More than two decades after its political reunification, Germany continues to be divided along religious lines. Christianity still holds a fair amount of sway in the West. Not so much in the East, where two thirds of the population—young and old—are declared atheists.
Bad news for all those who’d hoped Christianity might make a comeback now that the Cold War-era German Democratic Republic (DDR) is becoming an ever more distant memory. Atheism, according to a new study, is very much alive and well in the eastern part of Germany.
The statistics are most striking among those under 28 years old: more than 71% of eastern Germans in this age group say they have never believed in the existence of God. That’s nearly as many as in the 38-47 group, of which 72.6% are non-believers.
What the figures mean is that in eastern Germany, very young people are on the same wavelength as people from the middle generation when it comes to belief in God. The political transformation of former East Germany, in other words, hasn’t had much of an effect on people’s ideas about religion. While there are somewhat fewer atheists among young adults aged 28 to 37, where “only” 63.6% say they’ve never been believers, those in the following generation are at least as non-religious as their parents.
In a recently published study called Beliefs about God across Time and Countries, researchers working with sociologist Tom W. Smith of the University of Chicago, showed how belief in God has changed over time.