An earlier version of this blogpost appeared at The G20 Interfaith Forum Blog.
As the world edges closer to viable vaccines against COVID-19, attention is turning to how that vaccine will be rolled out. Central to this question is the extent to which states may make the vaccine mandatory. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has indicated he would like to see a 95% vaccination rate once a vaccine is available. In Australia, debate has recently turned to the ethics of the vaccine being developed at Oxford University and the implications for freedom of religion should this vaccine prove to be the most viable candidate.
The vaccine being developed at Oxford University uses cell lines originally taken from an aborted foetus from the 1970s. While the practice of using cell-lines taken from a foetus is generally accepted by the scientific community as ethical, this does not allay religious concerns with the practice.
Marco Ventura is a professor with tenure in law and religion at the University of Siena and the Director of the Center for Religious Studies at Fondazione Bruno Kessler of Trento
Causing many religious activities to go online and resort to new information and communication technologies, the COVID-19 related lockdown and social distancing is transforming digital religion, a growing reality and research area for the last 20 years, into a mass experience. Quickly, the pre-pandemic niche experience and study is being replaced by a new reality and knowledge of digital religion, associated with controversies over conflicting interpretations of the process. Reacting to the transition into our pandemic-driven new age of digital religion, the four blogs gathered here contribute valuable information and present the many faces of the debate on how good or bad, digitalization of religion is (as well as on how actors should handle such momentous transformation).
In this attempt to briefly introduce the four texts and organize the extraordinary fluidity of digital religion in times of COVID-19, I would like to highlight four key elements of the reality, knowledge, and debate we are confronted with as we try to get ready for the new scenario.