Why did Dante think it was necessary to categorize hell into a hierachy?

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Jessica Pope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The problem Dante encountered in depicting a Hell consistent with Christian theology is a problem that goes to the root of theological notions of salvation, sin, punishment, and redemption. Dante had to depict an Inferno capable of serving as sufficient, perfectly just punishment for all sinners and disbelievers. At the same time, Dante's Inferno needed to reflect the actions of a reasonable, merciful, all-knowing and all-powerful God. To resolve this tension, Dante created different layers of Hell. Thus, people born too young to accept Christianity (babies, for example) are delivered to a relatively moderate layer of Hell. "Noble pagans" — that is, virtuous people born in lands where Christianity is not known — are delivered to a similarly light layer of Hell. Those who succumb to the sins of sloth and gluttony suffer deeper levels of Hell after death. The deepest, most painful levels of Hell are reserved for traitors, murderers, and others whose sins in life are truly grave or horrific. 

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