Modern atheism is primarily a Protestant phenomenon

Idols - cult

Karl Gabriel

To person

Dr. soc. scientific, Dr. theol. habil., born 1943; Senior Professor in the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics" at the Westphalian Wilhelms University of Münster.
Email: [email protected]

The thesis of advancing secularization is just as unsatisfactory as the counter thesis of a return of religion. A more appropriate perspective for the development of religion and Christianity is offered by the concept of multiple modernity.


In hardly any other area of ​​public interest is the news as contradicting as it is in the field of religion. On the one hand, reports about a declining number of memberships and visitors to the churches as well as about the turning away from central religious truths of Christianity dominate the public media world. The last remnants of religious orientations and ties seem to be disappearing from economic life, from politics, but also from science. On the other hand, we increasingly come across irritating news and phenomena that do not really fit into the familiar pattern of the declining social relevance of religion. Almost everywhere in the smaller world it seems that "in matters of religion" is developing differently than in Western Europe. In the United States in particular, the clocks seem to run differently here, in a country from which we are actually used to having its trends inevitably become ours with a certain delay.

Unexpectedly, there is suddenly an increasing number of public conflicts around religion, starting with the crucifix dispute more than ten years ago to the disputes over representative mosque buildings in Cologne and elsewhere. It is not just conflicts that can be used to support the thesis of a return of religion to contemporary society. The World Youth Day initiated by John Paul II and its success seem to bear witness to a previously unknown kind of youthful event and mass religiosity, for which charismatically acting popes serve as catalysts. [1] The conclusion is that there are enough indications for the thesis of a return of religion that give it a certain plausibility right into everyday experience.