Diversity of beliefs about
Satan by the general public
beliefs in the U.S.: 1991 to the present time:
1991: Detailed data on belief in Satan is listed below.1Only among born again Christians did a majority conceived
of Satan as a living being seventeen years ago, and then only by a small
percentage. The average for all adults was 35%:
Satan is only a
symbol of evil
Satan is a
Average of American Adults
65 years and older
Not born again
(N = 1005; 95% confidence limits within 4%, a random sampling of Americans 18 years or older.)
1993:Time Magazine for DEC-27 featured a story on angels. An opinion poll
69% believe in the existence of angels
55% believe that angels are "higher spiritual beings created by God with
special powers to act as his agents on earth".
49% believe in the existence of fallen "angels or devils." They were
presumably referring to demons.
46% believe that they have a personal guardian angel 2
1995: About 58% of American adults believed that Satan is
"not a living being but is a symbol of evil."3
1997: The 1991 survey was repeated in 1997-MAY.
It suggests that the traditional
belief of Satan as a living being might possibly be slipping. However, the
decline is still within the margin of error and is thus not statistically
Satan is only a symbol of evil
Satan is a living being
Average of American Adults
(N = 1007; 95% confidence limits within 4%, a random sampling of Americans 18 years or
2001: Barna Research conducted an extensive
poll. They found that only 27% of the adult population strongly
disagrees that Satan is just a symbol of evil. 5
There was a wide variation among members of various denominations:
Paul Hinlicky, a leading Lutheran theologian who teaches religion and
philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, VA was baffled that only about one in
five Lutherans believe in a living Satan. He said: "It tells us that even the
Lutherans are utterly out of step with Luther, to whom the Devil was very much a
2007: Barna Researchfound that only 24% of the subjects polled strongly
reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being. Belief in the
personhood of Satan appears to be gradually dissipating.
Belief in Satan in Christian countries around the world:
Two international surveys were conducted during 1991 and 1993 by the International
Social Survey Program (ISSP). This is currently located at the National
Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
In 1991, subjects were asked to agree or disagree with a number of
statements. One was: "I definitely believe in the Devil."
The percentage who answered "Yes" were:
Belief in the Devil
Unfortunately, these results cannot be directly compared with the above U.S.
data for 1991 to 2007, because the questions asked are not similar. A person
could answer "yes" to the question about belief in the devil, while only
regarding Satan as a symbol of evil. That is, they could answer "yes" even
though they did not believe that Satan was a real entity.
Conclusions about belief in Satan:
It appears that Satan is considered alive and well only by large numbers of
the public in the U.S. and Northern Ireland. However, these numbers are
dropping, at least in the U.S. From 1991 to 2007, belief in Satan as a living
entity dropped from 35% to 24%.
In the thousands of hours of our monitoring of conservative Protestant radio
and television programs since 1995, we have never heard an evangelical
teleminister suggest even the possibility that Satan is not a living personality
with magical powers. A large and growing percentage of Christians appear to have
abandoned the teachings of their faith groups.
Portrayal of Satan in popular culture:
A number of beliefs about Satan are prevalent in popular culture and reinforced by
movies, children's books, the media, etc. There is little or no Biblical foundation for
these beliefs. They are largely superstitious remnants from the late Middle Ages and
Satan is a rather humorous character with a tail, dressed in a red suit, smelling of
brimstone (sulfur) and carrying a pitchfork.
His prime activity appears to be to roam all over the earth, trying to persuade
individuals to sign a contract which sells their soul to him in exchange for special
powers or wealth.
Satan does not seem to be particularly intelligent, because he is easily tricked by
He is a type of warden who has administrative responsibilities over Hell, where some
individuals go after death to be tortured for all eternity. (Revelation 20:10
contradicts this. It states clearly that Satan himself will be held captive in Hell. He
will be thrown into the "lake of fire and brimstone" where he will be
"tormented day and night for ever and ever.")