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Today's Supreme Court
October 7th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Scalia says atheism 'favors the devil's desires'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - As the Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, the devil is not on the docket but the Evil One apparently is on the mind of Justice Antonin Scalia.

New York magazine has published a fascinating new interview with Scalia in which the outspoken jurist tackled a number of topics. But none seemed to surprise Scalia's interviewer, Jennifer Senior, more than his views on Satan.

The interview was conducted on September 26, the 27th anniversary of Scalia's swearing-in as a justice on the high court. He is one of a record six Catholic justices on the Supreme Court.

After Scalia and Senior discussed heaven and hell (he believes in them; she doesn't), the justice said in a stage whisper, "I even believe in the devil."

"You do?" Senior replied.

"Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, come on, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that," Scalia said.

Senior asked Scalia if he's seen evidence of Satan's work recently.

"You know, it is curious," Scalia answered. "In the Gospels, the devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore. ... It’s because he’s smart."

MORE FROM CNN: How to argue about religion online

Scalia said the Devil has gotten "wilier" and convinced people that he and God don't exist. The justice added that he doesn't think that atheists are Satan's minions, but that disbelief in God "certainly favors the devil's desires."

Senior asked if it's "frightening" to believe in the devil, which seemed to annoy Scalia.

"You’re looking at me as though I’m weird," he answered. "My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

Scalia, whose son, Paul, is a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia, also said Pope Francis is "absolutely" right about the church needing to concentrate more on mercy and outreach than on fighting the culture wars.

MORE FROM CNN: American Catholics agree with Pope Francis on ending culture wars

"But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues," Scalia said. "He’s just saying, 'Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.' I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally."

Finally, Scalia said he has not "softened" his views on homosexuality.

"I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. OK? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other," Scalia said.

MORE FROM CNN: Church and state, executive power on Supreme Court docket

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Courts • Culture wars • Devil • Faith Now • Pope Francis

soundoff (3,729 Responses)
  1. Now that's just stupid...

    We have a supreme court judge that believes in the devil.

    November 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
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    November 15, 2013 at 4:19 am |
  3. corridorwatcher

    "Faith is believing something you know ain't true."--Mark Twain

    October 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Qc

      "Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into."
      Mahatma Gandhi

      October 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        Gandhi was a good person, but that doesn't make him correct in this assertion.

        Faith by definition is "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof."

        So is it smart to believe in something without proof? Hum, I don't think so.

        Gandhi was hindu, which has unlimited gods none which have anything to do with sin and hell and more to do with philosophy. Not sure in what context this quote is taken out off, but it's definitely not towards Jesus or Joshua."

        Additionally, why have faith in something without evidence and ironically to something as repulsive as Hell, sin, condemnation and all the rest?

        Why have faith in things connected to atrocities throughout history like religion?

        October 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Opposing View

      Corridor... If you know for a fact something ain't true, but yet you believe in it, then that's believing a lie. And is precisely why Mark Twain is now in hell...

      Faith is believing in that you're uncertain of...

      October 27, 2013 at 10:35 am |
      • tshorey2013

        If Mark Twain is in hell it must be more fun than where ever you think you are going. Faith is believing in something without evidence or in spite of it. Facts and proof don't require faith.

        In any case Scalia is Catholic and his infallable Pope said that even atheists can get into heaven so I guess think Twain was a murderer or something, otherwise he could be in your heaven also according to the Pope.

        October 29, 2013 at 2:41 am |
      • Now that's just stupid...

        Just how is it possible to believe something that you know is not true. That's the dumbest thing I have ever read. And how do you conclude that Mark Twain is in hell because of this? How do you know what went through his mind?

        December 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
        • Dorian

          It's called denial. People with terminal deceases go thru it. Religious people can't deal with the facts and they are in denial all their lives.

          Sad, but true.

          December 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  4. Peter s

    This is one SCARY article!! This guy believes in faerie magic and demons!! Man theists are creepy....why can't they just be Human, know they came from monkeys, and be happy??!!

    October 17, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  5. Douglas

    Insist that fornicators practice celibacy and reduce the risk of serial disease transmission.

    There is hope at the foot of the cross!

    Extend the hand of fellowship to celibates who have their minds set like flint for salvation and deliverance from sin!

    October 15, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Observer

      Douglas, apparently without any professional background in psychology or psychiatry, continues to try to make gays feel guilty for how they were supposedly created by God. Actual professionals believe trying to force gays to change is harmful.

      To gays: Don't feel guilty for how you were born. It wasn't any crime, just a source of hypocrisy for many religious people.

      October 15, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • corridorwatcher

      Celibicay must be hard for believers after reading the Bible, -with all those knowings, lay withs, and seed spreadings.

      October 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  6. Gerry

    I was never fond of Barbara Bush, but I don't think I'd accuse her of having slaves.

    October 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  7. Gerry

    Scalia is a man, in case you didn't notice.

    October 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Well, to be honest there is a bit of a Barbara Bush thing going on.

      October 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  8. Nogods

    Science has made more progress in the last 100 years then the prior 150,000 years combined. The world that gods and devils occupy grows smaller every passing day.

    October 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • dorianmattar

      Absolutely.

      I just hope humanity can survive the next clash between christians and muslims or that Science beats them to the punch.

      October 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      The world that alleged gods and alleged devils might occupy grows smaller every day.

      October 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.