Conference Announcement: Secularization and the Transformation of Religion in the U.S. and Germany after 1945

ACCH Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 1, March 2011

Conference Announcement: Secularization and the Transformation of Religion in the U.S. and Germany after 1945, March 17-19, 2011, German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

Mark Edward Ruff, St. Louis University

At first glance, the religious landscapes of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States would seem to be worlds apart. Religion appears to play a much more significant role in the American public arena than in the German. Televangelists, radio evangelists, Roman Catholic bishops and evangelicals have flexed their political muscle and have become important players in American political life. The United States records higher rates of attendance at church and mass. In fact, however, religious institutions in both societies have had to struggle with similar challenges—emerging multi-religious realities, strong secular movements and declining membership rosters, processes that they often subsume under the heading of “secularization.” Religious bodies in both nations have had to recognize that they operate in a competitive media-driven cultural and religious marketplace, even if the transformations emerging in this new environment are not as outwardly visible in Germany as in the United States.

This international conference seeks to explore the history and meaning of secularization and the transformation of the religious landscape of both the United States and Germany after 1945. It will challenge traditional narratives that focus on the disappearance of religion in modernity and instead highlight the transformation of religion within larger societal changes. Our approach is transnational, inter-disciplinary, and multi-confessional.

The conference will feature twenty-five participants from the United States, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. Their papers will fall into five formal rubrics: religion and media, secularization, religion and social movements, religion and civil society and, finally, larger religious transformations.  The papers will examine both Protestants and Roman Catholics. The conference conveners include Uta Balbier of the German Historical Institute in Washington, Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Damberg and Lucian Hölscher of the Ruhr-Universität-Bochum and Mark Edward Ruff of Saint Louis University.

For more information, contact Dr. Uta Andrea Balbier, German Historical Institute, 1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009-2562, U.S.A., or at