My Musings

Seen Enough?
(Relevant Review of Dante’s Inferno)

Seen Enough?<br>(Relevant Review of Dante’s Inferno)

Near the top of any respectable “great books” list is The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). It follows the medieval cosmology of his day that presumed three levels for the universe: Paradiso, Purgatorio and Inferno. You know he was Italian because his name and most of his nouns ended with vowels.

Most people think Dante’s Inferno (written around 1300 AD) is about hell. Sure, it contains plenty of grotesque and ironic images of hell, which Dante dissects into three levels with nine circles. But while “Inferno” may be the Italian word for hell, that’s not the main point of Dante’s classic.

Dante’s guide for his imaginary tour through the nether world is Virgil, an ancient Roman poet. In Canto XXIV, Virgil leads Dante through the eighth circle of hell and things are getting hot. Dante has seen so much agony and horror that he needs Virgil’s urging to persevere downward. Virgil says: “We have not seen enough of sinners yet.”

What? Dante had seen all he could take of the punishment that sinners sustain in hell. Nevertheless, his lesson had not yet been learned. What was it? Namely that no matter how bad you think sin is, it’s worse than you think. Sin must be unmasked, recognized and renounced. Its’ profound severity was Dante’s theme. Hell was just the frame for his poetic portrait.

Three voracious beasts represent the three levels of hell imagined by Dante:

  • The Shewolf signifies sins of incontinence or lust (lack of reason and control).
  • The Lion stands for sins of violence, heresy and perversion (loss of heart, care, & purity).
  • The Leopard symbolizes sins of fraud, betrayal and treachery (lack of loyalty, & fairness).

Dante may have been indebted to Aristotle who grouped sins into the categories of wantonness, violence and fraud. The order is meant to go from bad to worse.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. Fraud remains a major menace. While most Americans may not believe in hell, we cannot deny the ubiquity of fraud.

In America, presidents keep their job after lying to their family, the nation, the Grand Jury and vilifying those who try to hold them accountable. Lying to get elected or pass a bill is now the norm. Where fraud is king, more lawyers are needed. Businesses cannot survive without large legal departments in a culture wherein customers slip fingertips into their food hoping for a huge settlement.

Pretending to be a victim is our new national sport. Fabricating hate crimes is a great way to smear groups we hate or elicit cheap sympathy. Recently, a waitress falsified a receipt to claim she was stiffed by a customer who allegedly objected to her lesbian lifestyle. Remember the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 because he was a homosexual? Actually, his murder was a meth drug-deal gone bad. One of his murderers was himself a bi-sexual who may have had sex with Shepherd.

New forms of fraud can quickly rise to exploit those unfamiliar with technology. Losses from identity theft can be enormous. And the old forms of fraud remain. Cheating still annihilates families. It disqualifies education. It spoils sports. It pollutes politics. It poison’s the economy. It rots freedom. It decimates democracy when the votes we count are not the votes we cast. Vote fraud turns free elections into fascist scams. Remember when Dan Rather used an obviously falsified document in a broadcast to smear George W. Bush? Cheating the IRS is not new but now the IRS is turning out to be deeply fraudulent. They abused their great power to harass and repress TEA party groups and other political enemies of the Obama administration. Some “Obamacare” navigators have advised people to understate their income to qualify for government subsidies. A chemist in Boston recently admitted to faking test results in criminal cases to help prosecutors get fraudulent convictions. All this is hellish!

What would Dante tell us today? Probably, the same thing Virgil told him: “We have not seen enough of sinners yet.” In other words, our culture will continue to sink into depravity and fraud so long as we refuse to learn Dante’s lesson and recognize and renounce sin for what it really is—serious!

The gates of hell in Dante’s Inferno said, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Let’s not go there!

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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