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Religious diversification

From the institutional point of view, religious diversification in Germany is limited - the smaller religious communities have no hope of competing with the two principal Churches. For this reason, the German society remains largely marked by Christianity.

But while society affirms its attachment to Christian values, the bases for these values are being largely ignored. Although 65% of Germans believe that God exists, only 18% believe in the God of the Bible. Conversely, almost 80% trust in their guardian angel, who, as a personal protector replaces God. Similarly, a growing number of Germans no longer derive the meaning of life from God, but rather from their own personal actions.

Among Christians, these changes also are seen in a mounting syncretism – surveys show belief in magic, astrology and other non-Christian spiritual practices is becoming increasingly common. It appears possible to combine Churches membership with growing individualism and various syncretic practices, as can be seen in the comparatively low rate of departure. The result is a religiosity that involves no commitment, found both within and without the Church.

However, the detached attitude towards Catholic and Protestant religiosity is not necessarily linked to a growing interest for other religions. Neither the other Christian Churches nor the Asian religions record high new membership levels. Similarly, although Islam is the largest religion in Germany after Catholicism and Protestantism, it remains the religion of ethnic minorities (90% are Turkish, 10% Iranian and German). And since there are no efforts made at proselytising, the rate of conversions remains low. The biggest minority Church in Germany is the New Apostolic Church. While at the international level, membership increased suddenly from 700, 000 in 1968 to 5.5 million in 1989, it did not attract much attention in Germany (430, 000 members in 1989 and 600, 000 in 1994). The same can be said for Jehovah Witnesses and other sects. Contrary to the principal Churches, these faiths do not appear to be compatible with the liberal religiousness of the Germans (Ebertz 1998).

D 26 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig ASabine Trittler

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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