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Religion in Germany


Page of the Gutenberg Bible
Page of the Gutenberg Bible

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries Germany experienced a variety of religious and intellectual developments, from Lutheran Pietism and Baroque Catholicism to Enlightenment philosophy and the beginnings of empirical science.

Although official state religions remained largely unchanged in the years following the Peace of Westphalia, cultural expressions of faith by German Protestants and Catholics accelerated at an unprecedented pace. In the predominantly Catholic south, this was evident in a revival of public processions, pilgrimages, shrines, and highly ornate church decoration. Meanwhile, in the largely Lutheran north, Philipp Jakob Spener, the former court chaplain at Saxony, called for a revival of evangelical preaching and lay fervor in his influential work Pia Desideria (1675; Pious Desires, 1964). The resulting movement, known as Pietism, spread rapidly throughout Lutheran Germany.

Religious segregation was the rule, with most states maintaining an official religion. An exception was Prussia, whose rulers were among the first to appreciate the economic benefits of religious toleration. They gladly accepted not only tens of thousands of fellow Calvinists who had been expelled from France and Salzburg, but also welcomed Lutherans, Catholics, and Jews. Joseph II of Austria issued an edict of toleration for all non-Catholic Christians in 1781 and a similar decree for Jews the next year. Assimilation was especially important to the emperor, however, and he attempted to put loyalty to the state above particular religious devotions. He tried to force all Jewish subjects except rabbis to abandon their traditional clothing; he also halted all synagogue construction and required Jews to pay a toleration tax. These Austrian and Prussian examples of toleration were followed reluctantly by Bavaria and Württemberg in 1803, Baden in 1818, Hesse in 1831, and Saxony in 1841.

Philosophy


During the Age of Enlightenment, the writings of the French philosophes were undeniably influential in Germany. The belief in representative government, or government by all people instead of merely the nobility, began to gain popularity. The philosophes also placed great importance on the discovery of truth by the use of individual human reason and through the observation of nature, instead of by the study of authoritative sources such as Aristotle and the Bible.

The spirit of critical and objective inquiry, universal in literate Europe in the 18th century, produced several remarkable German philosophers, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. Educational reforms led to the establishment of mandatory grammar schools for girls and boys. By the end of the century at least half of the population had some formal schooling. The number of German newspapers increased from 57 in 1700 to almost 200 in 1800. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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