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Why Eastern Germany Is The Most Godless Place On Earth
DIE WELT/Worldcrunch ^ | 5/12/12 | Matthias Kamann and Gernot Facius

Posted on 05/13/2012 6:46:14 AM PDT by markomalley

More than two decades after its political reunification, Germany continues to be divided along religious lines. Christianity still holds a fair amount of sway in the West. Not so much in the East, where two thirds of the population – young and old – are declared atheists.


By Matthias Kamann and Gernot Facius
DIE WELT/Worldcrunch

BERLIN -- Bad news for all those who’d hoped Christianity might make a comeback now that the Cold War-era German Democratic Republic (DDR) is becoming an ever more distant memory. Atheism, according to a new study, is very much alive and well in the eastern part of Germany.

The statistics are most striking among those under 28 years old: more than 71% of eastern Germans in this age group say they have never believed in the existence of God. That’s nearly as many as in the 38-47 group, of which 72.6% are non-believers.

What the figures mean is that in eastern Germany, very young people are on the same wavelength as people from the middle generation when it comes to belief in God. The political transformation of former East Germany, in other words, hasn’t had much of an effect on people’s ideas about religion. While there are somewhat fewer atheists among young adults aged 28 to 37, where “only” 63.6% say they’ve never been believers, those in the following generation are at least as non-religious as their parents.

In a recently published study called Beliefs about God across Time and Countries, researchers working with sociologist Tom W. Smith of the University of Chicago, showed how belief in God has changed over time.

The researchers did not produce their own data, relying instead on results of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) that – in 1991, 1998 and again in 2008 – researched the degree of religiosity in Christian-influenced countries around the world, from Australia to Israel, Russia to Cyprus.

Because results for Germany were divided into East and West, it emerged that former East Germany was by far the most atheistic region on the planet. There, 52.1% of those asked agreed with the statement: “I don’t believe in God.” In West Germany, by contrast, only 10.3% felt that way. In Russia, the United States and the Philippines, the results were 6.8%, 3% and 0.7% respectively.

Approximately 46% of East Germans surveyed described themselves as atheists, compared to 15.3% of the Dutch and 4.9% of West Germans. In Italy, only 1.7% saw themselves that way. In eastern Germany, the trend actually strengthened over time: between 1991 and 2008 the number of atheists increased by 3.4% while during the same period the number sank by 11.7% in Russia.

The mark of modernization

A comparison of generations around the world shows that virtually everywhere, atheism is much more pronounced among the youth than it is among people ages 55 and more, thus showing the considerable influence that modernization has had on religious belief. In Poland, for example, 79.3% of those over 68 believe in God, as opposed to only 58.4% of those between 28 and 37.

The only exception is Israel, where belief is God is markedly more pronounced among young people. This could be related to the immigration of non-secular Jews to Israel, but the study’s authors also think that it is partially due to a growing split along Jewish and Muslim religious lines. Under conditions of competition and separation, religious belief comes to have greater meaning for one’s sense of personal identity, they write. Religious competition of that sort is virtually nonexistent in eastern Germany because so few Muslims live there.

Researchers found other reasons for atheism in the former East Germany, not least the deep mark left by the National Socialists and the Communists. But they also point to the fact that many Slavic and non-Orthodox communities present in the area since the Middle Ages were nonreligious; that the secularization movements during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) were particularly strong in the states of Thuringia and Saxony; that the resistance of most DDR dissidents to the church was not seen, unlike the way it was perceived in Catholic Poland, as specifically religiously motivated.

The present study shows that Germany as a whole occupies a middle position on the atheism scale, as the belief in God in West Germany is still very strong – much more so than in neighboring countries like the Czech Republic or France, for example.

It also shows that serious belief in a personal God -- as opposed to a sort of diffused spirituality or esteem for religion in general -- is declining significantly in Europe.

Atheism, a “key challenge” across Europe

Thies Gundlach, a vice-president of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), told Welt Online that the East/West Germany comparisons weren’t relevent. “We have to recognize that the issue of belief in God is the key challenge of all churches in Europe,” he said.

For University of Erfurt theology professor Eberhard Tiefensee, “if East Germany is a missionary country, then Christian teaching must address not other religions but a stable, non-religious milieu” – a milieu that has proven highly resistant to missionary movements of any stripe.

Tiefensee sees no cause for resignation, though he admited that “all those attempting to change the status quo whether they’re calling it a mission, evangelizing, or neo-evangelizing, have to bear in mind just how wide the divide is between them and those they’re addressing.” “They must never lack respect for them, and they must make their goals transparent, without trying to hide their own weaknesses,” he added.

Hubertus Schönemann, who heads an Erfurt-based German Bishops’ Conference working group on missionaryism, reports some success with initiatives such as the “Celebration of a New Life Phase” as an alternative to what is known as Jugendweihe, an East German initiation ceremony when 14-year-olds are given adult status. Other successful initiatives include an evening service to celebrate Christmas on the day before the Christian holiday, and a service for couples in love on Valentine’s Day. Schönemann cautioned, however, that interest in such events shouldn’t be mistaken for proper belief in God.

Read the original story in German



TOPICS: Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: atheism; christianity; ddr; europe; gdr; germany; ostzone; religion
This is the very result that the left (personified by THE WON) want to have happen in this country.
1 posted on 05/13/2012 6:46:18 AM PDT by markomalley
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To: markomalley

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.


2 posted on 05/13/2012 6:59:16 AM PDT by Rodm
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To: markomalley

In all fairness, there is a lot of historical background that is needed here. Here is a map of pre-WWII religions in Germany.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Germany#History

Then after the war, with the assent of America, I might add, Prussia and much of the East was swallowed up by Poland and Russia. The Germans there were either killed or driven out, mostly West. To a great extent this killed western Protestantism and a big chunk of the Catholic territories as well.

The Russians didn’t miss a beat in destroying every church they could, so a lot of clergy were killed on top of those killed by the Nazis.

Then moving forward to the fall of the wall, afterwards, while there was a push to revitalize the economy of the East, missionaries and clergy should have poured in there, but there was only a trickle of some very dedicated individuals.

Much of that could be attributed to the weakness of the churches in the West, which can be compared to some of the more weak-kneed, liberal and p.c. churches in America.

Even today, a lot of East Germans could possibly be brought back into religion, if someone made a serious effort to proselytize them, with something other than the stale and weak version of the West.


3 posted on 05/13/2012 7:10:56 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: markomalley

That distinction belongs to North Korea


4 posted on 05/13/2012 7:11:40 AM PDT by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
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To: markomalley

Home to Nietzche is the most Godless place on earth???? Wow, who would’ve thought that — you could knock me over with a feather!!! </sarc>


5 posted on 05/13/2012 7:22:38 AM PDT by T-Bird45 (It feels like the seventies, and it shouldn't.)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

I wonder if this athiesm is a holdover from the time of the occupation of East Germany by Russia. People were afraid to say they were Christians. It’s only twenty years, after all.


6 posted on 05/13/2012 7:27:32 AM PDT by MondoQueen
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To: markomalley

We can’t force someone else to believe in something. I believe in God but my neighbor does not. What can I do about that? I don’t understand the point of the article.


7 posted on 05/13/2012 7:34:09 AM PDT by Randy Erickson
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To: markomalley

bump


8 posted on 05/13/2012 7:35:35 AM PDT by WashingtonSource
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To: markomalley

Take them outside on a cloudless night and tell them to look up at the stars. Is what you see happenstance?


9 posted on 05/13/2012 7:38:49 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (Obamanomics-We don't need your stinking tar sands oil, we'll just grow algae.)
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To: markomalley

Drove through most of East Germany, there doesn,t appear to be a shortage of churches. Want to see many more go through rural Poland and the Ukraine. And yes there were people going in and out of them. I,m in that area of Europe at the moment. We stopped at several to admire their interior decor. Christianity is alive and well in the eastern part of Europe and we have photos to prove it. We were also impressed with the neat appearence of the youths, who were reminicent of those of the USA in the mid 50,s. (Not the Greasers.)


10 posted on 05/13/2012 7:44:33 AM PDT by Bringbackthedraft ( WHO WE ELECT AS PRESIDENT IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS WHO THEY APPOINT.)
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To: MondoQueen

Some undoubtedly is. But at the same time, it’s a golden opportunity for some church to offer the East Germans more than just secular success.

A better example might be others of the former eastern bloc. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc. Yet they seem to be a lot more religious than the former East Germany. And yes, they do have a lot more atheists today, as well.


11 posted on 05/13/2012 8:09:35 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: Bringbackthedraft

Since you have visited Germany, can you confirm something I read a while back about the automatic deduction of church tithes from paychecks?

IIRC, the article said that if you declared yourself a member of a state-recognized church, your employer automatically deducted your tithe (10% I presume) and sent it to the church. This practice, which I assume also applied to synagoges and mosques, was said to lead to a flourishing religious establishment that is detached from congregations they have little accountability to and, outside major holidays, very poorly attended services.

If this is the case, the high atheism rate might, in part, be an economic reaction to the poor post-unification job environment in eastern Germany: declare yourself an atheist and avoid having tithes deducted from your pay.


12 posted on 05/13/2012 8:15:28 AM PDT by Captain Rhino (Determined Effort is the hammer that Human Will uses to forge Tomorrow on the anvil of Today.)
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To: Former Proud Canadian
I believe the great majority of them have observed a cloudless night. Going to take something more than observation of nature. It is REALLY difficult to instill faith without parents who believe.
13 posted on 05/13/2012 8:54:28 AM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by nature not nurture TM)
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To: steve86
It's one thing to observe. It is another to ask yourself some questions about how those things you observe came to be. Or, ask others those questions. The answer you get from a committed atheist will be somewhat unsatisfying because they don't really know. They don't really know because science only has theories about the origin of the universe.

Ask a believer, they know the answer.

14 posted on 05/13/2012 9:11:09 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (Obamanomics-We don't need your stinking tar sands oil, we'll just grow algae.)
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To: markomalley

It isn’t as if one finds churches full on Sundays in the former West Germany.


15 posted on 05/13/2012 9:24:24 AM PDT by fso301
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To: Captain Rhino
Yes, the church tax (Kirchensteuer)is about 8-9% of your income tax.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tax

I never heard of actual believers leaving the churches because of the tax, but there are a lot of people who are not into religion but never bothered to go to the offices and change their religious affiliation. They normally leave when they have money problems or they read another catholic child abuse story.

16 posted on 05/13/2012 9:56:20 AM PDT by NMachiavelli
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To: markomalley
More than two decades after its political reunification, Germany continues to be divided along religious lines. Christianity still holds a fair amount of sway in the West. Not so much in the East, where two thirds of the population – young and old – are declared atheists.

In church a 3 or 4 weeks ago we sat in on a presentation by a couple raising support to be missionaries in Berlin. That's pretty much how they described the situation. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that when Communism fell it was not an unmixed blessing for those in the old communist areas.

Another missionary I know of, is (I think) in former East German, working primarily with Turkish guest workers.

17 posted on 05/13/2012 10:03:20 AM PDT by Lee N. Field ("And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" Gal 3:29)
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To: Former Proud Canadian

Most astronomers are Atheists/Agnostics


18 posted on 05/13/2012 10:25:40 AM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: markomalley
The statistics are most striking among those under 28 years old: more than 71% of eastern Germans in this age group say they have never believed in the existence of God. That’s nearly as many as in the 38-47 group, of which 72.6% are non-believers.

1. Well Duh! If the parents are atheists, then their children will be socialized as such. "It's a family tradition."

2. With the leftwing/green idiocy the clergy keep spewing forth from the pulpit each week, who in their right mind would go to church?

19 posted on 05/13/2012 10:40:53 AM PDT by Moltke (Always retaliate first.)
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To: Bringbackthedraft
Christianity is alive and well in the eastern part of Europe

I concur. I few years ago, I happened to talk with a missionary from USA who was stationed in Eastern Europe. In a nutshell, that was his take.

20 posted on 05/13/2012 10:59:11 AM PDT by VRW Conspirator (Article 58)
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To: markomalley
I believe I read that Merkel is the daughter of a pastor from East Germany.

Quite amazing if true; I'm sure the road to power was quite interesting in that family.

21 posted on 05/13/2012 11:30:04 AM PDT by what's up
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To: markomalley

This is the very result that the left (personified by THE WON) want to have happen in this country.


Be as it is, i would hate to try to say on judgement day that i never had a chance to hear the Gospel of jesus, because the Gospel has been preached to all of the world.

I might say that i was a coward or that i just don,t believe or that maybe i liked the doctrine of the Government better, i might even try to blame religion, but since i don,t believe religion i can not even blame that, so that just leaves me don,t it.

The Gospel of Jesus shall be preached to all the world as a witness unto men and then shall come the end, i don,t think it is as far away as some think.


22 posted on 05/15/2012 10:05:06 AM PDT by ravenwolf (reIf you believe that Nero was the anti-Christ, and among othJust a bit of the long list of proofsre)
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To: Randy Erickson

We can’t force someone else to believe in something. I believe in God but my neighbor does not. What can I do about that? I don’t understand the point of the article.


You are right, and it will do no good to sing church songs to the neighbor either.

The only thing we can do is to show our faith by our works, mainly just by doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.


23 posted on 05/15/2012 10:13:17 AM PDT by ravenwolf (reIf you believe that Nero was the anti-Christ, and among othJust a bit of the long list of proofsre)
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To: markomalley

This is the very result that the left (personified by THE WON) want to have happen in this country.


My question is this.

Are people actually saying that they do not believe in Jesus
or are they saying they do not believe in the church and or religion.

The reason i ask is because i know or have known a lot of people who wants no part of religion and many of them want no part of a church because it is proclaimed a religion either by others or self proclaimed.


24 posted on 05/15/2012 10:25:09 AM PDT by ravenwolf (reIf you believe that Nero was the anti-Christ, and among othJust a bit of the long list of proofsre)
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