Been reading Dante’s The Inferno today. It is part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. As well as it being far more readable and entertaining than I remembered, it is also truly hilarious for the insanity contained. I’m only about five Cantos in. From the beginning, not only is the imagery batshit insane, but some of the ideas that are rooted in religion are as well. Early on Dante visits the Virtuous Pagans. These are people that were at the pinnacle of humanity, but could not progress higher in the afterlife due to the fact that they were without the light of God. (They were born before the time of Christianity, so it was through no fault of their own.) So it is clear that the religion of Dante’s time (and we know some of the religion of our own), valued a belief in God above any kind of great achievements, even if these achievements were the kind that brought light and understanding to humanity, even if the circumstance of their birth was the sole reason for this lack of belief.
Also there are a group within this group known as the naturalists. These would be people that were the equivalent of scientists in our society. Clearly these people were valued by believers during Dante’s time for the understanding of the natural world that they brought to society. (Though not enough that they were allowed to reach heaven!) Why is it now that many people on the religious right today do not value scientists? Have we regressed since Dante’s time in certain ways? One step forward, two steps back?