RNS photo courtesy of HarperOne

Man behind ‘near-death experience’ ponders the afterlife

(RNS) In his new memoir, “Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife,” Raymond Moody, the man who coined the term “near-death experience,” takes a look back, reflecting on his fascination with death, the effect of his life's work, and pondering what it's all meant. By Piet Levy.

RNS photo by B. Denise Hawkins

Five years later, mother of Virginia Tech victim wrestles with God, finds peace

CENTREVILLE, Va. (RNS) It's been five years since Celeste Peterson's only daughter was killed in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. And while the grieving mother has rediscovered her faith, it hasn't been easy. At first, her prayers were near obligatory: “Thank you for this day. I'm not talking to you. Amen.” By B. Denise Hawkins.

RNS photo courtesy Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian.

Doctor who championed ‘death with dignity’ dies at 83

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Peter Goodwin, the first doctor in Oregon to campaign publicly for the terminally ill to obtain medical help in ending their lives, died Sunday shortly after exercising the right he fought to secure. He was 83. By Anne Saker.

RNS photo courtesy Daniel Pearl Foundation.

COMMENTARY: The problem with Daniel Pearl’s Mormon baptism

(RNS) The posthumous Mormon baptism of slain journalist Daniel Pearl shows that it's not just the proxy “baptism” of Holocaust victims that is problematic. Because of Judaism's communal sense of identity, performing this ritual for any Jews without their community's consent, raises basic questions of fairness and respect. By Philip A. Cunningham.

Till death (or illness or dementia) us do part?

(RNS) When the person you married goes through a dramatic change — a car accident, brain injury or dementia —  what's a spouse to do? As Valentine's Day approaches, clergy, ethicists  and brain injury experts agree: There are no easy answers.  By Adelle M. Banks.

10 minutes with … Lobsang Sangay

“My stand on self immolation is the same as that of the Dalai Lama, who has always discouraged drastic actions by Tibetans,” says Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile. “He does not even endorse hunger strikes.”

Bodily desecration is disturbing — but why?

(RNS) Desecrating enemy dead is not always a vengeful impulse, and in some cultures even has a religious component. At the same time, disgust at the desecration of the dead is not always a simple case of demanding respect for a fallen human being, but also carries religious implications, and even one's journey in the afterlife. By Omar Sacirbey. 850. With photo.

COMMENTARY: The new missionary position

(RNS) “Missionary” is one of those words where the meaning depends entirely on who’s saying it — and who’s hearing it. For Christians, it’s a word that conjures up images of selfless believers carrying life-saving religion to faraway places. Yet for many Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans and others, it recalls overzealous Christians who were (or are) intent on converting the entire world to their faith. To be fair, some Christian missionaries have done a ton of good, establishing hospitals, colleges and universities, clinics, schools, hospices, and orphanages. But others, in their fervent quest for converts, have used deceptive or coercive proselytism that trampled on the traditional religious traditions of their targets.

Russian patriarch denounces Moscow airport bombing

MOSCOW (RNS/ENInews) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church denounced a terrorist attack at Moscow’s busiest airport as “the horrifying scowl of sin,” and said actions once condemned even in war “are today becoming a form of protest.” Patriarch Kirill I spoke after a service to mark the feast of St. Tatyana, which this year became an occasion to address growing ethnic tensions in Russia after a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people and injured more than 150 at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Monday (Jan. 24). While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, assailants in a number of previous terrorist attacks have been linked to a separatist movement in Chechnya and other republics of the troubled Northern Caucasus region.

Army faces questions over `spiritual fitness’ test

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Army is facing questions over a “spiritual fitness” portion of a mandatory questionnaire, with some atheists calling it “invidious and not inclusive” of soldiers who are nonbelievers. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation learned in December that soldiers were being asked to respond to statements such as “I am a spiritual person” and “I believe there is a purpose for my life.” If soldiers received a low score on their spiritual fitness questions, they received an assessment that said “Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. … Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.”

Pope meets with victims, laments `shame and humiliationâÂ?Â?

LONDON (RNS) Following two days of meetings with religious and government leaders, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday (Sept. 18) turned his attention to his own flock as met with victims of sexual abuse and warned of the dangers of legalized assisted suicide. As on previous occasions, controversy _ this time, in the form of thousands of protestors marching through central London _ threatened to distract from Benedict’s intended message, which focused on the redemptive power of suffering and the dignity of old age. At a morning Mass in London’s Westminster Cathedral, Benedict apologized to victims of sexual abuse, and associated their “immense suffering” with Jesus’ own passion and death. “I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes,” Benedict said, noting the “shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins.” During his afternoon meeting with victims, Benedict again voiced his “deep sorrow and shame,” according to a Vatican statement, and assured them the church would “collaborate with civil authorities and to bring to justice” to church workers who are “accused of these egregious crimes.” The Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the victims were four women and one man, all in their 40s.

Billboard’s right-to-die message raises eyebrows, concerns in New Jersey

HILLSIDE, N.J. (RNS) The huge black billboard is hard to miss, looming over a stretch of Route 22 like a harbinger of death, or at least the right to die: “My Life, My Death, My Choice, FinalExitNetwork.org” The 15-by-49-foot billboard went up June 28, paid for by Final Exit Network, a nationwide group that provides guidance to adults seeking to end a life of constant pain from incurable illness. The billboard, along with one in San Francisco and another planned for Florida, anchors a national campaign by the network to raise awareness of itself and its mission. Members say the locations were chosen for their reputations as being socially progressive and, in Florida’s case, for its elderly population. “What we’re trying to do is let people know that Final Exit Network exists, and that we’re here, and if they spend a little time trying to find out what we do, they might actually support us,” said Bob Levine, 88, of Princeton, who founded the group’s New Jersey chapter after his first wife died of cancer. Levine said reaction on the organization’s website has been mixed: “From, `God bless you, we finally have somebody who understands us,’ to `You are a bunch of atheists and you ought to be put in jail.”‘ Criticism has also come from two other corners: suicide prevention counselors and the Catholic Church.