Religion in Germany
Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, at an estimated 58-59% of the country's population in 2016. The two largest churches of the country are the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a Protestant confederation of United Protestant (Lutheran & Reformed), Lutheran, and Reformed churches. Together, both churches claim 55% of the population in 2016, of which 28.5% belonged to the Catholic Church and 26.5% to the Evangelical Church. In 2016, the Orthodox Church constituted 2-2.7% of the population and other minor Christian churches, many of them being Evangelical Protestant, formed 1-1.5%.
About 36.2% of the country's population are not affiliated with any church or religion, and a minority adhere to other religions. The second largest religion in Germany is Islam, with between 2.1 and 4.7 million adherents (2.6% to 5.7%). Smaller religious groups (less than 1%) include Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
- 1 History
- 2 Statistics
- 3 Christianity
- 4 Secularism
- 5 Islam
- 6 Judaism
- 7 Buddhism
- 8 Hinduism
- 9 Sikhism
- 10 Yazidis
- 11 Other religions
- 12 Neopaganism
- 13 Cults, sects, religious movements
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Paganism and Roman settlement: 1000 BC - 300 AD
Late Roman and Carolingian eras: 300-1000
In the territories of Germany under the control of the Roman Empire (the provinces Germania Superior and Germania Inferior), early Christianity was introduced and began to flourish after the 4th century. Although pagan Roman temples existed beforehand, Christian religious structures were soon built, such as the Aula Palatina in Trier (then the capital of the Roman province Gallia Belgica), completed during the reign of Constantine I (306-337 AD).
During the Carolingian period, Christianity spread throughout Germany, particularly during the reign of Charlemagne (r. 800-814 AD) and his expansionary military campaigns. Religious structures built during the Carolingian period include the Palatine Chapel, Aachen, a surviving component of the Palace of Aachen.
Roman Catholicism was the sole established religion in the Holy Roman Empire until the advent of the Protestant Reformation changed this drastically. In the early 16th century abuses (such as selling indulgences in the Catholic Church) occasioned much discontent, and a general desire for reform emerged. In 1517 the Reformation began with the publication of Martin Luther's 95 Theses detailing 95 assertions which Luther believed showed corruption and misguidance within the Catholic Church. The Reformation demonstrated Luther's disagreement both with the way in which the higher clergy used and abused power, and with the very idea of a papacy. In 1521 the Diet of Worms outlawed Luther, but the Reformation spread rapidly. Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, establishing the basis of the modern German language. A curious fact is that Luther spoke a dialect which had minor importance in the German language of that time. After the publication of his Bible, his dialect evolved into what is now standard modern German.
With the protestation of the Lutheran princes at the Imperial Diet of Speyer (1529) and rejection of the Lutheran "Augsburg Confession" at the Diet of Augsburg (1530), a separate Lutheran church emerged.
From 1545 the Counter-Reformation began in Germany. Much of its impetus came from the newly-founded (in 1540) Jesuit order. It restored Catholicism to many areas, including Bavaria. The Holy Roman Empire became religiously diverse; for the most part, the states of northern and central Germany became Protestant (chiefly Lutheran, but also Calvinist/Reformed) while the states of southern Germany and the Rhineland largely remained Catholic. In 1547 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant rulers. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 brought recognition of the Lutheran faith. But the treaty also stipulated that the religion of a state was to be that of its ruler (cuius regio, eius religio).
In 1608/1609 the Protestant Union and the Catholic League formed. The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, played out primarily in German lands, but involved most of the countries of Europe. It was to some extent a religious conflict, involving both Protestants and Catholics.
Two main developments reshaped religion in Germany after 1814. Across the land, there was a movement to unite the larger Lutheran and the smaller Reformed Protestant churches. The churches themselves brought this about in Baden, Nassau, and Bavaria. However, in Prussia King Frederick William III was determined to handle unification entirely on his own terms, without consultation. His goal was to unify the Protestant churches, and to impose a single standardized liturgy, organization, and even architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches. In a series of proclamations over several decades the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union was formed, bringing together the more numerous Lutherans and the less numerous Reformed Protestants. The government of Prussia now had full control over church affairs, with the king himself recognized as the leading bishop. Opposition to unification came from the "Old Lutherans" in Silesia who clung tightly to the theological and liturgical forms they had followed since the days of Luther. The government attempted to crack down on them, so they went underground. Tens of thousands migrated, to South Australia and especially to the United States, where they formed the Missouri Synod which remains fundamentalist in its interpretation of the Bible, as distinguished from Lutherans who pursue a more contextualist approach. Finally, in 1845 the new king, Frederick William IV, offered a general amnesty and allowed the Old Lutherans to form a separate church association with only nominal government control.
From the religious point of view of the typical Catholic or Protestant, major changes were underway in terms of a much more personalized religiosity that focused on the individual more than the church or the ceremony. The rationalism of the late 18th century faded away, and there was a new emphasis on the psychology and feeling of the individual, especially in terms of contemplating sinfulness, redemption, and the mysteries and the revelations of Christianity. Pietistic revivals were common among Protestants. Among Catholics there was a sharp increase in popular pilgrimages. In 1844 alone, half a million pilgrims made a pilgrimage to the city of Trier in the Rhineland to view the Seamless robe of Jesus, said to be the robe that Jesus wore on the way to his crucifixion. Catholic bishops in Germany had historically been largely independent Of Rome, but now the Vatican exerted increasing control, a new "ultramontanism" of Catholics highly loyal to Rome. A sharp controversy broke out in 1837-38 in the largely Catholic Rhineland over the religious education of children of mixed marriages, where the mother was Catholic and the father Protestant. The government passed laws to require that these children always be raised as Protestants, contrary to Napoleonic law that had previously prevailed and allowed the parents to make the decision. It put the Catholic Archbishop under house arrest. In 1840, the new King Frederick William IV sought reconciliation and ended the controversy by agreeing to most of the Catholic demands. However Catholic memories remained deep and led to a sense that Catholics always needed to stick together in the face of an untrustworthy government.
Bismarck would not tolerate any base of power outside Germany – in Rome – having a say in German affairs. He launched a Kulturkampf ("culture war") against the power of the pope and the Catholic Church in 1873, but only in Prussia. This gained strong support from German liberals, who saw the Catholic Church as the bastion of reaction and their greatest enemy. The Catholic element, in turn, saw the National Liberals, who often happened to be Protestant, as its worst enemy and formed the Center Party.
Catholics, although about a third of the national population, were seldom allowed to hold major positions in the Imperial government or the Prussian government. After 1871, there was a systematic purge of Catholics; in the powerful interior ministry, which handled all police affairs, the only Catholic was a messenger boy. Jews were likewise heavily discriminated against.
Most of the Kulturkampf was fought out in Prussia, but Imperial Germany passed the Pulpit Law which made it a crime for any cleric to discuss public issues in a way that displeased the government. Nearly all Catholic bishops, clergy, and laymen rejected the legality of the new laws, and were defiant facing the increasingly heavy penalties and imprisonments imposed by Bismarck's government. Historian Anthony Steinhoff reports the casualty totals:
As of 1878, only three of eight Prussian dioceses still had bishops, some 1,125 of 4,600 parishes were vacant, and nearly 1,800 priests ended up in jail or in exile. ...Finally, between 1872 and 1878, numerous Catholic newspapers were confiscated, Catholic associations and assemblies were dissolved, and Catholic civil servants were dismissed merely on the pretence of having Ultramontane sympathies.
The German Bishops who were politically powerless in Germany and theologically in opposition to the Pope in Rome – have now become powerful political leaders in Germany and enthusiastic defenders of the now infallible Faith of Rome, united, disciplined, and thirsting for martyrdom, thanks to Bismarck's uncalled for antiliberal declaration of War on the freedom they had hitherto peacefully enjoyed.
Bismarck underestimated the resolve of the Catholic Church and did not foresee the extremes that this struggle would entail. The Catholic Church denounced the harsh new laws as anti-catholic and mustered the support of its rank and file voters across Germany. In the following elections, the Center Party won a quarter of the seats in the Imperial Diet. The conflict ended after 1879 because Pius IX died in 1878 and Bismarck broke with the Liberals to put his main emphasis on tariffs, foreign policy, and attacking socialists. Bismarck negotiated with the conciliatory new pope Leo XIII. Peace was restored, the bishops returned, and the jailed clerics were released. Laws were toned down or taken back (Mitigation Laws 1880-1883 and Peace Laws 1886/87), but the main regulations such as the Pulpit Law and the laws concerning education, civil registry (incl. marriage), or religious disaffiliation remained in place. The Center Party gained strength and became an ally of Bismarck, especially when he attacked socialism.
Religious freedom: 1919-present
The national constitutions of 1919 and 1949 guarantee freedom of faith and religion; earlier, these freedoms were mentioned only in state constitutions. The modern constitution of 1949 also states that no one may be discriminated against due to their faith or religious opinions. No state church exists in Germany.
Religious communities that are of sufficient size and stability and are loyal to the constitution can be recognised as Körperschaften öffentlichen Rechtes (statutory corporations). This gives them certain privileges, for example being able to give religious instruction in state schools (as enshrined in the German constitution, though some states are exempt from this) and having membership fees collected (for a fee) by the German revenue department as "Church tax": a surcharge of between 8 and 9% of the income tax. The status mainly applies to the Roman Catholic Church, the mainline Protestant EKD, a number of Evangelical Free churches, and Jewish communities. There has been much discussion about allowing other religious groups like Muslims into this system as well.
In the former communist state of East Germany, Christian churches were restricted by the government. In the 21st century Eastern German territories including the capital Berlin is less religious and more secular than Western Germany.
Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with around 47.9 million adherents (58.3%) in 2016 of whom 23.6 million are Catholics (28.5%) and 21.9 milion are Protestants (26.5%). The Orthodox Church has 1.5 million members or 1.9% of the population. Other minority Christian churches together form 1.0% of the total population. The second largest religion is Islam with between 2.1 and 4.5 million adherents (2.6% to 5.5%) followed by Buddhism around 270,000 adherents. Judaism has around 100,000 known adherents although there might be a further 90,000 whose religious status is unclear. Hinduism has around 100,000 adherents. All other religious communities in Germany have fewer than 50,000 (<0.1%) adherents. About 35% of the population are non-religious.
Protestantism is concentrated in the north and east and Roman Catholicism is concentrated in the south and west. Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013) was born in Bavaria. Non-religious people, including atheists and agnostics, might make up as many as 55%, and are especially numerous in the former East Germany and major metropolitan areas.
Most Muslims are Sunnis and Alevis from Turkey, but there are a small number of Shi'a and other currents. Germany has Europe's third-largest Jewish population (after France and the United Kingdom). In 2004, twice as many Jews from former Soviet republics settled in Germany as in Israel, bringing the total Jewish population to more than 200,000, compared to 30,000 prior to German reunification. Large cities with significant Jewish populations include Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich. Around 270,000 active Buddhists live in Germany; 50% of them are Asian immigrants.
In a 2012 Eurobarometer Poll ("Do you consider yourself to be ...?"), 31% self-identified as Catholic, 30% as Protestant, 2% as Orthodox, 2% as "other Christian", 3% as Muslim, 18% as Non-believer/Agnostic, 9% as Atheist, 1% as "other (spontaneous)", and 4% did not answer (DK).
According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, 44% of German citizens agreed with the statement "I believe there is a God", whereas 25% agreed with "I believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 27% said "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force." According to a 2014 Poll released by the WIN-Gallup International Association (WIN-GIA), 34% of German citizens said that they are religious, 42% said that they are not religious, 17% said that they are convinced atheists, and 7% gave no response.
A 2015 study estimated some 15,000 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in the country, most of whom belong to an evangelical or Pentecostal community.
According to the 2011 census:
- Roman Catholic Church in Germany: 24,740,380 or 30.8% of the German population;
- Evangelical Church in Germany: 24,328,100 or 30.3% of the German population;
- Other, atheist or not specified: 31,151,210 or 38.8% of the German population.
At its foundation in 1871, the German Empire was about two-thirds Protestant and one-third Roman Catholic, with a notable Jewish minority. Other faiths existed in the state, but never achieved the demographic significance and cultural impact of these three confessions.
As of 2016, Christianity with 47.9 million (58.3%) members is the largest religion in Germany, with the Protestant Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) comprising 26.5% of the population and Roman Catholicism comprising 28.5%. Consequently, a majority of the German people belong to a Christian community, although many of them take no active part in church life. About 1.9-2.7%% of the population is Orthodox Christian.
Independent and congregational churches exist in all larger towns and many smaller ones, but most such churches are small. One of these is the confessional Lutheran Church called Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany.
Source for all data: REMID
- Evangelical Church in Germany — 21,922,000 (2016) — 26.5% of the German population
- New Apostolic Church — 341,202 (2015)
- Free Baptist and Mennonite Groups — 290.000 (2007)
- Baptists (mostly Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Deutschland KdöR) — 82,000 (2016)
- Methodists — 52,031 (2016)
- Pentecostals (Bund Freikirchlicher Pfingstgemeinden) — 51,896 (2015)
- Mennonites — 44,714 (2017)
- Bund Freier evangelischer Gemeinden — 41,203 (2017)
- Seventh-day Adventist Church — 34,811 (2014)
- Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church — 33,175 (2014)
- Independent African Churches — 30,000 (2005)
- Roman Catholic Church in Germany — 23,581,549 (2016) — 28.5%
- Old Catholic Church — 15,715
- Maronite Church Catholics — 6,000
Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christianity
Source for all data: REMID
- Romanian Orthodox Church — 560,000
- Orthodox Church of Constantinople/Greek Orthodox Church — 400,000
- Serbian Orthodox Church — 337,000
- Russian Orthodox Church — 240,000
- Bulgarian Orthodox Church — 130,000
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate — 110,000
- Syriac Orthodox Church — 100,000
- Armenian Apostolic Church — 35,000
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate — 33,000
Before World War II, about two-thirds of the German population was Protestant and one-third was Roman Catholic. In the north and northeast of Germany especially, Protestants dominated. In the former West Germany between 1945 and 1990, which contained nearly all of Germany's historically Catholic areas, Catholics have had a small majority since the 1980s. Due to a generation behind the Iron Curtain, Protestant areas of the former states of Prussia were much more affected by secularism than predominantly Catholic areas. The predominantly secularised states, such as Hamburg or the East German states, used to be Lutheran or United Protestant strongholds. Because of this, Protestantism is now strongest in two strips of territory in the former West Germany, one extending from the Danish border to Hesse, and the other extending northeast-southwest across southern Germany. Most of irreligious people in Germany live in East Germany, and have a Protestant background.
There is a non-religious majority in Hamburg, Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt only 19.7 percent belong to the two big denominations of the country. This is the state where Martin Luther was born and lived most of his life.
In what used to be East Germany both religious observance and affiliation are much lower than in the rest of the country, after forty years of Communist rule. The government of the German Democratic Republic encouraged a state atheist worldview through institutions such as Jugendweihen (youth consecrations) – secular coming-of-age ceremonies akin to Christian confirmation which all young people were encouraged to attend. The number of christenings, religious weddings, and funerals is also lower than in the West.
According to a survey among German youths (aged 12 to 24) in the year 2006, 30% of German youths believe in a personal god, 19% believe in some kind of supernatural power, 23% share agnostic views and 28% are atheists.
Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in the country. There are between 2.1 and 4.7 million Muslims. This lack of exactitude has to do with the fact that about half of the 4.2 million people with origins in the Muslim world are not religious believers, according to a study. The majority of Muslims in Germany are of Turkish origin (63.2%), followed by those from Pakistan, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Arab countries, Iran, and Afghanistan. This figure includes the different denominations of Islam, such as Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya, and Alevites. Muslims first came to Germany as part of the diplomatic, military, and economic relations between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. In World War I about 15,000 Muslim prisoners of war were interned in Berlin. The first mosque was established in Berlin in 1915 for these prisoners, though it was closed in 1930. After the West German Government invited foreign workers in 1961, the Muslim population continuously rose.
- Total: 2.1 to 4.7 million (2.6 to 5.7%), of which 1 million (1.1%) has German citizenship.
- Sunnis 2,640,000
- Alevis 500,000
- Twelvers Shi'as 225,500
- Alawites 70,000
- Ahmadiyya Muslim Community 35,000-45,000
- Sufis 10,000
- Salafis 8,350
- Ismailis 1,900
- Zaydis 800
- Ibadis 270
- Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement 60
Jewish communities in German speaking regions go back to the 4th century. In 1910 about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany. Since 1990, Germany is one of the few European countries with a Jewish community that is growing. Especially its capital Berlin has one of the fastest growing communities worldwide.
About ninety thousand Jews from the former Eastern Bloc, mostly from ex-Soviet Union countries, settled in Germany since the fall of the Berlin wall. This is mainly due to a German government policy which effectively grants an immigration opportunity to anyone from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic states with Jewish heritage, and the fact that today's Germans are seen as more significantly accepting of Jews than many people in the ex-Soviet realm.
- Total: 100,000 (0.1%)
- The religious status is unclear for a further 90,000 persons. They come from Eastern Europe and have no membership in a Jewish community.
- Union of Progressive Jews in Germany: 5,000 members
- Central Council of Jews in Germany: 23 national associations of 108 communities comprising approximately 100,500 members in 2014; represents most Jewish communities
Most of them are followers of the Buddhist school of Theravada especially from Sri Lanka. Furthermore there are followers of Vajrayana, also referred to as Tibetan Buddhism as well as followers of Nichiren Buddhism mainly from Japan and Zen Buddhism from Japan, as well. Around 59,000 Buddhists are from Thailand who follow the school of Theravada and keep 48 Hindu temples in Germany and form one of the largest Buddhist community of Buddhists of Asian origin in Germany. Most of the different Buddhist schools and organization in Germany are members of the non-profit association Deutschen Buddhistischen Union e.V. (DBU).
There are approximately 100,000 Hindus living in Germany. Most of them are Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka (around 42,000 to 45,000); from India are around 35,000 to 40,000; of German or European origin are around 7,500 and around 5,000 Hindus are originally from Afghanistan. There are also Hindus from Nepal in Germany however this number is very low.
In addition, there are Hindus in Germany who are followers of so-called New religious movements or youth sects such as Hare Krishna movement or Transcendental Meditation. These comparatively new religious organization are considered as neo-Hinduism in the West. The total number of these followers in Germany is comparatively low.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 Sikhs are living in Germany. Many Sikhs in Germany have their roots from Punjab region in the north of India, as well as from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Germany has the third highest Sikh population in Europe after United Kingdom and Italy. The city Frankfurt is also known to the Sikhs, as Mini Punjab, because of a great Sikh Population, residing there.
All other religious communities in Germany have fewer than 50,000 adherents.
Neopagan religions have been public in Germany at least since the 19th century. Nowadays Germanic Heathenism (Germanisches Heidentum, or Deutschglaube for its peculiar German forms) has many organisations in the country, including the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft (Communion of Germanic Faith), the Heidnische Gemeinschaft (Heathen Communion), the Verein für germanisches Heidentum (Association for Germanic Heathenry), the Nornirs Ætt, the Eldaring, the Artgemeinschaft, the Armanen-Orden, and Thuringian Firne Sitte.
Other Pagan religions include the Celto-Germanic Matronenkult grassroots worship practiced in Rhineland, Celtoi (a Celtic religious association), and Wiccan groups. As of 2006, 1% of the population of North Rhine-Westphalia adheres to new religions or esoteric groups.
Cults, sects, religious movements
The German government provides information and warnings about cults, sects, and new religious movements. In 1997, the parliament set up a commission for Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen (literally "so-called sects and psychic groups"), which in 1998 delivered an extensive report on the situation in Germany regarding NRMs. In 2002, the Federal Constitutional Court upheld the governmental right to provide critical information on religious organizations being referred to as Sekte, but stated that "defamatory, discriminating, or falsifying accounts" were illegal.
In public opinion, minor religious groups are often referred to as Sekten, which can refer to destructive cults and also to all religious movements which are not Christian, or are different from Roman Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism. However, major world religions like Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam are not referred to as Sekten.
- Kirchen (churches) is the term generally applied to the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church in Germany's member churches (Landeskirchen), and the Orthodox Churches. The churches are not only granted the status of a non-profit organisation, but they have additional rights as statutory corporations (German: Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts), which means they have the right to employ civil servants (Beamter), do official duties, or issue official documents.
- Freikirchen (free churches) is the term generally applied to Protestant organisations outside of the EKD, e.g. Baptists, Methodists, independent Lutherans, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists. However, the Old Catholics can be referred to as a free church as well. The free churches are not only granted the tax-free status of a non-profit organisation, but many of them have additional rights as statutory corporations.
- Sekten is the term for religious groups which do not see themselves as part of a major religion (but perhaps as the only real believers of a major religion). Although these religious groups have full religious freedom and protection against discrimination of their members, their organisations in most cases are not granted the tax-free status of a non-profit organisation..
Every Protestant Landeskirche (church whose canonical jurisdiction extends over one or several states, or Länder) and Catholic episcopacy has a Sektenbeauftragter (Sekten delegate) from whom information about religious movements may be obtained.
- Religion by country
- History of Germany
- Roman Catholicism (especially the Catholic Church in Germany)
- Protestantism (especially the Evangelical Church in Germany)
- United and uniting churches (especially the Prussian Union of churches)
- Landeskirche and Freikirche
- Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation
- Max Weber (the Protestant work ethic)
- State atheism in the former East Germany
- List of churches in Hamburg
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Demnach leben in Deutschland zwischen 3,8 und4,3 Millionen Muslime [. . .] beträgt der Anteil der Muslime an der Gesamtbevölkerungzwischen 4,6 und 5,2 Prozent. Rund 45 Prozent der in Deutschland lebenden Muslime sind deutsche Staatsangehörige, rund 55 Prozent haben eine ausländische Staatsangehörigkeit.
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Der Anteil der Sunniten unter den in den Haushalten lebenden Muslimen beträgt 74 Prozent
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