Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 8, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 8, 2010

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Study: Happiness Is Having Friends at Church
  • Eritrean Christian Flees after Years of Persecution
  • Iran High Court Urged to Reverse Death Sentence for Christian
  • Survey: Typical Atheist Has Religious Parents?

Study: Happiness Is Having Friends at Church

Church attendance does not necessarily increase personal wellbeing -- but attending church with a close-knit community does. A new survey published in the American Sociological Review compares people with similar levels of church attendance to study the social aspects of religion. According to Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the study's lead author, "90% of the correlation between church attendance and life satisfaction can be explained if you have these close interactions." Nancy Ammerman, professor of sociology of religion at Boston University, has conducted similar research. "There's a high trust level in congregations," Ammerman told USA Today. "The ability to call on people for social support is very high, even if the people are not necessarily the people you'd call your best friends."

Eritrean Christian Flees after Years of Persecution

Stories of persecution in Eritrea notoriously include cramming Christians in metal containers in extreme temperatures, earning the country the 11th spot on one persecution watch list. One Eritrean Christian, 23-year-old Benji (name changed) recently escaped the country with similar stories after being imprisoned for more than three years. "Beatings, mock executions and food and water deprivation were common during his ordeal, along with his captors often demanding him to renounce his faith in Christ," said Kevin Turner, president of Strategic World Impact (SWI), according to Christian Newswire. Benji worked under the organization before his arrest. He eventually fled the country by food, braving extreme temperatures to escape. When found by SWI staff members in a nearby country, he was treated for Typhus, Malaria and severe malnutrition.

Iran High Court Urged to Reverse Death Sentence for Christian

Human rights groups are publicizing the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran, urging the country to revoke his death sentence. On Tuesday the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran publically appealed for Nadarkhani, who was charged with apostasy after he objected to Christian school students being forced to read the Koran. "To execute someone based on the religion they choose to practice or not practice is the ultimate form of religious discrimination and disregard for the freedom of conscience and belief," said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign, according to The Christian Post. Rhodes argued that there are no articles in Iran's Islamic Penal Code that refer to apostasy as a crime. "It is the low point of any judicial system to sentence a person to death outside of its own legal framework," he stated.

Survey: Typical Atheist Has Religious Parents?

The typical member of a fast-growing atheist association is a highly educated, married white male who grew up with religious parents, according to an informal survey. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which grew from 5,500 in 2004 to about 16,000 members this year, announced results of a survey of its members on Dec. 1. Religion News Service reports that the Wisconsin-based organization received nearly 4,000 responses to its survey, which was mailed to all its members in May. Asked about their primary reason for being "deconverted from religion to freethought," about a third of respondents said "religion doesn't make sense." Seventeen percent said religious hypocrisy or bigotry was the cause; 9 percent said reading skeptical authors; 5 percent cited reading the Bible. Most respondents said the religious denomination they left behind was Protestant (42 percent), but 30 percent said they were raised Catholic and 27 percent were raised Jewish. The overwhelming majority of atheist respondents -- 95 percent -- are white, but foundation officials hope that statistic will change.