“In this essay, I will flesh out that suggestion; I will show how Dante and aspects of the medieval Catholic theology that shaped his views had more in common with libertarian beliefs than the beliefs of many modern-day Christians, who have been infused with a puritanical—and even Manichaean—attitude about the natural world and its bounty and beauty. Indeed, the perceptions about the natural world shared by the theologian Thomas Aquinas and some of today’s libertarians may help explain why libertarianism resonates so deeply with Catholics, Jews, and other minorities—including Native Americans and members of the gay community. All of these groups instinctively understand that the inner state of a human being—one’s humanity and status as an individual—is more important than superficial differences that only appear to distinguish one person from another. In this sense, they mirror Dante’s understanding that the deeper, less visible ‘sins’ of humanity are far more destructive than outwardly observable behaviors and conditions. And while this may appear to gloss over instances where outward manifestations of ‘sinful’ behavior reflect an evil root within the inner man—it is nonetheless important to understand how inner states of being such as pride, envy, and wrath cause more harm than the outwardly visible manifestations of greed, gluttony, and lust.” [. . .] –Lawrence M. Ludlow, The Future of Freedom Foundation, July 11, 2014.
“…The ancient and medieval Christians wouldn’t have had much to say about pure atheism, which is an 18th-century concept. Their closest analog would have been Epicureanism–the belief that worldly pleasure matters above all. In Christian-themed literature, at least, Epicureans were held in special contempt: Dante placed Epicurus and his followers in the sixth circle of hell, where their punishment for denying the immortality of the soul was to live out eternity in a fiery tomb. Honorable Muslims and pagans occupied Limbo, the relatively pleasant first circle of hell where the only punishment was the inability to ascend to paradise. A couple of pagans, including an obscure character from the Trojan War named Ripheus, even managed to make the improbable trip to paradise. Ripheus got there based on his strong belief in God’s providence, even though he couldn’t have accepted Christ during his lifetime. (The message of Ripheus is that God is unpredictable.) Dante had a particular dislike for the indecisive–those we might call agnostics. They wandered around the fringes of hell, and the poet wouldn’t even waste his time talking to them.” [. . .] –Brian Palmer, Slate, August 15, 2011