Most US Catholics Don’t Believe in Devil

by David Nussman  •  •  August 30, 2017   

Poll: 83% of Catholics think Satan is just a symbol

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Eight in ten U.S. Catholics don't believe that Satan actually exists, according to a new analysis of statistics.

In an online post dated August 24, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) dissected raw data from the Faith and Global Policy Challenges Survey. This 2011 study polled 1,496 adults in the United States who profess belief in the existence of God with special emphasis on Christians.

CARA's analysis highlighted a concerning trend among Catholic respondents. Only 17 percent of Catholics said they believe that Satan is a living being. The vast majority, the remaining 83 percent, report thinking of Satan as merely a symbol of evil.

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Satan's literal existence was most popular among Evangelical Protestants, 55 percent of whom said they believe the devil is a real being.

The fraction of the Catholic constituency that affirmed the devil's existence was smaller than that of any other religious group. Belief in the devil was almost as rare among Catholics as it was among those with no religious affiliation (16%).

Mark M. Gray, editor of CARA's research blog, dug deeper into the survey's raw data. He noted that Catholics who admit Satan's real existence are more likely to support pro-life initiatives, see the world as divided between good and evil and believe in spiritual and moral obligations.

Gray explained these numbers using basic human psychology. "[S]ymbols aren't really going to stir the same concerns in someone that a being might," he explained. "Catholics who believe in the devil and Hell are more likely than those who do not to be religiously active."

In the survey, Catholics who believe in the devil's existence are also more prone to being politically conservative and having college degrees.

Blessed Cdl. John Henry Newman (1801–90), a convert from High-Church Anglicanism, often warned against the destructive influence of liberalism in religion. Cardinal Newman recognized theological liberalism as an emptying of faith, replacing assent to doctrines with admiration of ideals. In his famous Biglietto Speech, Newman fiercely condemned the liberal mindset, saying, "Revealed religion is not a truth" according to liberals, "but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy."

Catholics who admit Satan's real existence are more likely to support pro-life initiatives, see the world as divided between good and evil and believe in spiritual and moral obligations.

CARA is a Catholic agency at Georgetown University that gathers and analyzes statistics pertaining to the Church. The Center regularly crunches numbers for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Church Militant has highlighted data from CARA that describes the Catholic Church's decline in the United States. In February, Church Militant reported that U.S. vocations to religious life virtually flatlined for six years, based on data that CARA gathered for the USCCB. An article from March of 2016 used CARA statistics to refute deceptive claims that Catholics were growing faster than the world population. A 2012 episode of The Vortex compared CARA records on Mass attendance in the United States with Mass attendance trends in France.


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