The State-versus-Church struggle for the minds of the East Germans appears to be leaning in favor of the materialistic atheism of the Communist regime.

Church leaders are particularly distressed, according to recent reports, over the steady decline in baptisms in the Evangelical churches of East Germany. In some urban areas the number is said to have dropped to one-tenth the figure for previous years.

Church baptisms are giving way to the Namensweihe (socialist name-giving ceremony), an atheistic substitute now urged upon the people. In 1955, when the substitute ceremony was introduced, a maximum of 15 per cent of the children were said to have taken part. By 1956 the number had risen to 25 percent, and by 1959 to 65 per cent.

The assault on Christian practices has also included substitution of the Jugendweihe (youth dedication ceremony) for Christian confirmation and first communion. Communist sources claim that during last year about 88 per cent of all eligible youngsters took part in these substitute dedications.

The Evangelical Church in Germany, a Lutheran-Reformed composite which embraces five-sixths of the East German population, has denounced the substitute rites in the strongest terms. But the Communists persist, and are now promoting “socialist” marriage vows and burial services as well.

East German Evangelical sources say the weak resistance offered by many parents to the name-givings is evidence that wide segments of the population no longer consider baptism an important aspect of the Christian faith (despite the fact that it rests upon a specific command of Jesus Christ) and that practical de-Christianization of East Germany is picking up steam.

Deterioration of spiritual interests is largely attributable to Communist ...

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