Religion in Germany
Religion – for some people it might be not that important, yet for others it plays an essential role in their lives.
Religious diversity is part of our everyday reality in Germany. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus Buddhists, adherents of other smaller religious groups, undenominational people and atheists are all living together. The increasing religious diversity is highly discussed these days and determines the daily life of the people. It is a challenge for the modern society to enable a peaceful coexistence with people of different cultural und religious backgrounds.
Christianity is the predominant Religion in Germany with about 55 percent followers. This religious confession is divided into main two churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church. The devision goes back to Martin Luther’s Protestant reformation in 1517. Today there are about 28 percent Catholics, which make up about 23.760.000 adherents and about 27 percent Protestants, which approximately 22.270.000 adherents follow. Certain states in the west and in the south of Germany such as North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria are predominantly catholic, whereas the North and East are mostly Protestant.
Although Christianity is the majority of the population, more and more people abandon their membership to a church. The number of catholics has much decreased over the last centuries. In 1990 Christianity constituted 72 percent of the population. However, it is important to mention that Germans who are a member of a church not necessarily practice the Christian religion as a whole and attend the church regularly.
According to estimations, adherents of Christianity will decrease in the future, whereas adherents of other, smaller religious confessions will rise.
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Germans who are registered as a member of a church need to pay a church tax on their annual income tax bill, which is normally 8 to 9 percent of the annual income tax.
In the 19th century rulers of Germany had to give up the left areas of the Rhine to France. In return, they got properties from the church. Due to the loss of assets, the church was not able to pay for its staff, building operations other functions such as education and charitable work anymore. Since the states could not afford these costs either, members of churches had to pay a certain amount of their income. This right of the church was then embedded in the Weimar Constitution article 139 in1919 and article 140 of the German Basic law of 1949.
In Germany, the levy of the tax is maintained by the finance authority (Finanzamt). The churches use the tax yield mainly for staff, administrations and material costs, church buildings, for schools and education and social affairs. Internal staff costs such as priests and pastors are paid by the state.
In 2015 church taxes in the amount of 11,46 billions Euro were paid, which is the highest income so far.
The only way to get rid of the tax is to make a formal declaration leaving the membership of the church.
Many religious days in Germany count as bank holidays such as Karfreitag (Good Friday), Ostersonntag/Ostermontag (Easter Sunday/Easter Monday), Pfingsten (Pentecost), Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension of Christ), Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi), Weihnachten (Christmas) etc.
Want to learn more about religious days in Germany?
Also have a look at this inter religious calendar with religious holidays and feasts of many different religions!
Islam is the second biggest religion in Germany with almost 5 percent of the population. The most ethnic group are the Turks with about 3 million people. This is more than anywhere else outside Turkey and is the result of the immigration of so called Gastarbeiter (foreign workers) in 1960, where millions of turkish people immigrated to Germany in order to work. These people not only brought their language and culture to Germany, but also their religion, which is today part of the German culture. Other muslims in Germany are from Southeast Europe such as Bosnians, from the Middle East, North Africa etc. Due to the Syrian war, hundreds of thousands Muslim refugees fled from their home to Germany trying to find a new home and building a new life.
Muslims celebrate special days as well and Ramadan is one of the most sacred religious time. Muslims all over the world are fasting for one month. In many cities intercultural fast-breaking events take place, where all people are invited to come and break fast together. Here are some examples:
The history of Jews in Germany is often reduced to the Nazi period and yet jewish communities have been living in Germany since the 4th century.
Before the persecution in the Nazi period 1933 – 1945 more than half a million Jews lived in Germany. According to estimations, 200.000 Jews reside in Germany today. About 100.000 are member of a Jewish community. The biggest Jewish communities are in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and München. The Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland is the biggest umbrella organisation of all Jewish communities and national associations. It represents Jew’s interests and promotes the cultural and religious life of the Jewish community. It was founded in 1950 in Frankfurt am Main and first aimed to deal with the legislation of the amends of National Socialist’s crime. In the following years they did not only deal with antisemitism, but also supported the communication and understanding between Jews and non-Jews.
Did you know that there are several Jewish educational institutes in Germany? Have a look at them:
There are about 230.000 Buddhist in Germany and hundreds of Asian temples and Buddhist centres. According to a survey, 43 percent of the surveyed Germans are of the opinion that Buddhism is the most peaceful world religion and they consider Dalai Lama as a real role model. In Buddhism the focus is more on the inner attitude towards life and on a personal spiritual development, that’s why many people in Germany feel attracted to the religion and even practice Buddhist meditation!
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This religion has about 100.000 followers in Germany. They are mostly from Indian and Tamil origin, but also European and Afghan. Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka in 1983, 60.000 people fled to Germany and since then a strong community has evolved. In Hamm, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, you can find the second biggest Hindu temple in Europe! It was built in 2002 and is famous for its annual festival. Hindus from all over Germany and even from abroad come together for 14 days and celebrate this religious event, where a statue of the so called goddess Kamadchi is the central point. Classical Indian dance, music, drama, and performing artists are typical for the feast.