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April 18, 2014

The Rapture of the Nerds

(Time) – Sure, it’s easy to dismiss people who think they can somehow cheat death with a laptop. But Terasem is a potent symbol of a modern way of life where the digital world and the emotional one have become increasingly entwined. It is also a sign, if one from the fringe, of the always evolving relationship between technology and faith. Survey after survey has shown the number of Americans calling themselves “religious” has declined despite the fact that many still identify as “spiritual.” People are searching, and no longer do they look to technology to provide mere order for their lives. They also want meaning. Maybe, it’s time to hack our souls.

January 28, 2014

When judges believe in ‘Natural Law’

This year the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on at least two cases that weigh constitutional and statutory law against religious or moral beliefs. Both involve challenges to the Obamacare provision that requires for-profit companies to offer health insurance policies that cover contraception. In Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary, etc., a national wood-supply company and its owners assert that they are entitled to an exemption based on their Mennonite owners’ view that contraception “is intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable.” In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. Sibelius, Hobby Lobby and its owners argue that they operate under Christian principles and that it would be “immoral” for them to provide contraception coverage. (The Atlantic)

January 13, 2014

When the right to religion conflicts with a changing society

The Justice Department has argued that the nuns’ group is already exempt from providing birth control under the ACA, as long as it certifies its standing as a religious nonprofit. But the Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argues that documentation simply condones employees getting the coverage elsewhere. (NPR)

January 6, 2014

U.S. asks top court not to extend Catholics’ contraception exemption

The U.S. government asked the Supreme Court on Friday not to allow Roman Catholic-affiliated groups a temporary exemption from a part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception. On Tuesday night, Justice Sonia Sotomayor had granted a temporary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the so-called “contraception mandate” against the Little Sisters of the Poor and Christian Brothers Services while litigation continues. (Reuters)

January 2, 2014

Justice halts Obama contraception rule for Catholic nuns

The Obama administration was temporarily blocked by a U.S. Supreme Court justice from forcing an order of Catholic nuns to comply with a federal requirement to provide free contraceptive coverage for employees. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s two-sentence order will last at least until Jan. 3, the deadline she gave the administration to respond to a bid by the Denver and Baltimore chapters of the Little Sisters of the Poor for an exemption to the mandate. The Supreme Court released the order last night, a half hour before the mandate took effect. (Bloomberg News)

December 19, 2013

Virgin births make up 0.5% of deliveries: IVF, chastity pledges, and the problem with imprinting genes

With Christmas all but a week away, what better way for scientists to spend the holiday season than researching modern day cases of virgin birth? As it turns out, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found the number to be slightly greater than zero. In fact, out of the 7,870 women surveyed as part of the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), 0.5 percent of respondents confirmed their status as virgins who, without the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization, still reported having given birth. (Medical Daily)

December 10, 2013

Health matters: Medicine’s growing spirituality

In a health crisis, patients and families may turn to a member of the hospital staff who offers help beyond the physical aspects of medical treatment: the chaplain. With growing recognition of the role of spirituality in health care, hospital chaplains are being called on to help patients cope with fear and pain, make difficult end-of-life decisions and guide families through bereavement after a loss. They may help sick or dying patients reconnect with estranged family members. (The Wall Street Journal)

Debate over Catholic directives that affect 13 percent of US hospitals

Hospitals that serve one in six Americans adhere to Catholic doctrine that threatens the lives of patients, the American Civil Liberties Union claims in a court case filed on behalf of a Michigan woman. The ACLU is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for issuing guidelines that the group claims led to substandard medical care for the pregnant woman in Michigan. The guidelines are called the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services and every Catholic hospital and Catholic healthcare institution must adhere to them or risk losing their classification as a Catholic institution. (ABC News)

December 3, 2013

Catholic hospitals are growing. What will that mean for reproductive health?

The lawsuit comes in the midst of a wave of high-profile mergers between Catholic hospitals and secular systems. The partnerships have raised questions about how care will be delivered at institutions guided by religious directives, particularly in rural areas like Muskegon where patients have little choice of where to be seen. (Washington Post)

October 29, 2013

Don’t let religious beliefs impede kids’ care: Doctors

Pediatricians and child abuse agencies should step in when parents’ religious beliefs keep kids from getting necessary medical care, doctors said Monday. In a policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics also said states should repeal any exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws. (The Baltimore Sun)

October 3, 2013

Saudi Arabian health official deflects MERS questions

Saudi Arabia is beefing up its surveillance of a deadly coronavirus in advance of Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, which is set to begin on 13 October. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) has infected 135 people, killing 58, since it emerged about a year ago. Saudi Arabia has been hardest hit, with 117 confirmed cases and 49 deaths. (Nature News)

September 23, 2013

Pope blasts abortion after decrying focus on rules

Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them. Francis issued a strong anti-abortion message and cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists. (U. S. News and World Report)

September 20, 2013

Pope says Church must end obsession with gays, contraception, and abortion

Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice “like a house of cards”. In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the Church had “locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules” and should not be so prone to condemn. (Yahoo!)

August 13, 2013

New Texas medical school under scrutiny

As the University of Texas prepares to open its medical school in Austin in 2016, it is negotiating the delicate agreements between public university and the religiously-affiliated healthcare provider who will train its doctors. (Modern Health Care)

August 8, 2013

Cheating death and being okay with God

Still almost three-quarters of American predict that by 2050, “artificial arms and legs will perform better than natural ones.” A substantial majority also believe that by that point we’ll have cures for most forms of cancer. And fully 25 percent of Americans think that by mid-century, the average person will live to at least 120. (The Atlantic)

July 29, 2013

Bioethicist: Failed search for controversial cells shows danger of mixing science, religion

What should we think when a scientist claims to have found a cell in the human body with miraculous powers that no one before has ever seen and almost no one else can even find trying to follow his directions of where to look? (NBC News)

June 13, 2013

Nanotechnology and religion: A complex relationship

It is mostly secular voices who have expressed their thoughts and concerns on nanotechnology until now, but there is a lot of evidence that public views on it will be shaped by religious beliefs. For example, a 2009 survey found that strength of religious beliefs in the US is negatively related to support for funding of nanotechnology. A study of the same year found that the more religious a country is, the less it tends to find nanotechnology morally acceptable. (The Guardian)

June 5, 2013

Catholic Church fined for sacking unmarried teacher for having IVF baby

The Catholic Church in America has been fined for dismissing a pregnant unmarried teacher who had used IVF. The case is seen as a barometer on the degree to which religious organisations in the United States can regulate employees’ lives. (The Herald Sun)

May 8, 2013

Religious support tied to intensive end-of-life care

People with advanced cancer tend to get more aggressive care at the end of life and spend more time in the intensive care unit if they receive spiritual support from their religious communities, according to a new study. (Reuters)

May 1, 2013

Assisted suicide poll shows support among majority of religious people

A major survey of religious opinion shows that large majorities of believers are in favour of legalising assisted dying. The poll, carried out by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates and involving nearly 4,500 people, reveals that only among Muslims and Baptists are there majorities against a change in the law that prohibits assisted suicide. Majorities of Anglicans, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Methodists and Pentecostalists are in favour of changing the law. (The Guardian)

April 15, 2013

Catholic Church brings scientists working on stem cells to Vatican

Clerics here greeted stem-cell researchers in an unusual conference at which the Catholic Church sought to show what the cardinal who organized the meeting called the “necessary union between science and faith.” Hundreds of scientists, including 2012 Nobel laureate John B. Gurdon, spoke at the three-day event, the fruit of a joint venture between the church and the U.S. nonprofit Stem for Life Foundation. (The Wall Street Journal)


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Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
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