Germany is a country in north central Europe. Germany was a center of the Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther came from this region, although it wasn't yet a unified nation.


The History of Germany begins with the birth of the nation from Ancient Roman times to the 8th century[citation needed], and then continues[citation needed] into the Holy Roman Empire dating from the 9th century until 1806. At its largest extent, the territory of this empire included what today is Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, western Poland, the Low Countries, eastern France, Switzerland and most of northern Italy. After the mid 16th century, when it had lost many former territories, it was known as the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation".

This was followed by the German Confederation of 1815–1866, the German Empire of 1871–1918, and the Weimar Republic of 1919–1933. Then came Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany (or Third Reich, his proclaimed successor of the large medieval Empire or Reich) of 1933–1945 and the devastations of World War II. The article concludes with the history of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the history of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1945 to 1990.

Protestant Reformation in GermanyEdit

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Martin Luther, German reformer and reformer of Germany, 1529

Around the beginning of the 16th century there was much discontent in the Holy Roman Empire with abuses in the Catholic Church and a desire for reform.

In 1517 the Reformation began: Luther nailed his 95 theses against the abuse of indulgences to the church door in Wittenberg.

In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Diet of Worms. But the Reformation spread rapidly, helped by the Emperor Charles V's wars with France and the Turks. Hiding in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the Bible, establishing the basis of modern German.

In 1524 the Peasants' War broke out in Swabia, Franconia and Thuringia against ruling princes and lords, following the preachings of Reformist priests. But the revolts, which were assisted by war-experienced noblemen like Götz von Berlichingen and Florian Geyer (in Franconia), and by the theologian Thomas Münzer (in Thuringia), were soon repressed by the territorial princes.

From 1545 the Counter-Reformation began in Germany. The main force was provided by the Jesuit order, founded by the Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola. Central and north-eastern Germany were by this time almost wholly Protestant, whereas western and southern Germany remained predominantly Catholic. In 1546, 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 1556 Charles V abdicated. The Habsburg Empire was divided, as Spain was separated from the Imperial possessions.

In 1608/1609 the Protestant Union and the Catholic League were formed.

From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years' War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Emperor's attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor (Defenestration of Prague), but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625-29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630-48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu, the regent of the young Louis XIV (1635-48). Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe. The war resulted in large areas of Germany being laid waste, a loss of approximately a third of its population, and in a general impoverishment.

The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, signed in Münster and Osnabrück: Imperial territory was lost to France and Sweden and the Netherlands left the Holy Roman Empire after being de facto seceded for 80 years already. The imperial power declined further as the states' rights were increased.

Religion in GermanyEdit

Today, the number of believers in all religions in Germany is smaller than it was in the past. Many people in Germany do not belong to a church. Traditionally the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches are most influential in Germany, along with various independent Protestant churches. The Orthodox Christians are mainly guest workers and their descendants, the Greek Orthodox Church church having the greatest number of followers, making it the third largest religious organisation in Germany by number. The Confessional Lutheran Church is the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany. This church is in full fellowship with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Currently, there is a wide difference in the religiosity of East Germany and West Germany. According to a poll conducted by the World Values Survey in 1999, just 30% of East Germans who gave a response believed in God, compared to nearly 77% of West Germans

Religious communities in GermanyEdit

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Christianity is the major religion, with Protestants (particularly in the north and east) comprising 34% of the population and Roman Catholics (particularly in the south and west) also 31.4%. In total more than 50 million people officially belong to a Christian denomination, although most of them take no part in church life except at such events as weddings and funerals. Sunday church attendance as reported annually by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches has dropped to about 6 percent in 2005. Most German Protestants are members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. 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.

Roman Catholicism was the sole established religion in the country in the 15th century, but the Reformation changed this drastically. In 1517 Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church as he saw it as a corruption of Christian faith. Through this, he altered the course of European and world history and established Protestantism.

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 separated West Germany between 1945 and 1990, Catholics had a small majority.

Secularism in GermanyEdit

In eastern Germany both religious observance and affiliation are much lower than in the west after forty years of Communist rule. The government of the German Democratic Republic encouraged an atheist worldview through institutions such as Jugendweihen (youth consecrations), secular coming-of-age ceremonies akin to Christian confirmation which all young people were strongly encouraged to attend (and disadvantaged socially if they did not). The average church attendance is now one of the lowest in the world, with only 5% attending at least once per week, compared to 14% in the West according to a recent study. The number of christenings, religious weddings and funerals is also lower than in the West.

About 30% of the total population are officially religiously unaffiliated. In the East this number is also considerably higher. There are regions with under 20% baptized members.

Christian Orthodoxy in Germany Edit

Besides this there are a few hundred thousand Orthodox Christians (mostly Greek and Serbian immigrants), 400,000 New Apostolic Christians, numerous other small groups. The government of Germany does not accept Church of Scientology's claim to be a religion but asserts that it is a business enterprise and as such denies tax exemption. Scientology is also generally considered a totalitarian cult. This however does not restrict the group's activities in Germany. This classification has led to complaints in the United States of America, but the United States Congress did not pass a resolution in 1997 related to "discrimination by the German Government against members of minority religious groups" that mentioned only Scientology-related examples of discrimination.

Judaism in Germany today Edit

History of the Jews in Germany

Today Germany, especially its capital Berlin, has the fastest growing Jewish community worldwide. Some ten thousands of 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 basically 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; but largely the integration seems to be working out. Prior to Nazism, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany, most of them long-time resident families. Many Jews from Russia and other former communist countries in Germany are adopting American style Reform Judaism because they feel less comfortable in Orthodox Judaism.

Religious freedom in GermanyEdit

The German constitution guarantees freedom of faith and religion. It also states that no one may be discriminated against due to their faith or religious opinions. However, unlike some other countries, cooperation between the state and religious communities is entirely in keeping with the German constitution. Religious communities that are of considerable size and stability and are loyal to the constitution can be recognized as "corporations under public law". This gives them certain privileges, for example being able to give religious instruction in state schools to adherents' children and having membership fees collected by the German Finanzamt (the German equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service) or by themselves. Such Church tax is levied if a person lists a religion on their tax form or is listed as member in the population registry. It amounts to between 8 or 9% of the income tax. The status mainly applies to the Roman Catholic Church, the mainline Protestant EKD, and Jewish communities. There have been numerous discussions of allowing other religious groups like Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims into this system as well. The Muslim efforts were hampered by the Muslims' own disorganized state in Germany, with many small rivaling organizations 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.

In 2005 the local government in the city of Paderborn became embroiled in a controversy whereby a number of Baptist families refused to send their children to any mainstream school or accepted substitute, preferring homeschooling with a strong religious theme. It is a requirement of German law that every child be educated in a state school or an acceptable alternative. The local government acted to force the parents to comply with the law, but to no avail - firstly warnings, then fines, then brief custodial sentences did little to deter them. Eventually, in August 2005, the city took the parents to court, and the parents lost custody of the children. The legal argument behind this decision was the balancing between the religious freedom of the parents and the freedom to be educated and to have equal opportunities in life of the children. This was preceded by a similar case in the nearby city of Gütersloh in 2004.

Church and state are separate, but there is cooperation in many fields, most importantly in the social sector. See Status of religious freedom in Germany and Separation of church and state in Germany.

Also of note is that Germany hosts one of only seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world. Completed in 1964, it is located at the foot of the Taunus Mountains in the village of Langenhain (close to Hofheim am Taunus), approximately 25 kilometres (15.5 mi) west of Frankfurt.

Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements Edit

More than in most other countries the churches are actively involved in disseminating information and warnings about sects and cults (the German word Sekte is used in both senses) and new religious movements. The state churches are generally regarded as experts regarding religious subjects and such information is expected from them by the public. In public opinion, minor religious groups are often referred to as Sekten, that 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. Mainstream Orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims are usually not referred to as Sekten either.

When classifying religious groups, the Roman Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant EKD use a three-step of "Churches", "free-churches" and Sekten [1]

  1. Kirchen (churches) is the term generally applied to the Roman Catholic Church, the EKD's member churches, and the Orthodox Churches.
  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.
  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). A common feature of Sekten is that they make it difficult for their members to quit, if they decide to do so. Examples of groups called Sekten are Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology and Hare Krishna.

Every Protestant Landeskirche (church whose canonical jurisdiction extends over one or several states, or Länder) and Catholic episcopacy has a Sektenbeauftragte (Sekten referee) where information about religious movements may be obtained.


About 54.2 million Germans (68%) are Christians. About 24.4 million Germans (29.6%) are non-religious or atheist. The second largest religion is Islam with ca. 3.3 million adherents (4%) followed by Buddhism and Judaism, both with around 200,000 adherents (ca. 0.25%). Hinduism has some 90,000 adherents (0.1%). All other religious communities in Germany have fewer than 50,000 (or less than 0.05%) adherents.

Religions in Germany: Listed are 2006 estimates by the Religionswissenschaftlicher Medien- Informationsdienst e. V. (REMID) [2] for groups with more than 10,000 adherents:





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