Religion in Germany

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Religion in Germany[1]

  Christianity (62%)
  Islam (5%)
  Other (1%)
  Not affiliated (32%)

Christianity is the largest religion in Germany with 62% of the total population.[1] The 2011 Census reported a slightly higher percentage of 66.8%,[2] due to the specific design of the questionnaire. The second largest religion is Islam with 4.6% to 5.2% of the country's total population. There is also a small presence of other religions such as Buddhism and a growing Judaism.

During the last decades, the two largest churches, namely the Protestant Evangelical Church in Germany and the Roman Catholic Church, have lost significant number of adherents. Both accounted for about 30% of the population in 2011.[2][3] More than 30% of the population is not affiliated with any church or other religious body.[1][4]


The religious situation in the German Empire about 1895. Tan, red and pink areas are predominantly Protestant, blue areas predominantly Catholic.

Roman Catholicism was the sole established religion in the Holy Roman Empire until the advent of the Protestant Reformation changed this drastically. Beginning In 1517, Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church to make reforms, as he saw it as a corruption of Christian faith. Though he did not intend for the Church to break apart, the division between those who accepted the need for reform and those who did not led to the establishment of new churches. Luther's actions altered the course of European and world history and established Protestantism.[5] The Holy Roman Empire became home to numerous religious affiliations; for the most part, the states of northern and central Germany tended to adopt Protestantism (chiefly Lutheranism, but also Calvinism), while the states of southern Germany and the Rhineland largely remained Catholic. Each prince was free to choose the religion of his state under the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio.

The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most of the countries of Europe. The war was fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire.[6]

Today the divide between Former East Germany and Former West Germany shows clearly with Former East Germany being less religious and more secular.[7][8]

Religious freedom[edit]

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. A state church does not exist in Germany.[9]

Religious communities that are of considerable size and stability and are loyal to the constitution can be recognised as "Körperschaften öffentlichen Rechtes" (statutory corporation). 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. It is a surcharge amounting to between 8 or 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 have been numerous discussions of allowing other religious groups like Muslims into this system as well. The Muslim efforts were hampered by the Muslims' own disorganised state in Germany, with many small rivalling organisations and no central leadership, which does not fit well into a legal frame that was originally created with well-organized, large Christian churches in mind.


According to organizational reportings based on projections in 2008 about 32%-34% Germans have no registered religious denomination.

Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with around 52 million adherents (62.8%) in 2008[10] of which 24.5 million are Protestants (29.9%) belonging to the EKD and 24.9 million are Catholics (30.0%) in 2008, the remainder belong to small denominations (each (considerably ) less than 0.5% of the German population).[11] The second largest religion is Islam with an estimated 3.8 to 4.3 million adherents (4.6 to 5.2%)[12] followed by Buddhism and Judaism, both with around 200,000 adherents (0.3%). Hinduism has some 90,000 adherents (0.1%) and Sikhism 75,000 (0.1%). All other religious communities in Germany have fewer than 50,000 (<0.1%) adherents.

Belief in a God per country (2010). Forty-five percent of Germans agreed with the statement "I believe there is a God".

Protestantism is concentrated in the north and east and Roman Catholicism is concentrated in the south and west. The former Pope, Benedict XVI, was born in Bavaria. Non-religious people, including atheists and agnostics might make as many as 55%, and are especially numerous in the former East Germany and major metropolitan areas.[13]

Of the roughly 4 million Muslims, most are Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey, but there are a small number of Shi'ites and other denominations.[12][14] 1.6% of the country's overall population declare themselves Orthodox Christians, Serbs and Greeks being the most numerous.[10] Germany has Europe's third-largest Jewish population (after France and the United Kingdom).[15] 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.[16] Around 250,000 active Buddhists live in Germany; 50% of them are Asian immigrants.[17]

According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2010, 45% 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 do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force".[18] According to a new 2012 poll released by WIN-Gallup International, 51% of the German citizens said that they are religious, 33% said not religious, 15% said atheist, and 1% gave no answer.

2011 census[edit]

According to the 2011 census:


2008 map of Christian denominations in the states of Germany [19][20][21]}: The 2008 distribution is confirmed by the results of the 2011 census (refer separate map on this page) Majority of population is:
  member of the Roman Catholic church
  member of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)
  either member of the Roman Catholic church or the EKD with EKD the largest
  either member of the Roman Catholic church or the EKD with Roman Catholic being the largest denomination
  mainly not religious, largest Christian minority is EKD

Christianity is the largest religion in Germany,[1] with the Protestant Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) comprising 29.9% [22] as of 31 December 2008 (down 0.3% compared to the 30.2%[23] in the year before) of the population and Roman Catholicism comprising 30.7% as of Dec. 2008[24] (also down 0.3% compared to the year before).[25] Consequently a majority of the German people belong to a Christian community, although many of them take no active part in church life. About 1.7% of the population is Orthodox Christian.[1]

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.


Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Berlin



The Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Antonious in Waldsolms-Kröffelbach, Germany.


Catholic chapel in Lütgendorf


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.[31] 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.

Berlin has a non-religious majority

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.[32] This is the state where Martin Luther was born.

In eastern 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 between 12 and 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.[33]

No religion[edit]

Main article: Irreligion in Germany


Main article: Islam in Germany

Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in the country. 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. As of 2006, according to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 3.2 million Muslims live in Germany. This figure includes the different denominations of Islam, such as Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya and Alevites. Studies have also shown that several thousand Germans convert to Islam annually.[34]

Muslims first came to Germany as part of the diplomatic, military and economic relations between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.[35] 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.


Worms Synagogue (originally built 1034) is the oldest still existing synagogue in Germany.

Today Germany, especially its capital Berlin, has the fastest growing Jewish community 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 ticket to anyone from the CIS and the Baltic states with Jewish heritage, and the fact that today's Germans are seen as significantly more accepting of Jews than many people in the ex-Soviet realm. Some of the about 60,000 long-time resident German Jews have expressed some mixed feelings about this immigration that they perceive as making them a minority not only in their own country but also in their own community. Prior to Nazism, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany, with communities going back to the 4th century.[38]

Buddhism, Hinduism, other religions[edit]

Bahá'í House of Worship, Langenhain


Matronen altar with offerings in Nettersheim.

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. 1% of the population of North Rhine-Westphalia adheres to new religions or esoteric groups as of 2006.

Cults, sects, religious movements[edit]

The German government as well as the churches are actively involved in disseminating information and warnings about sects and cults (in colloquial language the German word Sekte is used in both senses[citation needed]) and new religious movements. In public opinion, minor religious groups are often referred to as Sekten, which can both refer to destructive cults but also to all religious movements which are not Christian or different from the Roman Catholicism and the mainstream Protestantism. However, major world religions like mainstream Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam are not referred to as Sekten.[citation needed]

Information by the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (Evangelic Church in Germany) and Roman Catholic Church
A free Pentecostal congregation has joined the mainline churches on this official sign.

When classifying religious groups, the Roman Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) use a three-level hierarchy of "churches", "free churches" and Sekten:

  1. 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.
  2. 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[42] 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.
  3. Sekten is the term for religious groups which do not see themselves as part of a major religion (but maybe as the only real believers of a major religion).[43][43] 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[citation needed].

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.

Information by the government

The German government also provides information 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 delivered an extensive report on the situation in Germany regarding NRMs in 1998.[44] 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.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n REMID Data of "Religionswissenschaftlicher Medien- und Informationsdienst" retrieved 16 January 2015
  2. ^ a b c [1]. Zensus 2011 - Page 10.
  3. ^ Bevölkerung und Katholiken, 1965–2008
  4. ^ "Germany". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  5. ^ Plass, Ewald M., What Luther Says: An Anthology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, 2:964.
  6. ^ Schiller, Frederick, History of the Thirty Years' War, p.1, Harper Publishing
  7. ^ Eastern Germany: the most godless place on Earth
  8. ^ Why Eastern Germany Is The Most Godless Place On Earth
  9. ^ Basic Law Art. 140
  10. ^ a b "EKD-Statistik: Christen in Deutschland 2007" (in German). Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  11. ^ Konfessionen in Deutschland(German), fowid. Retrieved 2010, 9 September 2009.
  12. ^ a b "Chapter 2: Wie viele Muslime leben in Deutschland?" [How many Muslims live in Germany?]. Muslimisches Leben in Deutschland [Muslim Life in Germany] (PDF) (in German). Nuremberg: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (German: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge), an agency of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Germany). June 2009. p. 80. ISBN 978-3-9812115-1-1. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 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. 
  13. ^ (German) Religionen in Deutschland: Mitgliederzahlen Religionswissenschaftlicher Medien- und Informationsdienst; 31 October 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  14. ^ "Chapter 2: Wie viele Muslime leben in Deutschland?" [How many Muslims live in Germany?]. Muslimisches Leben in Deutschland [Muslim Life in Germany] (PDF) (in German). Nuremberg: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (German: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge), an agency of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Germany). June 2009. p. 97. ISBN 978-3-9812115-1-1. Retrieved 2010-09-09. Der Anteil der Sunniten unter den in den Haushalten lebenden Muslimen beträgt 74 Prozent 
  15. ^ Blake, Mariah. In Nazi cradle, Germany marks Jewish renaissance Christian Science Monitor. 10 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-30.
  16. ^ The Jewish Community of Germany European Jewish Congress. Retrieved 2006-11-30.
  17. ^ (German) Die Zeit 12/07, page 13
  18. ^ Eurobarometer Biotechnology report 2010 p.381
  19. ^ Bevölkerung und Kirchenzugehörigkeit nach Bundesländern Table 1.1 shows 63.4 % of the German population to be Christians of which 2.2% outside the Evangelische Landeskirchen (EKD) and the Roman Catholic Church. Table 1.3 shows overview by German state of membership of the Evangelische Landeskirchen (EKD)and the Roman Catholic Church
  20. ^ 80% of population in Sachsen-Anhalt is without religion
  21. ^ religion by Bundesland showing non religious being the majority in Eastern Germany
  22. ^ a b By Location
  23. ^ EKD church members as of 31 Dec. 2007
  24. ^ German Catholic Church 2008 statistics
  25. ^ German Catholic Church 2007 statistics
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Germany
  27. ^ a b c d e f g By Location
  28. ^ a b By Location
  29. ^ a b c By Location
  30. ^ LDS Newsroom (Germany)
  31. ^ Ericksen & Heschel, Betrayal: German churches and the Holocaust, p.10, Fortress Press.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Thomas Gensicke: Jugend und Religiosität. In: Deutsche Shell Jugend 2006. Die 15. Shell Jugendstudie. Frankfurt a.M. 2006.
  34. ^ The Islamification of Britain: record numbers embrace Muslim faith
  35. ^ State Policies Towards Muslim Minorities. Sweden, Great Britain and Germany, "Muslims in German History until 1945", Jochen Blaschke
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Germany: Virtual Jewish History Tour". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Zentralrat-Mitglieder". Central Council of Jews in Germany. Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  40. ^ "Verschiedene Gemeinschaften / neuere religiöse Bewegungen". Religionen in Deutschland: Mitgliederzahlen (Membership of religions in Germany). REMID - the "Religious Studies Media and Information Service" in Germany. 2007-8. Retrieved 2008-07-17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  41. ^ Die Jesiden in Deutschland - Religion und Leben Document is in German
  42. ^ Altkatholiken Freikirche
  43. ^ a b Definition "Sekte"
  44. ^ Final report of the commission of the Bundestag on the investigation into so-called sects and psycho groups
  45. ^ Decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court: BVerfG, Urteil v. 26.06.2002, Az. 1 BvR 670/91

External links[edit]