Piety, Power, and Powerlessness: Religion and Religious Groups in Germany, 1870–1945

Rebekka Habermas

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Piety, Power, and Powerlessness: Religion and Religious Groups in Germany, 1870–1945

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)



An examination of eligion and religious groups that prevailed in Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries form the essence of this article. Many citizens of the Wilhelminian Empire believed they were seeing an increasing decline in the importance of religion. This view was also shared by scholars at the time including August Comte and Max Weber. Not only Weber and his contemporaries held this view; subsequent generations of sociologists and historians likewise adhered to the notion that modernity was secular; indeed, this alone sufficed to make it ‘modern’. This article focuses on the idea that the stronger the critique of the secularization theory became, the more intently people searched for alternative ways to explain the perceived changes in piety and religious institutions from the nineteenth century onward. This article moves further to explain the topographies of the religious and the secular under the German empire and reconfigurations of the same. An analysis of the religion and religious groups at the political backdrop concludes this article.

Keywords: piety; power; powerlessness; religious groups; secular; topographies

Article.  13536 words. 

Subjects: History ; Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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