Monday, May 2, 2011

Dante's Inferno/ One LDS Perspective

I read Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle a couple of weeks ago but the message stuck with me ever since. I enjoyed the book so much that I finished it in one day. A few days later I read the sequel, Escape From Hell. The books basically deconstruct Dante's Hell and put it into the modern day.

I enjoyed the modern Inferno because I never took Dante literally. I never saw his Divine Comedy as a true map of Hell, Purgatory, or Heaven but rather an allegory of the journey of the soul. He sinks down to the depths of Hell seeing the true ugly nature of sin and repents of his own ugly sins. He sees the journey upwards of those in Purgatory and finally the nature of the souls flying to the very center of the Heavens- God himself. It is interesting that in the center of Hell is the cold, dark room of Satan and in Heaven the center is God.

I don't believe Niven and Pournelle took Dante literally and in their version Inferno is an adventure of discovery of the nature of Hell and sin from the viewpoint of an agnostic, uncommitted science fiction writer. His Hell is full of selfish people who stood in the way of scientific progress. His glutton is a health food nut whose life was centered on exercise and eating the right foods. His hoarder and wasters included an ecological freak who refused to allow any development of land at all. (she was fighting against her ex-husband who wanted to develop all of nature!) Another hoarder was an obsessed collector whose collection filled a barn and wasted. His heretics were Science Fiction writers who tried to start their own religions. Flatterers were advertisers, violent wasters were polluters and those who fought against clean nuclear power. A fortune teller was a teacher who misdiagnosed dyslexia so she wouldn't have to teach the child how to read. The fraudulent included quacks.

The Niven/Pournelle Hell is filled with those who fought against hard scientific progression as well as those who traditionally sinned as seen in Dante's Hell. How would an LDS categorize sin and Hell?

I am not speaking for the church. In my religion we don't teach sin the same as Dante learned which is a mix of Catholicism and Aristotle. However, we do believe that there are different categories of sin and different levels of Heaven and Hell just not in seven concentric circles. We also don't believe in ironic Hells but I don't think most Christians do anyway.

I did do a little search on the sins of inferno on LDS.org and learned a lot about sin. Lust is frequently taught especially recently as the church has been warning about the evils of pornography. I wonder if porn addicts would be flying around in Dante's Hell, lost in a windstorm, swept away in their self indulgence? For the men I know that are addicted to pornography it is a living Hell and they certainly feel lost.

There is not one entry for gluttony but seems to fit another sin better- greed. There are many articles on greed and I was surprised how many sins fall into greed. Sins like overindulgence (which could describe gluttony), hoarding, not working for money, (getting something for nothing) not being self-reliant and not giving to the poor. Another talk mentioned giving your children whatever they wanted. Was this Eli's sin when he overindulged his rotten sons? I wonder if drug addicts and alcoholics would be gluttons?

Wrath is an easy one. LDS love the word contention. Contentious people have low self worth, always compete with others, brag about themselves, debate unnecessarily, are easily offended, and do not forgive. Sowers of Discord would fall into this category. The center of wrath is pride. People are so stuck in their wrath that they forget God and serving his people. Would suicide bombers (before they murder) be here? Terrorist organizations, eco-terrorists, political fanatics, feminists? There are a lot of angry people out there in the world today.

A large level of Hell would be theft. It is amazing how many sins fall under theft and bearing false witness. Cheating, fraud, threatening, robbing, stealing, looting, plundering, unlawful seizure and interestingly- neglect. God gives you your property so if you neglect it that is a sin. Violent thieves would be the mafia, pirates, gangs, Gadianton robbers, and terrorist organizations.

Dante doesn't really have a circle for sexual sin though he has lust and a circle for those who sinned against nature. Sins against chastity would fill a very large circle of those souls lost and wandering in pain for their mistakes. Sexual sins are selfish and destructive.

Of course there are the violent. The murderers, the abusers, the rapists.

The next circle of Hell would only need one word- deceivers. Heresy, false teachers, seducers, panderers, flatterers, and certain thieves who be considered deceivers and those would try to lead others astray. Drug dealers and porn makers would also be deceivers. A great example of a deceiver who later repented would be Alma the Younger. In fact, the Book of Mormon is filled with warnings of such deceivers. Deceivers not only lead you to physical sin but also lead you against God. I would also put cult leaders here. In Niven's Hell, deceivers had feces coming out of their mouths showing the vileness and nastiness of the words of the deceivers. I would put a lot of abortion activists here. It makes me angry how those people lie to women about abortion which has long term consequences rarely mentioned.

I think pedophiles have their own circle of Hell. We teach that children are innocent and very special to the Lord. If someone abuses the innocent, that puts them in a different category.

Those who betrayed God are at the very bottom of Hell. See, in LDS teaching only those who knew God and betrayed him would be thrown into Outer Darkness, what others would think of as Hell. They don't get resurrected and are sent to live with the devil. Very few actually get sent there. Everyone else is resurrected into level of Heaven. However, an LDS can still go on an allegorical journey with Dante and imagine the true destructive nature of sin in his concentric ironic Hell. Of course, not all sins were even covered in Dante, but basically anything taking you away from God is a sin. At the end you discover the disgusting truth of sin and realize your own sin and try to live a little bit better the next day and thank the Lord for his sacrifice which makes it possible to repent of these vile sins and become clean again.

(the opposites of the sins are purity, charity, hard work, self-reliance, peace, forgiveness, mercy, faith, unity, family, and honesty among others, we also believe in repentance and letting go of these destructive dirty sins)

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