A new study shows that for the first time, a majority of Germans no longer belong to the Roman Catholic or Protestant churches, and scholars say opposition to church taxes may be part of the reason for the decline.

The survey, undertaken earlier this year by the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Research Group World Views, noted that 30 years ago, 70% of the German population was affiliated with Christian denominations.

“It’s a historic break, since, taken as a whole, it’s the first time in centuries that it’s no longer ‘normal’ to be a church member in Germany,” Carsten Frerk, a social scientist, told The Local, a German news site. “The downward trend has been going on for quite some time, but it has accelerated more in the past six years than previously thought.”

It’s estimated that by 2060, only around 30 percent of the country’s population will adhere to Catholicism or Protestant faiths.

Germany has a system of church taxes. The government collects the tax by deducting it from paychecks for several denominations. Residents can opt out of the tax by testifying before a local government office that they are non-religious or simply don’t want to pay it. People who take that step are then cut off from church services, such as weddings and funeral rites.

 

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