around the globe europe is generally heavily associated with the religion of christianity just as the middle east is usually linked to islam the general assumption about european countries is that they are probably at least mostly populated by christians even if the nation itself hasn’t declared any official state religion and while this is often a pretty accurate assumption in some cases such as germany it’s not so straightforward Christianity.
in the germanic region was first dominated by roman catholicism which was challenged in the early 16th century by the protestant reformation and led to the modern division of catholics and protestants throughout germany or more specifically west Germany although the berlin wall came down in 1989 as communism collapsed throughout the eastern bloc the hope of being able to fully erase the effects of years.
under the soviet’s heavy hand has not yet been fully realized back after the end of the second world war and the defeat of the axis powers germany was split into four zones of occupation between france great britain the united states and the soviet union this eventually led to the establishment of the federal republic of germany or west germany in the spring of 1949 followed by the foundation of the german democratic republic or east germany that same autumn west germany stood as a parliamentary democracy and active ally to the western world contrarily east germany went down a dark path falling.
under a totalitarian communist regime as a puppet state of the soviet union on the west side of the berlin wall the allies were focused on ridding the nation of the extremism that had played such a critical role in the war while the soviets to the east were more concerned with quickly exerting control and consolidating dominance by establishing a powerful police state.
which often employed many ex-national socialists the stasi was swiftly built up as a way to influence and manage every aspect of life and security in east germany and germans were suddenly facing another state of extremism under the previous regime religion in all of germany was in a bit of a peculiar position the first world war had left german churches on a decline and a population shifted more to a secular mindset but the region was still heavily catholic and protestant by the time adolf hitler came to power as the new chancellor began to enact his extremist policies and push his beliefs on the public Christianity.
in germany was actually often praised during some of his speeches it was made clear that any attacks on the christian faith would not be tolerated within the regime although its own actions did not quite follow such rules while christian churches were surely allowed to remain open and practice their faith they were not entirely left alone as the new government wanted to control any influence that christian leaders may have in the political sphere this created a bit of a schism between the protestant churches.
in germany some of which had quickly come out in support of their new chancellor and even called for the creation of a state church others did just the opposite and aimed to prevent the creation of this while condemning much of the new government’s views the latter created an organization which very vocally opposed the regime and the creation of a state church this prompted mass arrests of leaders from both groups and a clear message that the churches had no right to freely express their views on politics the catholics.
meanwhile weren’t much better off the regime tried to use the same scare tactics to control the catholic church’s political attitude and even attempted to silence catholic publications and arrest dissidents in 1933 an agreement was signed that essentially barred the catholic church or leaders from being involved in politics although it did reaffirm their freedom of faith and some of their religious rights still the third reich was not a safe place for the catholics either and the terms of the agreement were not always respected anti-catholic propaganda.
even began to be published by pro-government sources and triggered a series of verbal and legal actions from the vatican it became abundantly clear that the dictator himself was one of those that he spoke of who would attack the christians these events made the whole of germany’s christianity painfully familiar with what a totalitarian regime could do to their faith and religious freedoms when communism arrived it was the same battle with a different enemy but to a much worse degree the soviet union enacted similar policies against the churches.
as the prior administration had and went a few steps further as well religious schools were shut down churches were silenced leaders were detained and ultimately state-sponsored atheism replaced the christian masses although the gdr’s constitution did protect freedom of religion the state itself scarcely did so and it became quickly clear that it would serve the communist regime much better to be an atheist than a christian in other communist countries.
the promotion of atheism constantly existed and one of the reasons was well there was already an icon on the wall and in the books the people didn’t need another one bigger than that by the 1960s there was a clear decline in religious affiliation throughout east germany and the churches while still existing were putting up less of a fight as compared to before a major blow to the gdr churches came when the physical wall went up.
in 1961 officially dividing the german christians and removing most hopes of reunification pretty quickly which contributed to the continuous decline although the east german church was eventually able to adapt and find a way to safely exist under the communist dictatorship there were still far too many societal consequences for christians to convince the masses to fight against the state-sponsored atheism so as life continued on the gdr side of the berlin wall more and more east germans became atheists and therefore would raise their children as atheists and.
so on and so forth since for many people of any faith religion is often a result of circumstances and an inherited affiliation the more christians that switch to the state-sponsored faithless belief the more that would soon follow and in a society that was actively persecuting and oppressing christians there remained little incentive for anyone to convert back or for anyone raised atheists to consider joining the religion after the fall of the wall in 1989.
the thought was that christianity would bounce back to what it had been before and what it still was in the west particularly because the remaining churches were significant participants in the peaceful revolution much to the disappointment of the remaining believers this didn’t actually happen there wasn’t a huge rush back into the faith and the combination of growing secularism prior to the second war and then the subsequent communist era essentially alienated the vast majority of the new former gdr citizens from religion.
as was said before atheism was promoted in other communist countries as well but didn’t have the impact as it did in east germany which had a protestant majority which is one of the reasons for the collapse of christianity here as the protestants are not that zealous as the catholic or orthodox christians today the total of germany is still widely christian and it remains the largest faith.
in the nation roughly 55 of the country is christian in some form with about 27.2 percent being catholic and 24.9 percent protestant while these numbers seem like a potential sign of victory for the post-communism churches it’s actually quite shocking when you dig deeper if you were to create a map of these percentages including the roughly 40 percent of the population that describes themselves as atheists or non-religious you would see a striking pattern draw a line right along.
where the berlin wall once stood and now you’ve almost completely separated the christians from the atheists as a wholly unanticipated result of the soviet days east germany has almost entirely remained unassociated with any religion close to the border on the west side apart from a few pockets of atheism and catholicism we mostly see protestant communities further to the west and south the catholics remain the majority even more stunning one survey done.
in east germany a few years back concluded that the survey takers were unable to find a single person of religious affiliation under the age of 28. it appears that those who were children during or after the communist period have simply continued to remain loyal to the once state-sponsored belief system and the hope of a bounce back to faith was shattered so to answer the question of why east germany is viewed by some as one of the most godless places.
on earth you have to follow the chain of events that came to a head with the establishment of the gdr and communist regime growing secularism major conflict during world war ii and then the events that occurred behind the berlin wall caused a slow and steady push toward atheism.
on the other side of the wall the churches were able to recover from the world war ii administration and didn’t face consequent oppression by the new government so while the prior century had helped to cause the alienation of the east germans from their historic faith it was the soviet policies in society that put the nail in the coffin of the christian gdr.
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