Program on Medicine and Religion

Welcome to the Program on Medicine and Religion

The Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago is a leading forum for scholarship, discourse and education at the intersection of medicine and religion. The aims of this Program are to discover what shape contemporary medicine might take in different faith contexts, to foster interfaith dialogue about medicine and religion, and to encourage and advise those patients, practitioners, and communities that are currently seeking to re-invigorate the spiritual and religious dimensions of health care. If successful, this work will help patients to make medical choices that are better informed by their own (and others’) religious traditions, and help them to interpret their medical experiences in the light of spirituality and faith. This work will help health care professionals to re-imagine and re-engage medicine as a faithful practice—to experience their work as intrinsically rewarding and fulfilling. This work will also help to clarify how health care systems can better accommodate the particular needs of diverse religious communities.

The Program pursues these above aims through scholarship, training, and education. The Program promotes scholarship regarding all aspects of the intersection of medicine and religion, from the clinical encounter between patients and clinicians to broader societal and policy concerns. While open to all the diverse religious and spiritual traditions that can inform medicine, the Program primarily promotes scholarship and education related to the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The point of this focus is not to be exclusionary, but to facilitate a more robust interfaith dialogue among these traditions that share so much in common, and to pursue a greater depth of scholarship than might be possible were the Program to attempt to embrace all the world’s many faith traditions equally. The Program also seeks to train and educate those who will expand the range and depth of this field, to develop educational resources through conferences, workshops/seminars and formal coursework, and to create venues that bring together academics and laypersons, scientists and scholars of religion, health care professionals and members of the public, to consider what medicine might look like were it to be fully informed by attention to its religious and spiritual dimensions.

The Program originated as a collaborative effort involving the Department of Medicine and the Divinity School. The Program was launched January 2009 by cofounders and former UChicago faculty, Dr. Farr Curlin (Duke University) and Dr. Daniel Sulmasy (Georgetown University) and was previously led by Dr. Aasim Padela (Medical College of Wisconsin). The Program on Medicine and Religion at the University of Chicago is a sponsoring institution for the annual National Conference on Medicine and Religion. Today this Program is being currently led by Dr. John Yoon, and has benefited from grant support by the John Templeton Foundation, the Hyde Park Institute, and a generous legacy gift from Dr. and Mrs. Hugh Hazenfield.

Upcoming Events

What is Human Nature?
Moral Challenges for Genetic Engineering Research Today
A panel conversation with George Church and James Sherley

When: June 17, 2021, 6:00 PM CST / 7:00 PM EST
Where: A secure link sent out before the event, courtesy of our co-sponsor The Veritas Forum
Dinner: Provided through a $50 GrubHub gift card

Decline at

Scientists in the many fields of genetics and stem cell research are at the verge of taking control of human biological destiny: for some, exercising the power of “gods,” capable of creating artificial DNA, developing artificial organs for heart replacement surgery, cloning animals and humans, to name just a few innovations. In short, what we have come to think of as natural biological processes are rapidly becoming evolutionary developments that humans believe they can control. Moving closer to being able to manipulate the very material of human identity, George Church and James Sherley have become aware of a number of ethical problems.

Some, like paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, have argued that science and religion/philosophy are separate domains—“magisteria,” as Gould called them. As geneticists move closer to being able to manipulate the very material of human identity, the bright-line between the domains is starting to blur. Church decided to hire an ethicist to be a full time member of his lab team and moral guide for their work.

The implications of the technologies are pushing scientists to ask ethical, moral, and religious questions. Given the gravity of the issues involved, George Church and James Sherley are delighted to do so. For them, asking questions “is what it’s all about.”

We invite you to a conversation where a couple of scientists get personal and wander beyond their science “silos” both to report on their current work and on some of the moral and religious challenges they are encountering.

Dave Thom, the Interfaith Faculty Chaplain at MIT, will join George and James to continue Roundtable conversations that began in 2016 and have over the years included faculty from Massachusetts, Yale and Brown.