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 28.6% belonged to the Catholic Church and 26.6% 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 35-36% 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.
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.
Chancellor Otto von 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.
The national constitution of 1919 determined that the newly formed Weimar Republic had no state church, and guaranteed freedom of faith and religion. Earlier, these freedoms were mentioned only in state constitutions. Protestants and Catholics were equal before the law, and freethought flourished. The German Freethinkers League attained about 500,000 members, many of whom were atheists, before the organisation was shut down by the Nazis in May 1933.
When Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party seized power in January 1933, it sought to assert state control over the churches, on the one hand through the Reichskonkordat with the Catholic Church, and the forced merger of the German Evangelical Church Confederation into the Protestant Reich Church on the other. The concept of Positive Christianity and the Deutsche Christen movement sought to reconcile tenets of National Socialism with the Christian religion. This policy seems to have gone relatively well until late 1936, when a "gradual worsening of relations" between the Nazi Party and the churches saw the rise of Kirchenaustritt ("leaving the church"). Although there was no top-down official directive to revoke church membership, some Nazi Party members started doing so voluntarily and put other members under pressure to follow their example. Those who left the churches were designated as gottgläubig: they believed in a higher power, often a creator-God with a special interest in the German nation, but did not belong to any church, nor were they atheists. Many were Germanic neopagans. This movement, especially promoted by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, remained relatively small and by 1939, 3.5% of Germans identified as gottgläubig; the overwhelming majority of 94.5% remained Protestant or Catholic, and only 1.5% did not profess any faith. Since January 1933, Jews in Germany were increasingly marginalised, expelled and persecuted for a combination of religious, racial and economic reasons. From 1941 to the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, they were actively massacred during the Holocaust.
|Year||Total population||Protestant||Roman Catholic||Others (including Jews)||Jewish|
|1910a||64,926,000||39,991,000 (61.6%)||23,821,000 (36.7%)||1,113,000 (1.7%)||615,000 (1.0%)|
|1925b||62,411,000||40,015,000 (64.1%)||20,193,000 (32.4%)||2,203,000 (3.5%)||564,000 (0.9%)|
|1933b||65,218,000||40,865,000 (62.7%)||21,172,000 (32.5%)||3,181,000 (4.8%)||500,000 (0.8%)|
|1933b||65,218,000||43,696,060 (67.0%)||21,521,940 (33.0%)||- (<1%)||- (<1%)|
|1939b||69,314,000||42,103,000 (60.8%)||23,024,000 (33.2%)||4,188,000 (6.0%)||222,000 (0.3%)|
|1939c||79,375,281||42,862,652 (54.0%)||31,750,112 (40.0%)||4,762,517 (6.0%)d||-|
|a. German Empire borders.|
|b. Weimar Republic borders, i.e. German state borders of 31 December 1937.|
|c. Nazi Germany borders in May 1939. Official census data.|
|d. Including gottgläubig at 3.5%, irreligious people at 1.5%, and other faiths at 1.0%.|
After World War II, Germany was split in two states by the Western Allies, who formed West Germany, and the Soviets, who established East Germany. The former, the Federal Republic of Germany, adopted a constitution in 1949 which states that no one may be discriminated against due to their faith or religious opinions, and that no state church exists in Germany; consequently, secularisation in West Germany proceeded slowly. The latter, the German Democratic Republic, had a communist system which actively tried to reduce the influence of religion in society; Christian churches were restricted by the government. In the 21st century Eastern German territories including the capital East Berlin is less religious and more secular than Western 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.
Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with around 47.9 million adherents (58.3%) in 2016 of whom 23.6 million are Catholics (28.6%) and 21.9 million are Protestants (26.6%). 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.
As of the 2011 census, Christianity was the religion of 51,865,590 people or 64.2% of the total population, showing the following breakdown:
Other religions were represented by 2,199,890 or 2.8%, subdivided as follows:
Traditionally, 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. People who are not religious, including atheists and agnostics, are especially numerous in the former East Germany and major metropolitan areas.Orthodox Christianity is a relatively recent phenomenon, brought-in mainly by Serb and Greek new citizens and residents.
Most Muslims are Sunnis and Alevis from Turkey, but there are a small number of Shi'a Muslims and other currents. Moreover, 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 2016, the survey Politbarometer provided data regarding religion by states of Germany for adults who are entitled to vote (18+), as reported in the table below. Christianity is the dominant religion of Western Germany, excluding Hamburg, which has a non-religious plurality. Irreligion is predominant in Eastern Germany, which was the least religious region amongst 30 countries surveyed in a study in 2012.
|Religion by state, 2016||Protestants||Catholics||Not religious||Muslims||Others|
|former East Berlin||14.3%||7.5%||74.3%||1.5%||2.4%|
|former West Berlin||32.0%||12.4%||43.5%||8.5%||3.5%|
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 a confessional Lutheran Church called the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church.
Source for all data: REMID
Source for all data: REMID
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
remidwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
[...] it was not primarily a religious war. [...] Religion certainly provided a powerful focus for identity, but it had to compete with political, social, linguistic, gender and other distinctions. most contemporary observers spoke of imperial, Bavarian, Swedish, or Bohemian troops, not Catholic or Protestant, which are anachronistic labels used for convenience since the nineteenth century to simplify accounts. The war was religious only to the extent that faith guided all early modern public policy and private behaviour.
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.
Der Anteil der Sunniten unter den in den Haushalten lebenden Muslimen beträgt 74 Prozent