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Explaining a Religious Anomaly: A Historical Analysis of Secularization in Eastern Germany

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The sociology of religion is engrossed in a debate concerning the process of secularization. Some theories of secularization hold that religiosity decreases under the effects of modernization. In opposition, supply-side models of religious change maintain that declines in religiosity can be explained only through changes in the supply of religious goods. To further examine mechanisms of secularization, this article investigates the emergence of the most secularized society in the world today—eastern Germany. The extremely high percent of atheists in contemporary eastern Germany suggests that the public demand for religion has diminished. But the process of modernization did not bring about this change; instead, current drops in religious demand and religiosity in eastern Germany are the result of dramatic interventions in the supply of religious goods over the past two centuries. We trace the historical conditions that have created the most atheistic society ever.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Paul Froese is with the Department of Sociology, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798-7326., Email: 2: Steven Pfaff is with the Department of Sociology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3340., Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2005


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