The religious landscape in Germany is shaped by increasing plurality and secularisation. 58.8 percent of the German population confesses to one of the two major Christian faiths, organised in the 27 Catholic dioceses and German Bishops’ Conference and the Protestant regional churches under the umbrella organisation Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).
The Catholic Church, with just under 24 million members in 12,000 parishes, is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church headed by the Pope. The EKD is a community of 20 independent evangelical regional churches of the Lutheran, Reformed and United confessions. With around 23 million members, they encompass the majority of evangelical Christians. 34 percent of the population does not profess to a particular faith. As a consequence of the ageing membership and high levels of people leaving the Christian churches, the number of believers is falling. In 2014, 218,000 people left the Catholic Church alone. The low number of believers in east Germany is particularly striking.
Islam is gaining in significance for religious life owing to migration. There are an estimated four million Muslims in Germany from 50 different nations, but there is no central survey. Significant Muslim communities have formed in many cities. The German Islam Conference established in 2006 provides an official framework for exchange between Muslims and the German state.
Jewish life in Germany, which was entirely destroyed after the Holocaust, has been revived since the end of the Cold War thanks to migrants from the former USSR. Today around 200,000 Jews live in Germany. Roughly 100,500 of them are organised in 107 Jewish communities, which have a broad religious spectrum and are represented by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, founded in 1950.
Germany has no state church. The basis of the relationship between state and religion is the freedom of religion enshrined in the Basic Law, the separation of church and state in the sense of the state’s religious neutrality and the right to self-determination of the religious communities.
The state and religious communities cooperate on a joint basis. The state helps finance nurseries and schools sponsored by religious communities, while churches levy a church tax, collected by the state, to finance social services. Schools must offer religious studies as a regular subject (limited in Berlin and Bremen). Islamic religious instruction is currently being expanded. Around 700,000 Muslim children and young people attend school in Germany. Additional teachers are being trained in order to be able to offer them religious instruction.