How do religious people think that prayer works?

Christianity, spirituality, Islam : How religious are the Germans?

The “United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany” (VELKD) recently announced the publication of a new anthology. The title is "After the People's Church: Celebrating worship in a non-denominational room". Using the example of two new churches in Leipzig - the Catholic Provost Church of St. Trinity and the University Church - the authors investigate the question of how services can be celebrated in a city where the vast majority of the population no longer belongs to a church. As it is said, “the East German context with its profound breaks in secularization is a sensor for the fundamental liturgical developments”. How should religious tradition be passed on when there is hardly anything left that can be linked - no knowledge of doctrine, prayer, songs, ritual?

The traditional Christians who regularly attend worship are dying out. In 1950, more than 95 percent of Germans in East and West belonged to the Catholic or Protestant Church. After reunification it was 72 percent, today it is 55 percent. In the past, those who were not in church on Sundays were noticed, today those who go to church are noticed. Regular worshipers have become exotic.

Both the surveys by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy and the extensive “Religion Monitor” of the Bertelsmann Foundation (“Religiosity and Cohesion in Germany”, 2013) confirm the trend: The de-Christianization of German society is progressing slowly but steadily. There can be no talk of a renaissance of religions. This is accompanied by a sharp decline in the importance of the religious. For most people, even if they belong to a church, questions of faith are of secondary importance. The communication of values ​​takes place predominantly in the family, school and circle of friends. More and more young people are growing up without any relation to religion. The boys are significantly less religious than the older ones, and women are more religious than men.

How big are the differences between East and West Germany?

The gap between East and West is deep. While around 70 percent of West Germans belong to a Christian denominational community, it is around 20 percent of East Germans. The large international survey network "International Social Survey Program" asks people around the world about their degree of religiousness. Accordingly, the area of ​​the former GDR is the most distant region from God. “I don't believe in God”, say 52 percent of the people there, in West Germany 10 percent, in Russia 7 percent, in the USA 3 percent. 46 percent of East Germans describe themselves as atheists, and the trend is rising. Religious scholars speak of a "stable non-religious milieu".

In the old federal states, twice as many people go to church at least once a month as in eastern Germany and pray regularly. The proportion of those educated in the Christian faith has leveled off at a low level of 10 percent in the east. In the “Religion Monitor” it says in balance: “A lack of religious experience and no longer existing religious knowledge clearly lead to the fact that many people seem to take a life without religion for granted.”

Almost half of East Germans call themselves atheists. Atheism is predominantly perceived as an enrichment, only a sixth see it as a threat, in the predominantly denominational West it is more than a third. The different trust values ​​of the respective groups are interesting. About two-thirds of highly religious Germans and three-fifths of Christians say they trust those who are not religious. But they only trust each other to about half. So the religious have a higher degree of trust in the non-denominational than they have in the members of their own group.

What consequences does secularization have for the communication of values?

The willingness to be socially committed is higher among people with religious ties than the population average. Around a third of Germans take on voluntary activities outside of their family and career. Among those who describe themselves as fairly or very religiously, 49 percent do so, and among those who describe themselves as not at all or very little religious, 29 percent. Christians are 39 percent committed, 28 percent non-religious.

Basically, however, the Germans orient themselves less and less to religious authorities. Values ​​such as love for one's neighbor or respect for life have long since broken away from their Christian origins and are generally considered to be humanistic values. In the big ethical questions - right to euthanasia, marriage for all, abortion - the differences between denominational and non-denominational people are becoming more and more level (an exception are Catholics in terms of abortion).

Religiousness, however, is not identical with spirituality. More and more Germans believe in miracles, angels and that there is a supernatural power. To speak of a spiritual revolution unfolding outside the churches would be an exaggeration, however. One third of the people in the West and one sixth of the people in the East agree with the statement “I resort to the teachings of various religious traditions for myself”.

Non-denominational, on the other hand, is not identical with atheist. Every fifth non-church member believes in a higher power, the Emnid institute has determined. Conversely, 24 percent of Protestants and 11 percent of Catholics deny the existence of a god.

What are the characteristics of the Muslims?

The proportion of Muslims in Germany is around five percent. It is by far the largest non-Christian religion. When it comes to ethically controversial issues - homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia - Muslims in Germany are much less liberal than both secular and religiously bound Germans. For this they have the strongest religious identity. Almost 40 percent classify themselves as very religious, and almost 90 percent consider religion to be rather or very important (65 percent for Catholics and 58 percent for Evangelicals).

As a result of the experience with strongly religious Muslims, are German non-Muslims increasingly turning to Christianity again? No, religious self-assertion rather expresses itself in a kind of cultural pride. The question “How much is Germany shaped by Christianity and Christian values?” Is answered in the affirmative by 63 percent today (strongly or very strongly), five years ago it was only 48 percent.

The Bertelsmann Foundation's Religion Monitor published a special evaluation on Islam in 2015. Accordingly, Muslims in Germany are closely connected to the state and society - regardless of the intensity of their belief. 90 percent of highly religious Sunni Muslims agree that democracy is a good form of government. Just as many agree that one should be open to all religions. German Muslims with Turkish roots think more often about questions of faith and are generally more liberal than Muslims in Turkey.

However, according to Religionsmonitor, the open attitude of many Muslims in Germany is faced with an increasingly negative attitude by the majority of the population. Muslims suffer from a negative image that is shaped by the small minority of radical Islamists (less than 1 percent of all Muslims). Islamophobia “as a socially acceptable trend” is no longer a marginal social phenomenon. Feelings of foreign infiltration are also widespread where there are hardly any Muslims.

The better they are doing and the more educated they are, the more open-minded Germans are towards all religions. People who are religiously bound, pray more often and consider themselves religious are also more open. Those who distrust religious people, on the other hand, have a more negative attitude towards Islam. For those who trust religious people completely, there is even the majority who perceive Islam as enriching.

It is not pious, practicing Christians who oppose Islam, but mainly representatives of strongly secularized groups who drive the debate forward. Own religious everyday experiences are an important social factor for a positive development of the image of Islam. When it comes to questions of faith and tolerance - from circumcision, veiled and minaret-banning initiatives to right-wing radicalism - a large ecumenical movement of Christians, Muslims and Jews has formed in Germany.

What are the trends on a global scale?

With 2.3 billion members, Christianity is the largest religious community in the world. The number of believers is decreasing in Europe, but is increasing rapidly in Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to statistics from the “World Christian Encyclopedia”, Christianity in the global south will grow to 1.7 billion people in 2025, while it will stagnate at around 270 million in North America and shrink to 514 million in Europe. The Christianization spurt includes both the Protestant and the Catholic faith. The Western European core region is steadily losing influence and importance.

Seen globally, belief will remain the norm and non-belief the exception. Of course, this is little consolation, if at all, for those who celebrate church services in Germany in non-denominational areas.

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