Eastern Germany is the Least Religious Region, Says New Study

A recent survey examining the strength of religious beliefs from citizens of different countries over time from around the globe showed that the least religious of all regions was eastern Germany.

The survey, "Beliefs about God across Time and Countries," by Tom W. Smith was conducted for the International Social Survey Program. The survey and subsequent paper used both past and present surveys to compile their results.

The paper cited data previously collected during the same survey of 18 countries in 1991, 30 countries in 1998 and 42 countries in 2008. For this particular project, only countries that had responses in each of the previous three surveys were used.

Astonishingly, the survey found that 52.1 percent of respondents from the eastern part of Germany said that they had no faith in God or any religious dogma as compared with their western German counterparts, which had only 10.3 percent of respondents claim that they were atheists.

Experts cite a number of factors that could have potentially brought on the current lack of faith within this particular area. The most often cited reason points to the fact that for nearly 50 years, the region was under the influence of the Communist Party.

The Communist party is known for being hostile towards religion of any type and it is thought that much of the faith in God had been crushed during the party's rule from 1945 until 1990.

One controversial explanation of this occurrence has been labeled by scientist as the Standard Secularization theory. The theory details the erosion of religious beliefs as societies become better educated and develop a wider acceptance of science, which can lead to the undermining of religious faith and practices.

Another reason the study cites is that fact that eastern Germany is predominately Protestant. Of the 25 percent of respondents from eastern Germany who claim they are religious, 21 percent state that they are Protestant.

Understanding that membership to the Protestant church has been steadily declining and that the remaining four percent is comprised of mainly of Catholics and Muslims, religious outreach in that region is waning, thus creating a religious void.

"If the modest, general trend away from belief in God continues uninterrupted, it will accumulate to larger proportions and the atheism that is now prominent mainly in northwest Europe and some ex-Socialist states may spread more widely," Smith wrote.