio!) coax me into a good mood. It cracks me up (or it would, if it weren’t so furiously stupid) that we Catholics are the ones remembered for the Index of Banned Books, most of which—and take it from one who hunted them down—were stultifying rants against obscure points of papal politics. How narrow-minded and soul-dead do you have to be to fear the power of art, which is always truly liberating? Fundamentalism—Christian, Islamic, humanist, whatever—is always rooted in terror of God’s free and liberal grace, and so must try to quarantine it. But grace is never politically correct, and can never be quarantined.

    Nobody puts Dante in a corner!

  • Pingback: A few good links | eChurch Blog

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Gert Wilders is one invidual. Gerush 92 is affiliated with the UN, a far-reaching, respected organization. It’s not even a government—it’s a collection of governments, many of them tyrannical, criminal and hostile to the West.

    Any suggestions that we ban the Koran, or any attacks against it, such as burnings, are almost universally condemned.

    The Koran is not in danger here.

    Great Western literature, especially religious Western literatuer, is in danger. Thanks for the kind words, SKay; I’d like to be mistaken about this. I’m afraid I’m not.

    And, yes, Love, any arguments alwasy do seem to come down to, “We’re Precious Snowflakes, and you’re not?” (Either that, or “What about the American Indians, huh, huh, huh? What about the Inquisition? What about the Crusades?” Etc., etc., etc., and so on.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Leonard Cohen was a prophet.

    In the future, porn not only won’t be banned; it will become required reading.

    Non-required reading will consist of something of “Literature” like this:

    “Taylor McLean was your average, United States of Earth girl, with a mom, two dads and one fun-loving, adorable pink robo-dog! Her big amibiton was to become the best Disco Queen Roller girl ever, until a smolderingly handsome dude who claimed to be a fallen angel came up to her one day, and told that she was the Chosen One! The one girl, among all girls, chosen to do battle with the dark forces of Dimension ICU, and keep them from taking over the universe! Armed with nothing but a magic baseball bat, and a mean pair of skates, Taylor battles armies of slugmen from ICU, always remembering that lip gloss, and a pink robo-dog, are a girl’s best friend. . . ”

    Maybe we’ll get lucky, and the Apocalypse will arrive before all fiction’s reduced to this! :)

  • SKay

    “We are just a few steps away, perilously close to, what always and without fail follows after liberalism gains ascendency: people end up in gas chambers, forced labor camps, gulags and mass graves. Equality has its going price.”

    As Pelosi said–pass the bill to find out what is in it–so the Democrats passed it.
    We find out today we are now going to be paying for abortion with a $1.00 sur charge–made possible by Obamacare—–

    http://www.lifenews.com/2012/03/14/obamacare-1-abortion-payment-surcharge-upsets-pro-lifers/

  • http://www.jackofclubs.blogspot.com/ JackOfClubs

    This group, Gherush 92, does not seem to have done anything significant. A quick google search only turns up this issue. Their website only has a handful of items listed in the Projects and Articles section. The “forum” only has a single message, which is the welcome to new members boilerplate. I wonder if anyone besides Sereni is a member? I am guessing this ban Dante project is a pathetic bid for attention, which, sadly, we have just fallen for.

  • dry valleys

    I’m sorry, I’m just having trouble viewing this as a real story at all, given how far it is from the thinking of any left-wing or right-wing person I’ve ever encountered. It’s the job of “advisers”, “consultants” and what have you to have implausible ideas that will never be enacted. I can assure you that no one is going to stop me reading whatever I want, certainly not Gerush 92, whoever they are meant to be.

    The biggest danger in the western world is that people won’t want to read books or otherwise have their “comfortable” lives based on consumption and debt disrupted.

    If they did put this book on the school curriculum, it might save the new generation from having to read “Of Mice and Men” or “An Inspector Calls”, so I’d be all for having it in schools for their sake :)

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Are they friggin crazy? That’s such BS. How about we ban the UN? Get rid of that useless organization.

  • kelleyb

    Can a good old fashioned “classical library” book burning be far behind? Wouldn’t want the darlings to learn anything in a book written before 2009. Now, would you?

  • dry valleys

    If this story is even true at all (a big if given that this is the Hellograph, essentially a version of the Hate Mail that wrongly thinks it’s a cut above) then it could just be, as Jack of Clubs says, that it’s an attempt at trolling. They know makinng sugestions like this will get them publicity, so they go ahead and do it, then bask in the outrage directed at them. Some people thrive on this kindof thing. It reminds me of Anjem Choudary, sole member of “Muslims Against Crusades”, or whatever he’s calling himself these days.

  • joseph M

    As a huge fan of Dante, I was once called in to pinch-hit a seminar at a night class on the classics out of a local Catholic college. My enthusiasm was nearly as great as my naivete – what kind class on the classics could this be, where the professor needs help with – Dante? Does it get any more classic than Dante?

    Needless to say, all the adults working for their degrees at night were diligent, attentive students, some of whom even gave signs of having read the book (not being snotty, here – it’s a tough read, if you know nothing of the background).

    BUT – the professor? A friend of a friend who is being paid to teach classics? She just could not get over that Dante put some gays in Hell (and, in Purgatory and Heaven as well – just like the popes in the book!). So, we never even got a chance to talk about the reverent, shocked and sad tones with which Dante
    addresses Ser Brunetto, the sodomite Dante speaks with in Hell. His reaction is not homophobia in any rational sense of the word – he obviously loves and respects Brunetto, who was a mentor and honorable Guelf lord and scholar. Rather than hating or fearing him – what seems to be the only allowable emotions for a ‘bigot’ like Dante – he is greatly saddened to think that such a man and such a friend could fall to such a base and debasing sin.

    Not that we’d want students to even consider any other way of looking at it than the current received wisdom.

  • Romulus

    Past generations more honest than this understood that utopian concepts like tolerance do not exist in this world, and that it’s unprofitable and mischievous to pretend otherwise. Existentially there’s no escape from the necessity of making a committed choice, one way or the other. Heaven is where all have made their definitive choice for God. C’est tout.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Of course, Valleys. You’ve never encountered anything like this in your circle.

    Therefore, it can’t be true. /Sarc.

    (And Valleys didn’t like “Of Mice and Men”—hence, no one should read it, I suppose.)

    Why so bilious about literature, Valleys? :)

    It might just be a bid for attention—but, if so, why this particular bid? Why aren’t they trying for attention by advocating world literacy, or an end to child marriage? Something really productive? Why go after Western literature?

    Given that there have been Moslem complaints about paintings from Dante in an Italian church, showing Mohammed in Hell, and that “Inferno” has been criticized for the same thing (showing Mohammed in Hell) I’m afraid they might be serious about this.

    With the UN, one never knows. . .

    [Hey, be nice to DV. I likes him. He's always sweet! -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And why are The Telegraph and the Daily Mail “hate” papers?

  • dry valleys

    Presumably, because talking about these things doesn’t outrage people and get attention of the kind they want. I don’t know, you’d be better off asking them. Believe it or not, the Directing Intelligences of leftism don’t tell me and every other left-wing person what to think every morning, so I don’t know what they think except to say I can’t imagine it meaning much.

    And the whole point of what I was saying is that I think there should be more reading, not less. I didn’t get any particular encouragement at school, so the very least that should happen is that libraries should be well-stocked and it be made known that students should read, even things that aren’t on the syllabus. (But few would, because it wouldn’t get them the right credentials in an exam, so it’s “irrelevant”).

    I agree that censors and would-be censors should be resisted, no question of that. I did read The Divine Comedy (not at school), and I appreciated it as literature, though I can’t imagine its theology would be very orthodox.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    It gets even worse. Check this story out: British government looking to ban wearing crosses at work. I kid you not.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9136191/Christians-have-no-right-to-wear-cross-at-work-says-Government.html.

  • Steve Colby

    Only slightly off-topic: I started reading Chesterton’s “Heretics” today. It was as if I was reading current events!

  • Dynan

    1) The Rosary

    2) The Mass

    3) An Examination of Conscience

    4) The St Francis Prayer

    5) Prayer for the souls in Purgatory

    99) The Divine Comedy

  • Gerry

    Anchoress: I wonder … why is “Sister Toldjah” still linked? It was a few years ago, but I remember the classic Know Nothing rant – did you ever see it?

  • kevin

    If “Gherush 92″ agrees that the Koran should be banned for being anti-Christian and pro-violence, then maybe I’d consider trading in the Divine Comedy as a sacrifice for that.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Steve, read his “Flying Inn” sometime.

    That will really seem contemporary!

  • David K. Monroe

    Manny: Yeah, isn’t that a clever trick? The Christian faith doesn’t REQUIRE you to wear a Cross, therefore you have no RIGHT to wear a Cross, and your employer can tell you to remove it or be fired. And the Archbishop of Canterbury is right there giving aid and comfort to this totalitarian hoo-hah by saying that the Cross is just “decoration.” And then he turns around and begs Anglicans to stop leaving the C of E and converting to Catholicism. What does he expect?

  • dry valleys

    Kevin, I totally disagree with your view. Wilders’ “argument” is that if Mein Kampf is banned, which it is in several European countries (not Britain), then the Koran should be banned. But he hasn’t considered the view that neither book should be banned.

    What I think is that neither should be banned, and nor should the Divine Comedy. I agree the Koran is a foul thing, but that doesn’t lead to the view that it should be banned. Censorship of this kind is not acceptable, and in the uunlikely case of meeting a Gherush 92 representative, I would tell them this.

    They tried to stop Dominic Strauss-Khan speaking because feminists deemed it unacceptable to have a speech by someone who is accused (not convicted) of rape.

    It’s quite interesting, actually (with regard to the original post), that the American left (inasmuch as there is one) calls itself liberal, because in Britain that doesn’t happen. A leftist might be anti-authoritarian in social and cultural terms, as I am, but the terrm “liberal” has something closer to its original meaning. The British and German governments are both centre-right and contain liberal parties. Whereas some left-wing people are openly scornful of, for example, civil liberties. I think that is wrong, but I still cal myself a European social democrat, which is a totally different thing to a European liberal. It’s only in America that this confusion takes place, but then America was always different :)

  • dry valleys

    David K. Monroe, the case you refer to didn’t happen in that way, and the Telegraph were wrong in their reporting.

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2012/03/without-a-pack-of-lies-to-back-them-up-christian-claims-of-persecution-fall-flat-on-their-face

    Now those who wondered at my doubting the Telgraph’s reporting in general have an answer. I don’t advise reading any newspaper, unless it be The Economist, which has right-wing sympathies but reports factual matters accurately.

  • doc

    DV, the Director of Leftist Intelligence don’t need to tell you what to think. It’s in the water. Flouride. Programs your brain. It’s why I drink grain alcohol and rain water.

    Regarding the UN, we can’t ban them, but we can opt out and invite them to relocate to the Gaza Strip. After all, the UN owns Gaza. Then all those UN bureaucrats can enjoy what they’ve created on a daily basis.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Valleys, with all due respect—and not trying to be mean—do the secularism.org people also claim that Christian persecution isn’t happening in places like Egypt, Nigeria and the Middle-East?

    Because the fact that Christian persecution exists worldwide, seems to be pretty incontrovertible.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Also, how can we possibly know that this Secular paper is more reliable than the Telegraph? Could be both papers are unreliable. (And the fact that this paper lashes out with the “Pack of lies” phrase doesn’t say much for impartiality. And, again, whatever the merits or demerits of the British cases they talk about–the fact is, worldwide, Christian persecution is happening.)

  • http://madamescherzo.tumblr.com Jewel

    When my eldest daughters (twins) were in high school, they took a course on comparative religions. One day, they came in and got online to look up a historical Christian preacher whose words stoked the fires of many before the American Revolution. The twins were themselves, ‘stoked’ and raved on and on about George Whitefield, wanting to know everything about him and his writings.
    On and on they raved, citing their teacher’s enthusiasm for both the American Revolution and for the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers.
    Their teacher was a nominal Muslim Pakistani immigrant.
    Sometimes it takes an outsider to appreciate what we have.
    What will they go after next? Pilgrim’s Progress? Paradise Lost?
    I suggest reading all those endangered books and more.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    LOL, yes, what a great idea for Lent! Read endangered books! Pilgrims Progress, and Paradise Lost are good. Also, Chronicles of Narnia, St. Theresa’s The Interior Castle and anything by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    (And do read Chesterton’s The Flying Inn! Surprisingly contemporary!)

  • dry valleys

    That particular website deals only with national issues, but of course secularists will, or should, support people’s right to worship Christ and uphold it against Islamists.

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2012/03/sharia-law-and-middle-class-feminism (for an example amongst the feminists, whose cause is certainly not always mine)

    WRT what Jewel says, I’ve generally found asylum seekers to hold a similar view. Living right at the bleeding edge of theocracy will do that to someone.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie

    These are different views to those held by those who are left-wing, but not particularly involved with secularism. it’s a sort of branch of the ideology, and if you ask me one of those that bear most fruit.

  • Mark

    The scary part of some of what I read here is that those in the white house are pretty close to having the same political beliefs as dry valleys.

    I could care less what the british press think about anything in America and I believe the worse thing we can have in American leadership are those who are trying to create here the mess they have in europe countries that are little more than tourist attaractions. The only reason they are not all speaking German and burning books and Jews is because America saved them and the only reason they are not speaking Russian is because America kept them safe since WWII. When I think of those countries, the term appeasement comes to mind. When the Muslims come into their countries with their sharia law and other quaint customs from the first century, they bow down and surrender. If we pulled our troops and support from Europe, they would rush to Russian looking for a new mommy. They have lived in a nanny state so long that they do not even remember real freedom. When they see it here in America, they want it stopped as an evil enemy of the secular faith built around tolerance (code word for surrender). But in our own USA, we have had the left crying for us to go down the path to the same end. That is why the left hates the Catholic Church so intensely. They have to destroy a Church that dares to expose its leader, the Prince of Lies. They want a secluar godless state to become god and that god to decide all our rights with no interfecence from words like Creator. The only thing the left might hate worse than the Catholic Church is the actual wording of America’s founding documents that say all our unalienable rights come from our Creator and that put government inside a high wall that prohibits it from having any say or influence on our Religious liberty. The Prince of Lies had to take that line out first and make the wall really around Religious Liberty removing any statement that the government could not establish a religion in case people woke up and realized that a godless secular state was their religion and they were mandating it on everyone else.

    Talk about burning books in our schools. Ever take a look what they took out and burned in 1962-63? How about prayer and any and all references in any way to God. They talk about taking out prayer, and many people do not see this as being a big issue if our kids stand up by free choice and say a non denominational prayer. But that is the cover of the Prince and he is good at lies and distortion. When you remove God or religion from schools in America, you have to remove everything including our history or teaching about the Constitution. You have to instead put in a total new subject called social studies and ban things like Washington farewell address or the writings and arguments during our founding that made the proetected religious pillar that which was essential to hold up the roof of our entire government. That opens the door for things like “entitlements” which is kind of like new unalienable rights from the god of government. People, wake up, the left has been burning books for decades while we all slept. have you opened the books used in schools today and tried to find anything that teaches what was taught from out founding until the Prince of Darkenss arrived. No wonder many of those under 50 know nothing different.

    Sorry for the long post, but this topic gets to me because I am in my 70′s and still remember a time when we learned key important values in our public schools that were closely linked and tied to our faith because that is how the government was created. If you have seen the movie “its a Wonderful Life” do we not see the kids learning Christmas Carols for the school play, was the children not taught that everytime a bell rings an angel gets their wings. You can watch this movie and see core American values all through it that were first honed in the public schools system where most Americans learned with the Bible a key book in the room and our founders studied and where we learned our rights come from God and the government is not to interfere with those rights. The first book used in many schools to teach children to read had each letter that was the start of a Bible verse and this was used for over 100 years. Yes, they have been burning our heritage and our books and our core beliefs for decades. Love Dante writing, but it is just one more on a long list the left demanded be burned so they could have their godless secular state religion forced on all of us with lies.

  • kevin

    DV, I’m with you. I’m becoming more sympathetic to Oriania Fallaci the more time goes by. I think she was a prophet or at least an excellent futurist.

    Seeing Margaret Thatcher portrayed recently as a shell of her former self saddened me. A brilliant, articulate woman like that, who utterly dominated David Frost in a TV interview once, on the world stage for years, and Hollywood can’t resist portraying her as senile?

    I worry for the West.

  • David K. Monroe

    @dry valleys, Well, who might be the most disinterested, neutral party? The Telegraph or The National Secular Society? Hmmmm…..

    I joke of course, and there’s every possibility that the story was enhanced to sell newspapers, and I don’t have enough info to controvert the situation of the nurse who could have worn a non-dangling cross and chose not to, but the situation with the BA employee seems questionable for two reasons: One, if the BA uniform is inviolable, and wearing jewelry violates the uniform, are BA employees required to remove wedding rings? They seem as equal an “addition” to the uniform as a necklace. Secondly, the allegation that she’s a difficult employee who pushes her religion on others is irrelevant. Making her remove her cross necklace won’t change the other behaviors. Just because a person is difficult doesn’t mean that they don’t have rights.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    David, looking at the Secular Society’s website, it looks like a lot of the articles are pro gay marriage, anti “Homophobia” and have a decided slant against Christians.

    It looks to me like they’ve got an agenda, and are decidedly biased.