Professor Mel Scult

Core Seminar I: Human Nature: Perspectives From Religion

The purpose of this section of the seminar is to explore the way in which human nature has been viewed from the religious perspective. Religion is defined in many ways but all will agree that religion attempts to deal with ultimate questions. It is natural, therefore, that the great religions would have much to say on the matter of human nature.

Readings are drawn from the following:

"The Holy Scriptures" Any translation

Other readings Far Better Copy on Hillel Place. Ask for Scult M.A.L.S. Program.

A copy of Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death is in the book store.

A Journal is required. You should write your reactions to class and to all the readings including Becker. Do not summarize. React!

Session I: Definitions of Religion--Ultimate concern--the individual and his solitude; creating a meaning--order; limit questions. the sacred and the profane.

Reading: Michael Novak, Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove, pp. 28-49.

Session II: The Nature of Man in the Bible. The Genesis Myth and Its Background -Nature of Man and Woman in Genesis -Genesis and Mortality. Myths about Genesis -The Faces of Eve. How is tradition undermined.

Reading: Genesis Chapters 1-4.

                 Harold Bloom, The Book of J , pp 177-186

                 A. Waskow, Godwrestling, pp. 43-51.

Session III: Genesis (continued) .

Reading: Legends of the Bible p. 34-37

                 " Fiery Night Woman- Lilith" .73-78

                 Constance Parvey, " The Theology and Leadership of Women in the New Testament" in
                        Rosemary Ruether, Religion & Sexism, pp. 117-137.

Session IV: The New Testament- the quest for the historical Jesus. ...the Jesus seminar. Thereligion of love. Who is the devil. the Gnostic Gospels. ...Ancient heresy.

Reading: Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels. Intro & chapt.1

Session V New Testament Continued

Reading: Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Snake. "Gnostic Improvisations on Genesis"

Session VI Religion in the Modern World. The Enlightenment. The emergence of reason. The breakdown of traditional religion. The emergence of choice. Emergence of the autonomous self. Choice undermines the tradition.

Reading: Peter Berger, " The Modern Situation ." The Heretical Imperative. " Modernity as Universalization of Heresy."

Session VII: Breakdown of the Enlightenment Autonomous self. Marx, Nietzsche, Freud Post modern thinking. Language and the breakdown of religion.

Reading: Norman 0. Brown, Life Against Death.- The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History. Pp. 3-39

Session VIII: Human Nature. " The Denial of Death" The banality of Good and Evil. The Problem of Evil in History. God and the Holocaust. Theology in the wake of the holocaust.

Reading: Edward Feld, The Spirit of Renewal, Chap. 14."God"

                 Becker, The Denial of Death. To page 92

Journals to be handed in at the last class.  They will be graded, commented on and returned. Remember to react to the reading not summarize. Include Becker which will be discussed during the last class.