Most U.S. Catholics don’t believe in the devil

Belief in the devil was almost as rare among Catholics as it was among those with no religious affiliation

St. Michael the Archangel (image from Church Militant)

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.

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.

Full story at Church Militant.


  1. When was the devil last mentioned in a homily in your parish? I’ve lived in mine for 51 years and I don’t remember him ever being mentioned. For that matter, I don’t recall when Heaven or Hell were either.



    • Sean McDermott says:

      Exactly. And in my 58 years on Earth, I think I’ve heard Purgatory mentioned twice. What do people expect about belief in the devil when our goofy hierarchy doesn’t even believe in him? I heard a priest give a sermon recently where a bishop in France, I believe, appointed 100 new exorcists, 95 OF WHOM DIDN’T BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF THE DEVIL. The old adage really is true: the devil’s greatest victory is to convince the world that he doesn’t exist. God help us…

  2. From Fr. Barron’s book, Catholicism, page 268…
    “Satan is not the “dark side” that faces the light of God in a terrible cosmic struggle. He is a fallen creature whom God allows, for God’s own inscrutable purposes, to work woe in the world. We should take the devil with requisite seriousness, but we shouldn’t give this finally uninteresting and pathetic creature too much attention.”
    Since the bishop doesn’t think it’s a big deal…

    • The same Robert Barron who thinks that all have a reasonable hope of being saved, what nonsense from the mouth of a bishop! Not what Jesus ever said.

      Remember the Last Four Things” Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell. Where, and with whom do you want to spend eternity?

  3. Clinton R. says:

    Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa doesn’t believe in the devil either.

    “We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil. Social conditioning can also represent this figure, since there are people who act [in an evil way] because they are in an environment where it is difficult to act to the contrary.” – Interview in El Mundo newspaper, May 31, 2017

    Contrast the above statement with the teaching of the first Pope, St. Peter:
    Be sober, and watch: because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour: 1 Peter 5:8

    • Those religious orders and monasteries that recite the ancient traditional Latin Breviary commence Compline, the final office hour of the day, with that passage (1 Peter 5:8) every night, to remind everyone of the true and hidden war each one of us is dealing with daily.

  4. TheVeiledThreat says:

    The devil is real, not just a symbol. One of his greatest feats is convincing people he does not exist.

    I have seen the devil’s work in my life. But he is no match for God. Prayer will help keep him at bay. He just wants you to think he and his minions are powerful. Of course there are the cases that necessitate an exorcism…but for most of us what we need are a devout prayer life and most importantly, frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist. There is no magic formula.

  5. I believe that with all the horrible things that happen due to human action or inaction, there must be an Intelligent evil in the universe. Does it have corporeal, human form, even horns and a tail etc. I doubt it.

  6. Michael McDermott says:

    “Only 17 percent of Catholics said they believe that Satan is a living being”

    What poor evidence of Faith Formation – Father Stahl at Saint Michael’s In Livermore has made clear the nature of the ‘Fallen One’, and I suggest those in doubt ask him for clarification

    It is like saying the God is a “Supreme Bing” – God is Not A Being – but rather “The Logos”, also made known to his children as “I Am”
    To Constrain God in cloak of ‘Being’ is to misunderstand the Catechism at its most basic level

    Satan is no more a ‘Being’ than Sant Claus (although not a matter of fiction bringing presents to good children), but rather the leader of the Fallen, who inhabits a reality that is Ethereal (of or relating to the regions beyond…

  7. Six year old data with a sample size of 1,496 repsondents. No clear statement how many of these claimed to be Catholic. I seriously question what statisically valid inferences can be drawn, especially regards US Catholics as a whole.

  8. Tom Byrne says:

    To paraphrase Trotsky: you may not believe in the Devil, but he certainly believes in you.

  9. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I believe in the devil and his evil works…and I believe he is currently very active in the highest levels of the U S Government. The Devil is very happy about what is happening in the USA and the world right now. He is smiling a big smile!

  10. Just because you don’t believe in something…..doesn’t mean it is TRUE!!!

  11. Well I sure do, and try to live my life accordingly.

  12. They polled under 1,500 people supposedly Christians. From that tiny population which may not have been scientifically chosen, they somehow come up with the figure that 83% of Catholics think that Satan is a symbol of evil. I say, “Fake poll and fake news.”

  13. 8 out of 10 modern catholics don’t believe in the devil eh! Well that goes hand-in-hand with 2 out of 3 not believing of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So the question is, if they don’t believe these fundamental truths, are these people really catholics, or catholics in name only (CINOs)?
    It shudders me to think that these people don’t see the devil’s presence and his role in what is going on in the world not just internationally but also in their own private lives. The devil has done a great job of deceiving. If people don’t believe, then they won’t prepare themselves by seeking God’s help when it is most needed. Sadly enough, many many souls have been and will be lost, and Satan smiles escorting them to where…

  14. …….and Bishop Barron believes there is a reasonable hope that most will go to Heaven. Do you believe that? Take a look around you and see the sins being committed that people say aren’t really sins and there is your answer…….contraception, abortion, sodomy, cohabitation come to mind.
    Dear Lord please help our world.

  15. To paraphrase St. Padre Pio, they will when they meet Satan after death.

    • Linda Maria says:

      The Devil is evil and ignorant– and Satan and his group of fallen angels, “evil spirits” from Hell— battle for our souls! But they cannot win– in the end, Christ will win this huge battle! Before Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God on earth, Lucifer, the angelic “Light-Bearer,” is said to have rebelled against God, in the heavens, millions of years ago, stating in these famous words — “Non serviam!” or, “I will not serve!” This famous battle has been raging ever since! And God will eventually win!!

  16. I thought the devil was in the details! 🙂

  17. Arness Barts says:

    Stirring the pot are we? That survey is from 2011.

  18. Linda Maria says:

    The Catholic Church has tried to minimize the emphasi on fear of going to Hell, since Vatican II– and has ceased to teach the Catholic Faithful their Catechism, completely— including core concepts, of sin and virtue, and Christ’s salvation, etc.! Yes, as a child– we all were scared of the Devil, and Hell! But what was wrong? The teaching methods! And true belief in God’s desire for us to go to Heaven— Christ gave His very life for that, for our Salvation!– We need a firm and FEARLESS Faith, that this is all really TRUE!! Christ is there to help us, when we are tempted to sin! And we also have the Blessed Mother, our Guardian Angels— and much more!! God wants our SUCCESS at combating sin, and going to Heaven!

  19. The Watchman says:

    The devil is not symbolic he is a real being who could possess many people at one time and actually even create a human like body for himself. The culture of death has been successful especially throughout the western world because the devil himself is behind it. If you want to drive the devil away from you just pray the Rosary or the Hail Mary prayer over and over. He is more afraid of the Virgin Mary than anyone else. The reason being that Mother Mary to him was just a human being. His pride can’t take the fact that to him a mere human being like Mother Mary can defeat him. Brothers and sisters in Christ the time of judgement is fast approaching. Our Lady of the Fatima pray for us and protect us from the snares of the devil…

  20. One of the most horrifying representations of the devil I have ever seen was in the World Book Encyclopedia of my childhood. It was a picture of a white marble statue of a beautiful angel (Lucifer) with the coldest, cruelest expression on his face — truly the “beautiful side of evil”. I hate to say this, but I have seen that look on many a model of various races for certain advertisements — cold, heartless, lustful and egotistical. I most often avoid the products because of the advertisements.

    • Linda Maria says:

      Sounds like an excellent representation of the Devil, in the World Book Encyclopedia! The “wolf in sheep’s clothing!” The ultimate Deceiver!! And we had all better watch out, not get caught in the snares of Satan!! It also reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Screwtape Letters!”

  21. And yes, I believe the devil exists.

  22. The Watchman says:

    Further to my post I would encourage people to read Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy Diary. In it she describes hell and shows the punishment that each person receives for sins committed while on earth. In my estimation the Divine Mercy Diary is the second most important book ever written. The most important book ever written of course is the Holy Bible. The Divine Mercy Diary and Divine Mercy Chaplet also prepares us for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ King of Kings Lord of Lords True God and True Man. Brothers and sisters in Christ I encourage all of you to pray the Holy Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet and turn to a God of love and mercy before it is too late. Time is running out. Pray! Pray! Pray!

  23. So if this poll was true in 2011, with all the havoc and deceiving the devils and demons have been doing to draw Christians away from the truth, morals and values, weekly worship, and Christian/Catholic teachings in general, I wonder what the true numbers for this question are in 2017? I shudder to think! From the way things are going, the numbers can only have grown worse, i.e. more unbelievers of the devil.

  24. I think a lot of people went so overboard saying everything was a result of demons, and televangelists (i.e. Benny Hinn) didn’t help the situation any. People began thinking it was stupid, and now they think (For many more reasons than the one I just listed) that the devil isn’t real, or that he is, but he’s not as big of a threat or influence as we think. That’s the devil’s greatest trick, to tell us he doesn’t exist, that it’s not spiritual warfare, that we should ignore him. Obviously we needn’t fixate on him, and sometimes things are naturally caused (Most of the time, in fact), but to completely disregard a figure who actually TALKED to Jesus and tempted Him in the desert, is to deny a basic understanding of Christianity, in…

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