Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality, and ethics.

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Religious or Not, Many Americans See a Creator's Hand

Image via LifeWay Research / RNS

You don’t have to believe in God or identify with any religion to see a creator’s hand in human life and morality, suggests a new survey.

LifeWay Research’s overall finding — that most Americans believe there is a creator who designed the universe and defines human morality — is not surprising. After all, 3 in 4 U.S. adults identify with a religious denomination.

The surprise is that so many people who don’t identify with a religion — so-called nones — agree.

California Governor Faces Final Call on Right-to-Die Bill

Image via Compassion & Choices / RNS

California Gov. Jerry Brown has until midnight Oct. 7 to sign or veto a controversial bill that would legalize physician-assisted dying in the nation’s most populous state.

Both supporters of the bill, who say it fosters “death with dignity,” and opponents, who call it legalized suicide, urge calls to the governor’s office and prayers to the Almighty while they wait out the clock.

And both sides expect this decision is a tough call for Brown.

Pope Francis' Words on Abuse Vary by His Audience

Image via Dado Ruvic / Reuters / RNS

On his first full day of the visit, Francis praised U.S. bishops for their “courage” in facing the difficult moments of the explosive clergy abuse scandal “without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”

Listeners, however, were shocked, mindful that the church has spent hundreds of millions in settlement payouts — often after years of protracted legal fights — to compensate for decades of bishops who protected, even promoted, abusive priests.

He sounded “tone-deaf,” said Vatican expert the Rev. Thomas Reese.

Pope Francis Embraces Washington’s Hungry: ‘No Justification for Homelessness’


Pope Francis visits with homeless who are served meals by Catholic charities, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Pool / RNS

Pope Francis went straight from charging the U.S. Congress to care for the neediest to blessing and encouraging Washington’s hungry and homeless on Sept. 24.

Still, Francis, wearing his cross showing a shepherd and his flock, carried a political message along with his pastoral mission.

“The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person,” he told staff and clients of Catholic Charities, at St. Patrick’s in the City’s ministry to the needy.

The Ashley Madison Hack Points a Theologian Toward Grace

Image via /Shutterstock

The Ashley Madison hack — the public release of emails of wannabe adulterers — has now ensnared a theologian with a famous name in some Christian circles.

Robert Craig Sproul Jr., best known by his first initials, stepped up Aug. 31 to face his sorrow — and teach a lesson in God’s grace in the process.

Catholics Love Their Celebrity Pope and Most — Not All — His Priorities

Image via RNS

Overall, 67 percent of Americans and 90 percent of U.S. Catholics hold a favorable view of the pope.

“Americans embrace Pope Francis as a celebrity — even when they don’t know what he thinks or does,” said Robert Jones, president and CEO of PRRI.

Many attached glowing traits to Francis. Asked to describe him in their own words, most just identified him by his role as pope or other neutral terms, but 27 percent chose positive terms, calling him “humble,” “compassionate” and “caring.”

The majority share his top priorities — on concern for the poor, the environment, and the economy. But the flock veers from the shepherd on doctrine, particularly on sexuality and marriage.

America Welcomes Christians, Jews; Atheists, Muslims Not So Much

LIfeWay Research / RNS

Graphic via LIfeWay Research / RNS

Americans are all for religious freedom — but disagree on who can claim it.

Diverse religious groups are recognized — but Christians and Jews are significantly more welcome than atheists, and many don’t see a welcome mat for Muslims. And not everyone means the same thing when speaking of a “Christian” nation.

So finds a new look at Americans’ religious self-image, detailed in a LifeWay Research survey released July 29.

The Hidden Ethics Battle in the Planned Parenthood Fetal Tissue Scandal

Dream Perfection /

Photo via Dream Perfection /

In a flood of outrage over Planned Parenthood videos — executives caught talking callously about supplying fetal tissue for medical research — some key points have washed out of attention, ethics experts say.

  • The use of fetal tissue in medical research is legal — and scientifically valuable.
  • It’s taxpayer-funded, to the tune of $76 million last year, and Planned Parenthood isn’t the only provider.
  • Done with dignity, it can be ethical, too, both religious and secular experts say.

But they also say there may be an unresolvable impasse in the public response: Can or should the leading provider of women’s health care be shut down in a showdown over the moral status of embryonic and fetal life?

Where’s the Bible in Harper Lee’s ‘Watchman’?


Harper Lee (center). Photo via RNS

Harper Lee’s “new” book Go Set a Watchman is infused with religious life and Christian moral argument, from its title to its final words.

It’s also a book with splashes of humor, enough Victorian poetry references to send readers scrambling for a Norton Anthology, and Bible allusions as the narrator of both novels, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, grows up to own her own life.

Examples (spoiler alert!) range from small moments to an epic showdown over race, justice, and sin in which Scout’s father, the saintly Atticus Finch of Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, is revealed, as David Gushee writes, as a “polite racist.”

United Church of Christ to Boycott Washington Redskins

Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters / RNS

Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson. Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters / RNS

The United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination, has called on its 1 million members to boycott Washington Redskins football games and merchandise until the team drops its controversial name and mascot.

The resolution, supported by several Native American tribes, passed June 29 at the denomination’s biennial summer synod in Cleveland.