"Existenzberechtigung" is a German word used to assert something has a reason/justification to exist, but most often used negated to say something has no reason to exist / should not exist because it is pointless / is not justified in existing.

What I am trying to say (this should not be a discussion about whether or not that statement is correct) is something along the lines "A church not claiming to be The True Church has no Existenzberechtigung, because claiming to teach The Truth is or should be its Existenzberechtigung."

"Right to exist" does not really convey what I mean, it feels too harsh. Also it does not really work for the positive case. I would like to express more something like "justification to exist", if that makes sense. Something justifies its own existence with some reason for existence.

Is there an idiomatic expression that captures the German "Existenzberechtigung"? In both positive and negative expressions? Or should positive and negative cases use different expressions?

2 Answers 2


You already said this in your answer, but for the negative case, you could describe something as pointless. Some expressions also come to mind, but they are more specific:

  • This is a solution in search of a problem. (In other words, there is no good reason to implement such a thing.)
  • He/she is a rebel without a cause. (In other words, he/she complains about something only for the sake of complaining, without a particular goal in mind.)

For the affirmative case, we sometimes use this French expression in educated writing. I think it is a close analog of Existenzberechtigung:

You won't hear this often in spoken English, but it is known to most educated speakers. In other situations, you could probably get by with the direct translation:

  • Serving great food is our reason for being.

The closest equivalent, that isn't the explicit phrase "reason for existing", in the negative, might be nothing to stand on.

"Fabric" can be used to refer to something that, when it exists, something else exists (i.e. it makes "the existence" of something else). This might be used as part of a phrase for the positive.

A church not claiming to be The True Church has nothing to stand on, because claiming to teach The Truth is or should be the very fabric of its existence.

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