The director of a child advocacy group told The Associated Press in June that, since 1975, at least 274 children have died following the withholding of medical treatment based on religious doctrine. In one high-profile case this year, the father of a girl said turning her over to doctors would violate God's word (she died), but in another, a Minnesota family that had trusted their son's cancer to prayer, based on advice from something called the Nemenhah Band, changed course and allowed chemotherapy, which so far appears to have prolonged the boy's life.

The Shinto temple Kanda Shrine, near Tokyo's version of Silicon Valley, does a brisk business blessing electronic gadgets, according to a July dispatch in Wired magazine. Lucky charms go for the equivalent of about $8.50, but for a personal session, the temple expects an offering of the equivalent of at least $50. The Wired writer, carrying a potentially balky cell phone, approached the shrine with a tree branch as instructed, turned it 180 degrees clockwise, and laid it on the altar. After bowing twice and clapping his hands twice, he left, looking forward to a glitch-free phone. 

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