18% of Brits believe in possession by the devil

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A significant proportion of British adults believe that the devil exists and can possess humans, but the number is much larger for Americans

British and American film audiences are alike in their undying appetite for imaginary demons – supernatural horror sequel Insidious: Chapter 2 recently topped US and UK box offices. But new international research from YouGov, which surveyed British and American adults, reveals there is a wide cross-Atlantic divide when it comes beliefs about evil spirits in the real world.

On the one hand, 65% of Britons deny that the devil exists or that he can possess people, 18% believe that he does, and he can, while another 17% say they aren't sure about the existence of the devil or possession.

In comparison, Americans are far more believing.

Written By: William Jordan
continue to source article at yougov.co.uk

29 COMMENTS

  1. What do you mean by “possessed by the devil”?

    Obviously there are mental conditions where people feel possessed. That does not mean there is any devil.

    There is a way for people to control others for selfish purposes. Does that count?

    Or does thing require someone with a costume with horns and a tail, and a document signed in blood?

    There is also an utterly terrifying experience of being overwhelmed mentally by something external. I have personal experience here. I have some theories on what it was, none involving a Catholic devil.

    Images of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore keep coming to mind.

  2. What would be interesting, is the ethnic split of these results. I have a strong suspicion that South Asians and Afro-Caribbeans might have a significantly higher proportion of those who believe.

  3. There’s no information as to how the people were polled, so I certainly wouldn’t trust the figures. Particularly when 10% of “non-religious” people are supposed to believe in demonic possession.

  4. If that old codger goD really existed, this would be something else he ought to be ashamed of. Allowing the fallen angel Lucifer to enter into the ‘masterpiece’ of his creation on earth and work his evil will. Bad enough what he allowed the devil to do to poor Job…I admire Job’s wife, though.”curse god and die” she said but craven Job would not.
    I’d much rather the devil were after me, rather than a person.The danger would be nonexistent.
    Still, I feel really sorry for people who believe in and are petrified by the devil.What a way to live!

    • In reply to #5 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      I’d much rather the devil were after me, rather than a person.

      Definitely. The Devil is responsible for 10 deaths in the not-so-good-book, and those were at Gods permission and as a result of a narcissistic wager with God over Job’s sycophantic love/fear of God. On the other hand, that louse-bag God is on record as killing right, left and centre. The actual recorded number is just over 2.8 million, the upper estimated number is a staggering 25 million. Of course, as God created everything, so he is responsible for all deaths.

      The danger would be nonexistent.

      Not quite. Some real people/eejits use the fictional Devil as an excuse for their bad actions. There are plenty of delusional fuckwits doing bad shit because they hear voices and claim it’s the Devil that makes them do it, The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez was one such fruitcake. Mind you, there are just as many, if not more delusional fuckwits doing bad shit because they hear voices and claim it’s God that makes them do it. The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Suttcliffe is one such fruitcake.

      Irony being, individuals hearing a voice and doing that kind of Gods work, are locked up as delusional…unless one is a world leader of course. Who gets to decide which voice in a persons head is Gods and which is Satans?

      Still, I feel really sorry for people who believe in and are petrified by the devil.What a way to live!

      Indeed, ignorance is not always bliss.

    • In reply to #8 by soulreaver:

      Prof Dawkins dealing with these nutters head on!

      Richard Dawkins vs. Believers on ‘Does the Devil Exist?’

      Wow! What an eye opener… And here I was blaming poor old Hitler for the holocaust when all along, it was the Devil’s fault. There’s no justice in this world, I tell ya…

  5. One question I like is the “do you pray question?”. Because I think people who believe in devils just say that might as well ask about vampires. They don’t do anything about it. If people hold insincere beliefs that do not affect their action they are a much less important beliefs. Big difference between someone excited in a haunted house and a family burning their kids for imagined witchcraft. There may not be any correlation between in active ideas and insane religious behaviour.

  6. According to the survey, 10% of British people who say they are “non-religious” believe people can be “possessed by the devil”.

    So what on earth do they mean by “possessed by the devil” if they are not religious?

    • In reply to [#13] by Simon Tuffen:

      According to the survey, 10% of British people who say they are “non-religious” believe people can be “possessed by the devil”.

      So what on earth do they mean by “possessed by the devil” if they are not religious?

      I’m more curious as to what they mean by “not religious”. It could mean anything from atheism to believing in a god but not attending religious events on a regular basis.

  7. @OP – On the one hand, 65% of Britons deny that the devil exists or that he can possess people, 18% believe that he does, and he can, while another 17% say they aren’t sure about the existence of the devil or possession.

    A comparison of figures could help explain this:- The OP suggests a UK total (18%+17%) of 35% believe in the devil, or are not sure.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/11297461

    Figures gathered by the National Centre for Social Research show that membership of most religions is lower now than it was 30 years ago, with a marked decline appearing among people who say they belong to the Church of England from 40 to 20%.

    By comparison, the numbers of those claiming to be Catholic has remained fairly stable, dropping only 1% from 10 to** 9%** since 1983.

    The number of people of all faiths attending church services appears to be at a low ebb, with 58% of those polled saying they never attend services.

    But attendance does peak at Christmas. According to Church of England statistics, 35% of the population attend a Christmas service of some sort, rising to 42% in London.

    These figures suggest (20% CofE +9%Catholic) record 29% church membership + some from other denominations.
    The 35% who attend Xmas services matches the 35% who believe or are doubtful about the devil.

    There are probably anomalies, but the correlation is close!

  8. I have given up facts in discussing world views with the extreme right and just say News Corp executives are all possessed and tools of the anti Christ. Maybe next Blasphemy Day we have religious ritual reenactments with a focus on exorcism in front of Fox affiliates. Gets me going thinking of all the artistic pointy hats on display,.

  9. I read “Mnemnoch the Devil” by Anne Rice when a friend and I made a deal to read the other’s recommendation. (I recommended “The Making of the Fittest” by Sean Carroll) Anyway, her stuff is typically pretty low level crap. However, this particular effort is of note because she weaves an alternative story to the devil’s legacy. He opposed god on the basis that the devil could sense that humans were more than god thought they were. God placed the devil here TO SAVE humans. Essentially, he tempts people to present a few to god that are better than what god assumes humans are…. He is helping humans get to heaven, against god’s opinion that they should not get there.

    There is lots of other kind of bottom of the barrel “borrowed” hollywood-ish crap in the book, but the tale that the devil lays onto LeStat (the main vampire character) is plausible… The question is… “Is the devil telling the truth?” I think you all know where Mrs. Rice takes the story, but for a moment there, she almost seems to get it.

  10. Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm done by the devil at all. Not sure the book of jobs servant puts such a positive spin on it.

    • In reply to #21 by jjbircham:

      Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm done by the devil at all. Not sure the book of jobs servant puts such a positive spin on it.

      I think that is way too positive a spin you are putting on it. IMO The Book of Job is proof that the Old Testament God was a jerk. Yes, eventually Job gets it all back but he — a man who followed every one of God’s rules better than anyone else — suffers one terrible tragedy after another and all because the devil keeps egging on God. “Oh yeah, he still praises you know that you made him sick but what if you killed off all his family?” “Oh yeah? I’ll show you..” God comes off to me as an adolescent who causes massive suffering all because he lets the devil manipulate him in a very petty way.

      • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #21 by jjbircham:

        Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm done by the devil at all. Not sure the book of jobs servant puts…

        This is the second cartoon clip I’ve linked to in the past half hour — I should really try to broaden my horizons — but it seems germane to your comment:

        South Park: The Book of Job

        • In reply to #26 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #21 by jjbircham:

          Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm done by the devil at all. Not sure…

          I love that episode. As long as we are sharing clips, here is what I was thinking of when I read your comment on The Rapture, it’s from the HBO series Six Feet Under:

          Don’t Rapture and Drive

          • In reply to #27 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #26 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #21 by jjbircham:

            Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm d…

            I never saw Six Feet Under but was familiar with that clip because of this article on Snopes.com:

            Leap of Faith

            Edit: I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a good thing this story isn’t true. A good thing.

    • In reply to #21 by jjbircham:

      Ignorant Amos, the other thing to remember is that in the book of job everything worked out ok, job got a new family and servants to replace all those who perished as a reward for his fidelity, so no harm done by the devil at all. Not sure the book of jobs servant puts such a positive spin on it.

      I doubt Jobs wife and nine children would agree…if it wasn’t a work of fiction in a book of other works of fiction you understand.

  11. A recent bout of flu coupled with a new sky package led me to find something called the God channel. Now on this fascinating channel were lots of programmes about something called end times. Clearly American as I’d never heard of them.

    Now on these end times chat shows (fascinating insight into utter nuttiness) they were describing the behaviour of the Devil who will take over Earth just before God arrives and after some holy folk have been transported to heaven. And the description was of a person who would unite the warring factions of the world and bring peace to the middle east and unite the peoples of the world. Great I thought, Devil sounds marvelous. But no apparently, war and discord are what god wants.

    Now I really can’t believe in the Devil, but if I could, then based just on this programme I guess he’d be far worthier of worship than his adversary god.

    • In reply to #23 by PG:

      A recent bout of flu coupled with a new sky package led me to find something called the God channel. Now on this fascinating channel were lots of programmes about something called end times. Clearly American as I’d never heard of them.

      Now on these end times chat shows (fascinating insight into utter nuttiness) they were describing the behaviour of the Devil who will take over Earth just before God arrives and after some holy folk have been transported to heaven.

      It’s known as the Rapture, and about half of Americans believe in it and think it’s imminent, including this person, who campaigned to secure her party’s nomination to be president of the country and be in control of its nuclear arsenal.

      I don’t usually have much sympathy for the views of evangelical Christian types, but in this case I really hope they’re right and they do ascend to Heaven sometime in the near future.

      True, those of us Left Below will have to deal with the Devil’s return and Hell on Earth, but I still think it’ll be worth it to be rid of them.

  12. One of the absurd aspects of the devil is: Why doesn’t God or Allah or Zeus get rid of him,/her/it?
    Belief in the supernatural is just as daft as astrology,homeopathy and various forms of magic!
    It’s time for a public piece of satire!

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