About 65% to 70% of the population are followers of the Christian religion in Germany. They are more or less evenly split between the mainstream denominations of Lutheran-Protestantism and Calvinism united in the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany) and the Roman Catholic Church. Due to the historical development of religion in Germany, these denominations are concentrated in specific regions.
In the course of the Protestant Reformation and the ensuing Thirty Years’ War in the 15th and 16th centuries, religion in Germany ended up being distributed according to the preferences of local rulers: Therefore, most areas in the South or West (especially Bavaria and Northrhine-Westphalia) are Catholic while the North and East are mainly Protestant. However, the Communist regime of the former DDR (German Democratic Republic) frowned upon religion in Germany’s eastern parts until the reunification in 1990. This explains why the percentage of self-confessed atheists is particularly high in these federal states.
Other strands of Christian religion in Germany are the so-called Free Evangelical Churches, a loose union of congregations adhering to Baptism, Methodism and related faiths such as the Mennonites, as well as the two Orthodox churches. Christian evangelism in Germany goes back to U.S. American missionary efforts in the 19th century. Both the Greek-Orthodox and the Russian-Orthodox religion in Germany became established here with the Greek and Serbian immigrant population in the 1960s and 1970s.
Apart from these smaller Christian congregations, important minority religions in Germany are Islam (about 4 % of the German population), Judaism, and Buddhism (both of which represent less than 1% of Germany’s inhabitants).
The atrocities of the Holocaust are overshadowing the history of Judaism in Germany. According to sources from late Antiquity, Jews have been living in Germany since 321 AD. For more than one and a half millennia, the relationship between the Jewish Diaspora and Germany’s majority population vacillated between quiet coexistence and religiously motivated persecution, between the Jews’ status as social outcasts and their slow assimilation into mainstream society. Before 1933, there were more than 600,000 Jews in Germany. During the following twelve years, the viciously anti-Semitic Nazi regime killed most of those who didn’t emigrate.
Today, more than 65 years after the end of World War Two, the Jewish community in Germany counts over 100,000 members. The increase in numbers is also due to Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union. The majority of German Jews (the more observant and conservative ones) feel represented by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, while about 3,000 liberal Jews belong to the much smaller Union of Progressive Jews in Germany.
In direct comparison with Judaism, Islam is a far more recent religion in Germany. It goes back to the post-World War Two immigration of so-called Gastarbeiter (foreign workers) and refugees. Most Muslims in Germany have a Turkish, Kurdish, Iranian, Palestinian, or Bosnian background, and they have organized themselves in a diverse range of decentralized organizations. These include, for example, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, supported by the Turkish government and representative of Sunnite Islam in Turkey; the AABF, an umbrella organization for Alevites from Kurdish regions; the association of Bosnian Muslims, and many others.
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