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.