On 3-6 June 2024 the World Congress of Bioethics #WCB2024 titled “Religion, Culture, and Bioethics” was held in Doha, Qatar, organized by the Research Center for Islamic Legislation & Ethics with the aim of exploring the intricate relationship between these fundamental elements. Prof. Fr. Joseph Tham, LC, Chair Reserach Scholar and Full Professor of Bioethics at the Faculty of Bioethics of the Pontifical Atheneaum Regina Apostolorum, participated in the conference with a short oral about ‘Religion, Polarisation and: A Post-Modern Critique’.

Religion, Polarisation and: A Post-Modern Critique

Joseph Tham and Allister Lee


In the contemporary milieu of bioethical discussions, religion is often suspected of being irrational, sectarian and polemical. Thus, bioethical reasoning is best performed with neutral philosophical or pragmatic methods to avoid contentions and polarizations generally perceived with religion. From its founding inspiration in the 70s, where theology plays an important role, bioethics soon turned secular, displacing theology with legal, philosophical or pragmatic approaches. At the same time, secular bioethics is sometimes inadequate and too “thin” to address the “thicker” questions of life, death, illness, well-being, mortality and immortality. With the advance of global bioethics,  can we still ignore religion? Could religious approaches enrich the bioethical conversation? How can religions engage bioethics in the globalized and public space?    In an exchange between secular philosopher Jurgen Habermas and Catholic thinker Josef Ratzinger, the late Pope Benedict XVI both acknowledged that an extremist religious view unhinged from reason would result in fundamentalism and polarization. At the same time, a solely secular approach could also reduce ethics into a battleground of the “will to power” and will not avoid polarized positions either. This paper will examine polarized positions in bioethical debates and offer a post-modern critique to enrich the dialogue between religious and secular bioethics.