The Background: Surveys show that in the eastern part of Germany, more than 71% of those under 28 years old 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. Approximately 46% of all East Germans surveyed described themselves as atheists, compared to 4.9% of West Germans.
How did the home of the Protestant Reformation become the most godless place on the planet? Some of the reasons for the lack of belief, say researchers, are "the deep mark left by the National Socialists and the Communists," the fact that many Slavic and non-Orthodox communities present in the area since the Middle Ages were nonreligious, and that the secularization movements during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) were particularly strong in the states of Thuringia and Saxony.
What It Means: Eberhard Tiefensee a professor of theology at University of Erfurt says that, "if East Germany is a missionary country, then Christian teaching must address not other religions but a stable, non-religious milieu." Tiefensee told Die Welt that he sees no cause for resignation, though he admited that "all those attempting to change the status quo whether they're calling it a mission, evangelizing, or neo-evangelizing, have to bear in mind just how wide the divide is between them and those they're addressing."
The breadth of this divide is difficult for many Christians in America to comprehend. We are so accustomed to the buffonish Anglo-Saxon variety of "New Atheism" that we tend to forget that hardcore unbelief is a serious threat throughout much of Europe. We should pray for the German churches and the missionaries who are attempting to bring back the Gospel to a land in which it was once proclaimed boldly.