We know the famous saying of Baudelaire: “The best trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Words that resonate in a very special way across the Rhine, since the publication on February 28, 2023, by Die Tagepost, of the results of an opinion poll conducted by INSA.
The polling institute reveals that in 2023, only 15% of Germans believe in the existence of the devil. More precisely, the survey shows that 64% do not believe in his existence, that 15% do not have opinion and that 6% of respondents prefer not to answer.
And the results are not something to be proud of if we focus on the faith of baptized Germans within the Catholic Church: 60% of the baptized do not believe in the existence of the devil and only 15% of Catholics believe that the devil exists: the ravages of the synod have passed through.
The responses are not much different with the Protestants, although the percentage is slightly higher among those who believe in the existence of the devil. In fact, 17% of German Protestants believe in the existence of Satan.
However, the “Prince of darkness,” or even “Prince of this world,” is very often cited in the New Testament: the name of Satan is mentioned 34 times, the devil 36 times, and demon 55 times. . . Christ Himself performs exorcisms to drive out “evil and impure spirits.”
While the Church does not make the devil the center of its preaching, she does teach the existence of demons: thus, the Fourth Lateran Council, in the thirteenth century, affirms that “the devil and the other demons were created by God naturally good, but it is they who of themselves have made themselves evil; as for man, he has sinned at the instigation of the devil.”
But, in the wake of 19th century Protestant exegesis and the Second Vatican Council, many theologians see in Satan only a symbol, rather than a real person: even Cardinal Ratzinger – future Pope Benedict XVI – seems to have hesitated at one time in his life.
In 1973, he wrote that the devil was a “non-person (or anti-person), the disintegration, the ruin of being a person, and that is why it is characteristic of his nature to present himself without a face.” But, in 1985, the future pope returns to this affirmation in his book Interview on Faith (Fayard): “Whatever some superficial theologians say, the devil is, for the Christian faith, a mysterious presence, but very real, personal and not just symbolic.”
Even today, Fr. Arturo Sosa, the superior of the Jesuits, in an interview given to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, on May 31, 2017 considered that the “devil” is only a “symbol” without reality.
Words that another Jesuit, Pope Francis, has never dared to say, for whom the answer is clear: “To this generation, and so many others, we have made believe that the devil is a myth, an image, a idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists and we must fight against him. That's what Saint Paul says, it's not me who says it! The Word of God says so. And yet, we are not really convinced.” It was October 30, 2014.