Is Christianity growing or falling worldwide

Faith: Weak churches, strong faith

Religion: Life Without Faith?

Trust in God: Life without Faith?

What do Germans believe - especially in times of the pandemic? One can approach the question by looking at numbers. For example, you can see that Germany is becoming more religiously diverse. 45 million Christians are opposed to almost 40 million non-denominational. 23 million are Catholics, 21 million Protestants. Their number is decreasing, that of the non-denominational increases. At the same time, Germany is religiously divided: In the east, non-denominationalism is the rule with more than 70 percent, in the west religion is almost 80 percent.

The next largest group after (Catholic and Protestant) Christians and non-denominational are Muslims with an estimated four to six million, around one million Orthodox Christians and around 700,000 members of Protestant free churches and independent congregations.

So even though all the churches together still gather the most people, their influence is declining. Attendance at the service on Sunday has decreased dramatically. In the Protestant Church it fell from seven percent in 1963 to just over three percent (700,000 people), in the Catholic church from more than 52 to a good nine percent (2.1 million). However, that is still eight times as many visitors as at the Bundesliga games on the weekend before Corona. The proportion of baptisms fell from almost 100 percent to currently below 60 percent.

At the same time, the number of those who leave the churches is growing. In 2019 more than 540,000 people left the church (273,000 Catholic, 270,000 Protestant). In 1990, 72.3 percent of the population in Germany were church members; at the end of 2019 it was 52.1 percent.

The age of the church members is above the average of the population. 20 percent of Christians are over 70 years old (population: 17 percent), the number of those up to 19 years of age is only 6.7 percent (population: 7.3 percent). For the majority of Germans, the church has become unimportant and no longer plays a role in everyday life, says the sociologist Detlef Pollack, who researches religion in Germany and around the world.

How does this affect the Corona times? Does belief play a role in interpreting the crisis? Has the pandemic strengthened faith - or weakened it too? Political scientist Carolin Hillenbrand and Pollack asked almost 3,000 people about it. 30 percent agreed with the statement that faith gives them comfort, hope and strength during the Corona period. Another 21 percent largely agreed - overall significantly more than the 35 percent who confirmed this less or not. For almost a third, the crisis deepened their faith and relationship with God. Significantly fewer people said their beliefs had weakened during the pandemic. That was only true for about a tenth. Almost 40 percent of all respondents answered that their beliefs had remained the same. But in any case he wore it in the crisis.

The survey is not representative, but pursued the research goal of asking members of different religious groups and exploring religious types and patterns. The largest group of respondents was Catholic with 43 percent, 22 percent were Protestant, nine percent were Evangelical Free Churches and four percent were Muslim.

According to the study, the crisis has strengthened the faith of many people. But which people does it affect? Initial results show that especially those with little faith in the government are now turning more to their faith. Uncertainty seems to play a role: Older people, who are at the highest risk of severe corona disease, have devoted themselves more to faith during the pandemic, as have those who are currently feeling anxious. How faith changes during the pandemic also depends on people's image of God, according to the study. Those who connect God with love and strength seem to rely more on faith in times of crisis.

The strengthening of faith was particularly strong at 60 percent among evangelical Protestants. This has to do with their intensive religious practice, and also with the fact that they used to be harassed by church and state for this reason. Therefore, according to the research of Hillenbrand and Pollack, the group still tends to distance itself from church, state and science and to nourish the faith more than with others from its own experiences. The two researchers point out, however, that the group is anything but uniform and that there are strong fluctuations in both directions in the answers.

But it is not only faith that has strong sides, but also the churches: It is impossible to imagine society without your charities Caritas and Diakonie. With 1.3 million employees (Caritas: 700,000, Diakonie: 600,000), twice as many as the churches, they are the largest employers after the state and the main pillars of the welfare state. They care for around 23 million people, especially in helping young people as well as people with disabilities (focus on Diakonie) and the elderly (focus on Caritas). They operate 600 clinics. In addition, with more than half a million volunteers each, they are by far the largest volunteer agencies in Germany. Churches also run 18,000 kindergartens, which is every third day-care facility.

Culturally, the churches are also a great power: Almost 750,000 of the 1.4 million choir singers in Germany are involved in church choirs. Most of the 50,000 organs in Germany are in churches. They own 45,000 church buildings, 80 percent of which are listed.

If you turn your gaze back from the institutions to the people, you see that older people are more religious. Of those over 40 years of age in Germany, 83 percent state that they feel they belong to a religion. In the under-40s it is significantly less, namely 65 percent. The difference between the generations is also evident in the way they practice their faith: only seven percent of younger people attend weekly religious events, such as church services. In the case of the elderly, it is at least twelve percent. Daily prayer is part of everyday life for ten percent of the elderly. Among the younger ones, only six percent pray every day.

Over time, what people believe in has also changed. Belief in "one God" is less common today. In West Germany, more than 80 percent believed in God in the 1960s. Today the value is around 60 percent, in the east around 30 percent. Other forms of belief have become more important: 66 percent say they believe in miracles. And 40 percent believe that there are angels. In East Germany, even more people believe in angels (36 percent) than in God (26 percent).

The telephone counseling provided by both churches is important for the Germans. In 2020 it recorded more calls than in the previous year (from 1.21 million to 1.28 million), more emails (from 35,000 to 45,000) and, above all, more chats (from 20,000 to 34,000) - an indication that it is increasingly reaching younger people . The most important issues were loneliness (up 20 percent) and suicide (up 17 percent).

Religion is growing worldwide, unlike in Germany and Western Europe. 2.5 billion of the eight billion people are Christians, 1.9 billion Muslims, 1.1 billion Hindus, 500 million Buddhists and 14.8 million Jews. 1.8 billion people are without religion. But their share of the world population is falling. Christianity grows annually by 1.18 percent, Islam by 1.92 percent. It is thus well above the general population growth of 1.19 percent, Christianity slightly below.

What do the Germans believe

The sources of the numbers

Research group Weltanschauung in Germany

Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauung questions

German Bishops' Conference

Evangelical Church in Germany

Federal Office of Statistics

Kantar Public on behalf of mirror

Pew Research Center

World Christian Encyclopedia

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen (2020): In crisis, we pray: Religiosity and the Covid-19

Hillenbrand, Carolin and Detlef Pollack (2021): Influence of the Corona crisis on
social, political and religious attitudes. Research results from the
Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” at the Westphalian Wilhelms University