East Germany Is Less than 50% Theist, and 80% of Them Are Agnostics


The Guardian headline calls East Germany the “most godless place on earth.” Really? Worse than North Korea? OK, so even the Christians don’t want God mentioned. In church. So even the tiny Muslim population considers a trip to Weimar a Hajj. But that just makes it ripe for a great revival!

[A]fter initial hostilities in the first years of the GDR, the SED [East Germans] came to a relatively comfortable accommodation with what was called the Church in Socialism. The churches in the GDR were given a high degree of autonomy by SED standards and indeed became the organisational focus of the dissident movement of the 1990s, which was to some extent led by Protestant pastors.

In addition to an accommodation with religion, the party also deliberately created alternative poles of integration for the population. Young people were brought up in a highly ideological atmosphere and were required to undergo a so-called Jugendweihe — a sort of atheist confirmation. Interestingly, this ceremony has survived the end of communism and many young people still voluntarily enter into it. Equally, especially under Eric Honecker in the 1970s and 80s, an attempt was made to create a sort of “GDR patriotism”, in which figures from Prussian history such as Frederick the Great were put back on their plinths in East Berlin and integrated into the Communist narrative of the forward march of history. Martin Luther, Thomas Münzer and other figures from the Reformation were also recruited into the party.

Luther and Münzer in one party? By what contortions of history and philosophy? Has no one tried to liberate the Great Reformer from his Marxist captivity?

Another factor is that religion in eastern Germany is also overwhelmingly Protestant, both historically and in contemporary terms. Of the 25% who do identify themselves as religious, 21% of them are Protestants. The other 4% is made up of a small number of Catholics as well as Muslims and adherents of other new evangelical groups, new-age sects or alternative religions. The Protestant church is in steep decline with twice as many people leaving it every year as joining.

And that is because … there is no such thing as a “Protestant” church. Never was. Never will be. There is the Lutheran Church. There is the Methodist Church. The Reformed Church. Et cetera. I’m sure they mean the state church, which is and has been for a very long time a doctrinal salad.

Oh, one more thing—an atheist confirmation? How does that go?

Do you as members of an accidental by-product of the Big Bang intend to continue steadfast in your pained expressions and quizzical demeanor, and avoid suffering, even tension headaches, rather than derive meaning from existence?”

“We do so intend, with the help of bad television.”

“Do you intend faithlessly to conform all your life to nonconformity, to remain open to new ideas so long as they exclude those who reject diversity, embrace life unless it is unwanted, dependent, or loud?

We do so intend, with the help of a morphine drip.

West Germany tells a different story, and that seems to be due to the fact that

there Catholics are in a majority and indeed, political power in West Germany has traditionally been built on western-orientated Catholic support for the Christian Democratic Union in the south and west.

Oh bruder. Well, there’s always Africa:

Christians now comprise 46.5% of the African population, with Muslims accounting for 40.5% and the remainder divided among traditional African faiths. Africans now represent 20% of the world’s Christian population, and current trends suggest that within a decade Africa will outstrip Europe and the Americas to become the continent with the world’s largest Christian population.

God’s purpose never fails. Socialism always does.


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