Religion and historical contingencies help explain cross-national and historic variation of criminal law and punishment. Case studies from German history suggest: First, the Calvinist affiliation of early Prussian monarchs advanced the centralization of power, rationalization of government bureaucracy, and elements of the welfare state, factors that are likely to affect punishment. Second, the dominant position of Lutheranism in the German population advanced the institutionalization of a separation of forgiveness in the private sphere versus punishment of “outer behavior” by the state. Third, these principles became secularized in philosophy, jurisprudence, and nineteenth-century criminal codes. Fourth, partly due to historical contingencies, these codes remained in effect into post–World War II Germany. Fifth, the experience of the Nazi regime motivated major changes in criminal law, legal thought, public opinion, and religious ideas about punishment in the Federal Republic of Germany. Religion thus directly and indirectly affects criminal law and punishment, in interaction with historical contingencies, institutional conditions of the state, and other structural factors.