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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 Religion Editor

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

soundoff (3,730 Responses)
  1. It could be worse

    if he were a Creationist

    October 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Veritas

      He isn't? It's so hard to know the level of stupidity present in religious persons, and how deep it goes.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Steven

      I bet, if pressed, he would say yes to creationism as well.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  2. lean6

    I find it fascinating how people think that we are so biologically different...so evolved from those who burned witches at the stake, carried out lynchings, assassinated presidents, waged civil war, etc. We're the same people only tempered by self-preservation and the threat of consequence. Religious freedoms aside, Scalia sitting on the Supreme Court and VOICING this stuff is just a hint regarding the house of cards in which we live.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  3. CP in FL

    There is no evidence of god or satan. Scalia is delusional and should not be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  4. Pat

    Atheists believe what is reasonable and rational to believe, theists believe in what ever makes them feel good, with no concern at all for honestly or facts. Religion is for the morally challenged.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Josh

      So believing that the world came about from nothing, rather than something is rational? Too many intricacies to be a mistake.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • Pat

        Atheists remain open to things not known so you can stop lying about them now you amoral theist. I hold no beliefs that can't be backed up rationally, the rest I remain open about. It's called the proper use of ones brain.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • ME II

        Claiming that something came from something else which has no evidence is better? It's like saying x = y, i.e. nothing.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Atheists do not believe that the universe came from 'nothing,' and I have yet to hear a plausible definition of "nothing" ever existing at all. Even in the coldest vacuum of space there are virtual particles popping into and out of existence.

        I prefer to be honest, and say "we don't know," rather than, "Big invisible and undetectable sky wizard chanted magic spellz!!"

        October 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • CP in FL

        There are no scientists claiming the world came from nothing. Scientist do not know what happened before the big bang but that is better than just saying "god did it." The formation of the universe is most likely a naturally re-occurring event.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Even if that were the claim – where did your god come from?

        October 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
      • truthsayer

        Things come out of nothing all the time and guess what, entropy will ensure that everything that is something will turn to nothing given enough time. Your argument is flawed...because there is something from nothing still does not even closely infer there is a designer or master to the universe.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Tom

      Atheism is as much a religion as any other belief system. It's like the man who says there are 'NO ABSOLUTES." Sorry, but he just stated one. Atheism is a personal assessment of the nature of reality and a belief as to it's true nature. It is not neutral as you would like to believe. It is a supposition, a belief – A RELIGION.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        By itself, no. Atheism is a nonbelief, not a belief. Is not believing in Santa a religion/belief?

        I understand your ignorance, but if you are wise, you will accept this correction and change for the sake of accuracy

        October 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • Pat

        You insist the absurd because you are insecure about your foolish unsupported beliefs. Atheism, is rational thinking and rational thinking is the very opposite of religion.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Madtown

        Atheism is as much a religion as any other belief system.
        -----
        Yep, just like NOT collecting stamps is a hobby.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • ME II

        There is absolutely one and only one absolute.

        Better?

        October 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • LeRoy_Was_Here

        By your 'reasoning', if I say I do not believe in ghosts, you would say that is a religious belief.

        I think it is your reasoning that is suspect here.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Tom

      Even science itself is a religion. The scientific method is based on a philosophy. That philosophy is Philosophical Materialism. That is the belief that material reality is the only reality. But we know that is not so. Love, determination, courage, faith, hope, doubt, ambition and a myriad of other realities exist but they are not material in nature. That is why science is so fallible...because it is based on a philosophy, a belief – A RELIGION.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • Pat

        Nonsense. Science is the careful honest search for facts and unlike dishonest religion, science will correct itself when better information is discovered.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        The principles of science are testable by verifiable experiment and measurement. If all human history disappeared somehow, science and math and chemistry would emerge from the natural world in time to look almost identical to how they look now. Religions would be completely different.

        God believers offer nothing to measure that would independently verify their claims.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      • LeRoy_Was_Here

        Um, no, Tom. Science is not a religion.

        That so many Americans are confused by this is rather frightening. But it does explain why America has become the most scientifically illiterate industrialized nation in the world, with the solitary exception of Islamic Turkey.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mohammed

      Uh…. No. You must have flunked logic or didn't take it or something. An atheistic belief system is no more logical, reasonable or believable than a theistic one. Just starts with different a priori assumptions. Look, the universe is created (caused) or uncreated. If uncreated it is uncaused. I don’t care if you want to go to multi universes or circular regenerating universes or some other fantasy it still makes the whole system an event that is uncaused. A theist believes God is uncaused and the initial cause of all subsequent effects. Perfectly logical. You on the other hand have no explanation as to how anything has come into existence without cause and effect in play though your cosmos must have. If you have trouble with understanding some of the terms…..look them up.

      October 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  5. Veritas

    Ah, Scalia was appointed by Reagan. That figures...

    October 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  6. lean6

    I don't question anyone's right to believe in the religion of their choice. But, I do question someone's competence when they are in a position that requires that they be impartial and objective, and they've demonstrated that they are unable or unwilling to separate religion from secular terrestrial law.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • ME II

      Actually, I think the last paragraph does show that.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
      • lean6

        I think him discussing this is no less controversial than him voicing a bias against some demographic. Seems the only answer that would convey objectivity by a Supreme Court Justice would have been, "I choose not to discuss my personal beliefs on this matter as it would reflect on my judgement and performance on the bench."

        October 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
        • Not in todays world

          I think him discussing this is no less controversial than him voicing a bias against some demographic. Seems the only answer that would convey objectivity by a Supreme Court Justice would have been, "I choose not to discuss my personal beliefs on this matter as it would reflect on my judgement and performance on the bench."

          Well that would actually require all of MSM to then quit asking such questions, now wouldn't it? And of course they won't because then what would people like you pounce on to slander people with??

          October 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
      • ME II is correct lean6 is not

        You are correct MEII – Scalia DOES separate religion from secular law. Lean6 does not have all their facts straight.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • sam

      Agreed.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  7. Pat

    Thinking there is an invisible sky wizard watching you 24/7 is called a paranoid delusion. Scalia is mentally ill.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Yes1fan

      ....so....you are an NSAthiest??

      October 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  8. Satan

    The biggest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world I didn't exist!
    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Pat

      You suckers are the god hustlers meal ticket.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  9. Roger

    Satan IS real. The leprechaun that hides in my backyard told me. He really did! And you can't prove that he didn't!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  10. WVLady65

    Satan is real and "She" lives next door to me, Satan is a Sociopath.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  11. Bob

    Scalia is a first class nut case.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Kirk H

      If you call him a nutcase, you call everyone who believes in Satan a nutcase. This article to me is about a journalist fishing for something to make a story...not something groundbreaking about Scalia. There are plenty of public servants that believe in a God and Satan...you can't say they are nutcases.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

        @ Kirk: Yes, yes we can say they are nut cases. Watch:

        Anyone who believes that the devil is real is a nutcase.
        Anyone who believes that god is real is a nutcase.

        See? That was easy.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
        • Mohammed

          You are a nut case! You don't exist! Prove to me you exist objectively (and I won't take your biased delusional testimony serious because you are a figment of a poor delusional weak mind). I demand proof! I won't consider any evidence that contradicts what I allready believe because I am a rational unbeliever!

          October 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          What's your point? If you want to go the path of probabilities, it can simply be stated that we have a VERY HIGH level of probability that we are here, while you have an EXTREMELY LOW LEVEL OF PROBABILITY of your god existing, while you IRRATIONALLY INSIST that he does.

          October 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  12. Veritas

    So scary that a delusional id iot is actually sitting on the Supreme Court of the United states. Who appointed him?

    I know that a lot of people believe in the heaven, hell, god etc fairy tales, but you would expect at least these senior persons to be a little more educated than to resort to religious fundamentalism. Makes us look no better than Iran.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  13. RationalBeing

    Irrational, delusional people should not be allowed to be Supreme Court Justices. There should be some kind of test. It's surely not a good sign for the future of the country when someone that believes in fairy tales can reach such a high and influential position.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  14. Kevin L.

    "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?"

    Yes, and all of mankind believed the world was flat for thousands and thousands of years.

    It's not that intelligent realists are out of touch with most of America. It's that most of America are truly out of touch with reality!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  15. yep

    no wonder the catholic church got away with child ra-pes and cover ups,, nuts like this support the con

    October 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Perhaps Scalia is the Devil and he's just being coy.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Doris

      Diabolic mimicry...

      October 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • ?

      Satan is a guy that wants to learn to fly a plane but skip the landing part.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  17. mjbrin

    found this fascinating tidbit on a jewish website: http://whatjewsbelieve.org/explanation7.html

    IN SHORT... For Jews, anything that even remotely conflicts with the idea that Gd is One and Indivisible will be rejected out of hand because it precludes true pure monotheism. The idea that there is a Gd in heaven above who fights against a god of the underworld, or of hell, is not monotheism. It is, however, the same duality found in other pagan faiths. The Bible speaks of a character known as The Satan, who acts like a prosecuting attorney, or a district attorney, in Gd's court. However, The Satan has no power or authority in and of himself, rather he must get permission from the Judge, Gd, to do anything.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  18. truthsayer

    Scalia is creepier than any make believe Satan

    October 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Guest

      Perfect description of this whack job!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Lou

      I am not sure Satan is make believe – but I know that Scalia is make believe!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  19. Sesaak

    All you naysayers are in for the shock of your lives. The proof that God exists is clearly seen in the creation around us. It is scientifically and mathematically IMPOSSIBLE for creation to exist as it does without having had a creator. So by default you have to assume a creator exists. If you saw a house fully furnished in the middle of the dessert and I told you that No one created it it just appeared there you would say I was insane. But you think you can claim that this entire earth, solar system, etc just appeared when it is MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN LAWS.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Shuckles

      Nice talking points, bro.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • yep

      wrong,,

      And if you want to claim there is a god based on your silly asthmatically limitations,, then how do you know your god is a good god.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You know what happens when you AS'SUME!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN LAWS – this guy hasn't a clue what the law is in my State.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • waterman

      Who created the creator? Surely, anyone that complex and amazing must have had a creator.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Gordon Shumway

      Imagine your surprise when you find out that when you die, you just rot in the ground. Sorry buddy, but there's neither a heaven nor hell.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Who created the universe that your god existed in when he was running around creating other universes? He had to exist somewhere on some plane. That universe required a creator then, right? Or did it exist eternally? If so, then universes don't require creators.

      So your god is either impossible, because he couldn't have created himself, or the universe existed eternally, in which case he isn't the creator.

      I disagree with your claim that somehow mathematics dictates the necessity of a creator.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
      • Guest

        Excellent Response!

        October 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • Mohammed

        Uh…. No. You must have flunked logic or didn't take it or something. An atheistic belief system is no more logical, reasonable or believable than a theistic one. Just starts with different a priori assumptions. Look, the universe is created (caused) or uncreated. If uncreated it is uncaused. I don’t care if you want to go to multi universes or circular regenerating universes or some other fantasy it still makes the whole system an event that is uncaused. A theist believes God is uncaused and the initial cause of all subsequent effects. Perfectly logical. You on the other hand have no explanation as to how anything has come into existence without cause and effect in play though your cosmos must have. If you have trouble with understanding some of the terms…..look them up.

        October 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          Sorry buddy, it is YOU who flunked the logic test.

          If your god can be uncaused, then anything else could be uncaused.

          We explain MUCH, MUCH more than you do with your bible, which IS COMPLETELY WRONG about EVERYTHING that has to do with the creation of the cosmos.

          Then you have another problem with your equation; your God is an infinitely COMPLEX being and therefore an impossibility.

          NOTHING can be complex before being simple.

          Everything evolves, from cells to computers, nothing simply appears at a complex state.

          Your god is IMPOSSIBLE to exist as you define him.

          October 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • joshua

      Please show me this math.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Not You

      Actually, if you'd bothered to look it up, it's more of a mathematical certainty.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Veritas

      Just spewing out utter nonsense about what is mathematically possible or not doesn't help you, bud. Bet you never took any advanced science classes. Regardless, you are as delusional and childish as Scalia.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • mikes

      What scientific laws and math allowed "the creator" to be created?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • JSM

      No offense, but you obviously don't have much more than a 6th grade understanding of math and science if you believe this. Please don't try to teach children (even your own if you have them) this backwards thinking–you will just be hurting society as a whole.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Guest

      Poor, pathetic, deluded little person! You're just wasting your life away groveling before your non-existent god. Grow up and quit trying to drag we reasonable, rational people down with you. This life is all you have, all you ever will have, so if you support doing good, do it now, in this, your only life, and recognize that your reward for doing it is the knowledge that you are being a good person. As the Humanist's motto says, "Just be good for goodness sake."

      October 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Veritas

      ...and by the way, there is a great book by Stephen Hawking that shows how the start of our universe itself doesn't need an external force/god; it's called "The Grand Design", with tongue in cheek of course 😉

      October 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Do you think those Hubble Space Telescope photographs of other solar systems in the process of being born are all fakes? Or are you claiming that while THOSE solar systems may be naturally created, OUR solar system was supernaturally created?

      Either way, it is apparent to most of the readers here that you know very little about either mathematics or science......

      October 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Organic1

      Why would you use math and science as your basis when it is clear that your background has neither of those skills ? You should attempt to argue with those in your pew and not with those outside the building, it gets scary out here for you...

      October 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a God?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • sam

      I hate it when houses get in my dessert.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
      • ME II

        I blame the carpenter ants.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Lou

      And you credentials as a mathematician are?

      Which of our laws are you referring to precisely?

      You should attempt to obtain just a bit of education before you attempt to have a conversation with adults.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • ME II

      "If you saw a house fully furnished in the middle of the dessert and I told you that No one created it it just appeared there you would say I was insane."

      If you saw cave in the wilderness that could be used as a house and I told you that no on created it...?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • truthsayer

        gee, you don't the difference between a cave and a house...LOL

        October 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • ME II

          I see a huge difference. One domicile is built by humans and one occurs naturally. When we humans get around to building other universes then we'll have a comparison to make between ones that are built and ones that occur naturally. Until then we have a sample size of exactly one.

          October 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • asdrel

      To which laws are you referring? Could you please cite in what way these scientific and mathematicl laws disprove the Big Bang Theory and evolution? What equations are involved in this mathematical proof? Oh, and what are your scientific and mathematical credentials that enable you to state all this with so much certainty?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Josh

        The evidence for the Big Bang theory is sound. You just have to know who "banged" it. This theory goes hand in hand with the concept of an Unmoved Mover. What other rational explanation is there? Unbelievers simply do not want to believe in a Divine Being because they do not want to change their lifestyles. Good luck finding that true happiness, by the way.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          "We don't know" is the answer, not "Goddidit." The reason we don't have an answer is because nothing, so far, makes sense. That means we don't know, yet. If it's easier for you to say "Invisible and undetectable sky wizard chanted magic spellz!!"

          October 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Josh

      Looks like you're getting bashed pretty good on here, huh? Too bad for them, the facts are out there that God exists. I have looked at both sides of the coin, as objectively as possible (after all, true objectivity is impossible) only to find all signs pointing to a Supreme Being. Atheists are just sad to me. Their glass is empty. It's not even half empty. And we're not all religious nutbags or uneducated hillbillies. I have three college degrees. I've had all kinds of influences and ideologies thrown my way. Nothing makes sense compared to an Unmoved Mover. But it doesn't matter. We all find out the truth eventually anyway, right? I just hope more find it out before it's too late for them.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

        @ Josh: "all signs point to a Supreme Being". Umm, could you let us know what these signs are? Because there is a whole lot of scientific evidence to explain the existence of the universe ...

        Just saying ...

        October 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Why do you find an uncaused cause more plausible than an infinite regress? Neither possibility has any evidence or proof; both possibilities are too unimaginable to consider (without indoctrination).

        October 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Gotama

      Becoming self aware is probably the most challenging pursuit that man can undertake. So I am sympathetic to those that cling to monotheistic traditions to have a way to make sense of the complexities of life and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

      "The Devil" is ignorance and self centeredness. What kind of altruistic God would want to punish you for educating yourself? Accepting only the Bible (written by man) as truth is not only dangerous, but evil. Making an enemy of science serves no one.

      For anyone that is willing to invest the effort to education: the world is not flat, the sun does not revolve around the earth, and the "Devil" is a story conjured by man to account for the bad things that we all do that we feel couldn't possibly be our own fault. All of "creation" is entirely explainable with effort...and even mathematically possible (whatever that is supposed to mean).

      The Devil is you. God is you. Make something positive out of yourself. It is entirely under your control.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  20. Citizen

    He should know. Lying and cheating to steal the 2000 election.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:30 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.