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Religion in Germany., Issue 8046, 24 October 1889
Religion in Germany.
Attentive' observers of religious life in Germany discern a singular phenomenon which is assuming more and more alarming proportions. On the one hand, statistics show that ecclesiastical habits are far from being lost, so far as concerns participation in traditional acts and ceremonies. At Hamburg, where there is the largest number of non-baptised children, it was in 1885 only 37 out of every 10,000; at Berlin, 5 out of 10,000; in the whole of Germany, 1; in Prussia, 14 per cent, amongst the Protestants, and 16 per cent, amongst the Catholics. In the census of 1871 those who registered themselves as professing no religion amounted to 16,980, in 1880 to 30,249, and in 1883 this number sank brusquely to 11,075. In Prussia, in 1885, the number of religious marriages was 90 per cent,; that of mixed marriages, 12 per cent. ; in 38 per cent, of the oases the husband was Protestant and the wife Catholic. No fluctuation is indicated in the ecclesiastical statistics for the year 188", either for the number of religious burials (230,689), or for that of confirmations or first communions (293,563), or for that of communicants (5,745,771); alone the divorced persons who have demanded the nuptial benediction show an increase (1,047). There were 2,798 conversions to the Protestant Church Catholics, 240 Jews, 535 members of other communities; 254 conversions to Catholicism, 9 to Judaism, 1,333 to other religious communities. On the other hand, almost everywhere there are complaints of notable diminution in church attendance, Many churches in the towns and in the country are threequarters empty. At Berlin, where there are only forty-seven churches and twenty-seven chapels, with 50,000 seats, for a Protestant population of nearly a million, the church service is very little attended. People go to the cathedral to hear the fine music and to see the Emperor. When the liturgical service is over there is a considerable exodus more than half the congregation goes away ; and before the sermon is at an end there is a formidable rush towards the doors in order to got good places for seeing the Imperial Family go out. The service ends before empty benches; and at the celebration of the Holy Communion, which follows, there are often not a dozen communicants. In the national mourning which marked the course of the funereal year 1888, religious sentiment had no part. What dominated at the time of the truly imposing death of William I. was admiration for this moro than nonagenarian old man, who ended his life simply, and, so to speak, stoically, as he had lived; and when, after a short reign of ninety-nine days of continual martyrdom, Frederick 111. in his turn sank into the grave, it was an immense sentiment of pity, combined in tho hearts of the best with regret at the premature death of a prince in whom the most noble hopes were «3ntred. But in the thick crowd which on 12th March and the following days stood around the cathedral to gaze upon the splendid mortuary decoration, not the slightest devoutness was to be remarked; and when the funeral cortfye paused on its way to Charlotteuburg, between the falls of snow, very few so much as took their hats off. All the foreigners who were present at this spectacle were struck by this absence even of exterior signs of piety. But to return to ecclesiastical statistics. In the contrast between the figures it furnishes and tbe actual reality we may find a lesson of a nature to inspire us with the most serious reflections. Tbe religious ceremonies which accompany earthly existence at its most solemn hours are preserved, together with the consecrated formuloa, and even—as in the case of baptism and confirmation the traditional engagements ; but the life, the sincerity, the fervor of them are absent. Religion is no longer anything but a frame, or, as it were, an empty vase from which l -the perfume has vanished. The place of religion has been taken by morality in some cases, and generally by what morality ! In other cases, literary and aesthetic especially music, with the exquisite joys it procures, the refinements to which it testifies, but also with its insufficiency from the point of view of inner discipline and moral hygiene, and for all that concerns firmness of principles and the strong tempering of character. For the great number religion has been replaced by the culle of the nation, of that nation which is in the act of bartering the treasures of science, poetry, and faith, through which it has been so great in history, in exchange for military and diplomatic glory, conquered by the sacrifices and exposed to the vicissitudes that all know, and which all prudent minds fear. But the patriotic sentiment, even when raised to its higheßt power, even when clairvoyant and disinterested, cannot fill the room of exiled religion, or, what is still worse, of falsified and perverted religion. More than all other sentiments, patriotism needs the counterpoise of religion in order not to degenerate into chauvinism. The Gospel, properly understood and rightly practised, ia this counterpoise. But at the present moment in Germany the Gospel is not the great question. A Protestant Emperor made Germany united, and the arbiter of the destinies of the whole world. At a sign from Berlin all the nations and all the sovereigns tremble. This Germany, which uncircumspeot politicians attempt to confine within the domain of ideas, has shown that it can display rare practical senße, and gather the bloody laurels that grow on battlefields. That which the Holy Roman Empire could never realise a son of Luther has accomplished: what a triumph and what an apology for the Reformation ! This we will admit, but on one condition—namely, that the moral conscience which engendered the Reformation shall not make shipwreck in this grand triumph, and that Germany, reversing tho motto of tho Chancellor, shall acquire the conviotion, in spite of contrary appearances, which are only ephemeral and illusory, that in the end right is stronger than might, and that what raises a nation is justice.—'Harper's Magazine.'
Religion in Germany., Issue 8046, 24 October 1889
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