Germany was once part of the Holy Roman Empire and therefore a Catholic stronghold, although in the centuries to come it would be at the center of the Protestant Reformation. Today, the near majority of Germans do not associate with any religion at all - one in every three Germans is either Atheist or Agnostic. Germany’s religious landscape has been dynamic and has more often than not reflected changing political structures. The dominant religious beliefs in Germany are looked at below.
Irreligion - 35.4%
35.4% of Germany's population identifies with either Atheism or Agnosticism. Irreligion in Germany is more prevalent in the eastern regions than in the western parts of the country. Atheism was popularized in East Germany by the communist party between 1945 and 1990. Initially, religion was allowed, but later communist ideologies became widespread in the region that disallowed religion. Rapid industrialization in Germany also contributed to the rise of secularism in Germany. A high level of affluence and prosperity in developed countries is one of the major contributors to irreligion. Atheists and Agnostics in Germany do not subscribe to any organized form of religion and, more often do not believe in a higher power.
Roman Catholicism - 28.6%
28.6% of Germans identify as Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism was part of the Roman Empire during its occupation in some areas of Germany. The Catholic Church enjoyed religious dominance in Germany until the advent of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Tensions between the two religions led to wars including the Thirty Years' War, where millions of people died. The country was divided as either Catholic or Lutheran.
Catholicism was synonymous with political power, and this power would be subsequently diminished during the communism era in Germany. Roman Catholicism in modern day Germany is more prevalent in the South and Western parts of the country, in areas such as Bavaria. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany is mostly conservative and adheres to traditional Catholic doctrines. The state supports churches in Germany, including the Roman Catholic Church, by collecting church taxes from adherents. Some of the Catholic Cathedrals in Germany, including the famous Cologne Cathedral, rank among the largest churches in Europe.
Evangelical Christianity - 26.6%
Evangelical Christianity accounts for 26.6% of the German population. Protestant Reformation had its roots in Germany and was widely popularized by Martin Luther. The Protestant and Reformation movements in Germany resisted what they saw as the erroneous doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Several different congregations of Protestants reside in modern day Germany, such as Methodists, Baptists, and Pentecostals. The Evangelical Church in Germany, the largest Protestant congregation, unites Lutheran-Protestantism and Calvinism. Protestantism in Germany is more dominant in the country's north and east.
Islam - 4.9%
Islam in Germany is the largest non-Christian minority religion, with a 4.9% share of the German population adhering to Islam. After World War II, Germany embarked on a quest to rebuild its economy, and an increasing demand for workers prompted the immigration of foreigners to the country. Islamic workers originated from countries such as Turkey, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iran, and Palestine. Muslims in Germany lack a centralized organization and have different groups scattered across the country. Most Muslims in Germany adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam along with small numbers of Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims.
Changes in the German Religious Landscape
Eastern Orthodoxy and other forms of Christianity not otherwise listed above account for an additional 1.5% share of the German population, Meanwhile, Judaism, various Eastern Religions, Neo-Pagans, and others collectively account for 1.0% of the German population. While Christianity is experiencing a steady decline in numbers of adherents in Germany, the Muslim population in the country continues to grow. Refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers are projected to alter the country’s future religious landscape.
What is the Biggest Religion in Germany?
The majority of Germans mostly fall into two different religious groups: Christianity and Atheism. Other religions in the country include Evangelical Christianity and Islam.
Religious Beliefs In Germany
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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