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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. T.E. Hill

    Yeah.....he lives in the White House.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Nance

      Yawn. Nothing of substance? Yawn.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  2. filo bedo

    Proof please! Can we please keep these folks out of our legal and political system. Separation of church and state.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  3. Jim

    we are truly doomed as a race.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  4. What \

    Ever happened to the separation of church and state ?

    October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Snow

    Devil is a real person? Prove it.. bring him on 8:00 News! That will shut all the nay sayers, Scalia. Can't you do that for your religion? No one will question it after that..

    Can't you? wonder why.. hmm!

    October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  6. Hey! You!

    Poor guy, hates gays but has to wear a dress to work everyday.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  7. Without Reason

    We'll see just how brave and committed people are to Atheism and Existentialism when they are drawing their last breaths on Earth. Christianity is flawed by the human nature that comes with it, so let's take it with a grain of salt. I just pray that people will eventually see that at it's core, the message of Christianity is love and hope, not judgement and condemnation. I chose hope,to love other people as much as I can, and ATTEMPT live a life that is pleasing to my family and my Lord . Christ loved and died FOR ALL people. What is so hard to understand? Imagine what the world would be like if everyone put each other first, stopped pining after material possessions and wealth, and only spoke to each other in truth? For most people in America, that seems to be something that just isn't as much "fun." It all comes down to choices and faith. Again, we will all face the ultimate truth when we take our last breath.....one that I will not fear taking at any time. Wishing you all hope, peace, love, and understanding.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Jim Jimson

      If you only believe in God because you are frightened of dying you are an even sadder case than I thought you were. Grow up: we are born, live a life and die.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Tony

      Without Reason,
      " the message of Christianity is love and hope"

      Two questions regarding that statement
      1) How do you define hope?
      2) Why is it necessary to be Christian to show love?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • filo bedo

      Imagine what the world would be like if everyone put each other first, stopped pining after material possessions and wealth.

      Corporate greed and taking everything away from the poor and middle class is the Republican way the Democrat's only kill unborn babies and give free handouts to lazy people. The devil is in the details. Telling an atheist they are alone on planet earth and are going to die alone doesn't strike fear into them it's the reality you fear. You are here alone you die alone live a good life the end.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • iconoclast1

      "We'll see just how brave and committed people are to Atheism and Existentialism when they are drawing their last breaths on Earth."

      Too funny. It's as if you think the truth is dependent on whether somebody is about to die or not. Religious belief is the ultimate in wishful thinking. People believe in all sorts of religious dogma because the alternative – the truth – is less pleasant. Well, guess what? Reality exists independent of whether people prefer to believe certain things. Your notion that somebody would switch their perception of reality simply because they were about to die is ridiculous.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Sauron

      You're using the classic veiled threat fallacy that many Christians invoke. It goes along the lines of, "I don't care what you say. You'll get yours in the end." In the process, though, you still haven't offered a shred of corroborating evidence to suggest that the biblical assertion of Hell's existence is actually true.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  8. Uthor

    Scalia says the devil is "a real person." That's an odd way to put it. Christianity, along with many other religions, sees Satan as a lapsed angel–who along with others, rebelled against god and was damned. In the Christian mythology, Satan is a supernatural being, not a human.

    That said, it's tiring to see a supposedly intelligent man resort to the old "the devil has hidden the truth from you" nonsense. What if the devil hid the truth from me, but then hid it from you too, yet made you think you knew the truth, just to have further fun from you? There might be a devil-hidden truth that no one knows then...

    October 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Anubis

      Strange, he seems to not know his bible. The story about the pigs off the cliff wasn't Satan, it was demons that were driven from two men by Jesus. And they jumped off the cliff themselves after being expelled from the men. Satan isn't ever directly referenced in that story, so it's telling (to both Christians and Athiests) of Scalia's true knowledge of the bible that he would remember it so poorly.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  9. Mark

    It's truly amazing that amoebas thought all this up! If I find a paperclip in the woods, I see the work of man. And yet man cannot see the marvels of the universe! Scientific Law: matter cannot be created or destroyed. Where did it come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? If you have all the knowledge, then you yourself create something out of nothing!

    October 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Jim Jimson

      Standard response – if something cannot come from nothing where did God come from – and don't say he was always there because that is a cop-out

      October 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Mark

        Matter cannot come from nothing. God is not material

        October 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Sauron

          How do you know? What evidence do you have?

          October 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
        • Mark

          Ok, demonstrate that matter can come from nothing.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • Sauron

          "Ok, demonstrate that matter can come from nothing."

          Don't change the subject. You made the assertion, and thus you have the burden of proof to satisfy.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Hey! You!

          If matter cannot be created from nothing how did God create matter. And it's wrong to assume before the Big Bang there was nothing.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Mark

      Exactly my thought Mark. Not sure if you heard this but, all the letters of the alphabet weren't scattered on a warehouse floor, and randomly they became the library of congress.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Try to make more sense, next time, Mark. Just because you like the answer "Invisible and undetectable sky wizard chanted the universe into existence with magic spellzzzz," doesn't mean it's a good answer.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Mark

        I haven't but I like it!

        October 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      IF everything was white, would you have any idea that such a color existed?
      If everything was soft, would you have any idea that such a texture existed?
      If everything was designed, would you have any idea that such a concept existed?

      If the universe was designed, it would be as obvious as math or chemistry which all practlitioners have to utilize in the same way to get results. There is no measurement that can be taken to determine whether or not the universe was designed.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Doris

      Do you actually know anyone who claims positively that whatever is here came from nothing?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      @ Mark – you know the paperclip to be man-made because you have other man-made items to compare it to. Where are the comparable for the universe? Just because something is complex does not mean it was created via some intelligence.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
      • Mark

        Can you demonstrate anything that has spontaneously come together to form a viable working system. Our universe tends towards entropy. It takes energy to organize. There are systems that are complex that could not have evolved like the cilia in your trachea. Evolution implies steps, each building on the other. And yet the cilia is like a mousetrap, multiple parts that all have to be present to have any working ability. Without even one part, it would offer no advantage as it wouldn't work.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          Can you point to any peer-reviewed papers that say any systems came about spontaneously?

          October 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
        • Mark

          They think if you put a bunch of computer parts in a room then eventually it will be a full fledged computer with no assistance.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Necrosis

      1. Why can't something exist without having been created?
      2. If nothing can exist without being created, then who created your god?
      3. If your god can exist without having been created, then why not the universe?
      4. Why did your supposedly omniscient god create this universe, knowing full well all the pain and suffering it would bring? Does watching sentient creatures writhe in pain give him an orgasm?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • Mark

        Funny. Those are great questions. Who knows what the rules are of the immaterial world of God. It isn't part of science. Science only deals with material interactions.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
      • Mark

        Uhh We have free will..

        October 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Doris

      Lots of possibilities. If you consider what some of our Deist founders in the U.S. believed then you could also consider that maybe some creative force helped kick-start this universe then skedaddled down a black hole to go work on another one. I know that sounds crazy, but some believed (and still do today) that there might be something God-like, but that is/was just the watchmaker, something that was involved in creation but in no way played/plays an active role in people's lives; some thing that might not be around anymore.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
      • Necrosis

        That doesn't answer where the watchmaker came from. Again, if something can only exist if it has been created, who created the watchmaker? Personally, I think it's likely that all possible universes exist, most of which we can't even begin to imagine, simply because they can. There is evidence for that: this very universe. If it can and does exist, why not all the other possibilities? That would imply, of course, that the existence of this universe isn't random chance, nor is it special.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • Doris

          Oh I agree – I was only looking at it from the standpoint of something that could have had a creative effect initially with this universe – perhaps to seed it. And I am generalizing, so I'm not specifying from outside or within, but part of my assumption is that in time before the alleged singularity, there still might have been something else. And I probably should not have used "God-like" – there I was only thinking about capability, and in no way do I think such a force would be something that man is an image of.

          October 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Doris

          I do think that the Deist ideas that affected people like Adams, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, etc. was much less limiting on possibilities just by way of not claiming specifics and divine involvement that has since come through the over 40,000 sects of Christianity, often at odds with each other over such specifics.

          October 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      If matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, that leaves another option. They're eternal.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  10. Jim Jimson

    Religious belief should certainly disqualify you from sitting in judgment on your fellow man. What a lunatic he really is. I believe a cogent defense against ANY Supreme Court decision will be simply to say that the Bench was non compos mentis (not of sound mind) due their belief in fantasy beings.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • stillwaiting aka Basho1644

      Hear! Hear! You got that exactly right. Simply unbelievably frightening.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  11. Light of Purest Most Radiant Truth

    I can tell by the many vile comments to this article about this decent servant of our Lord that Satan's minions are as busy as ever trying to lay ruin to our Blessed Land! I am sure these are the same vile sinning creatures that have made fornication a way of life. If they only knew how little time they had, they would fall and beg for His everlasting mercy! His mark has been put upon the land and soon all will no longer have a choice but will taken into His love or burn in agony forever. Amen.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Charles

      Whatever.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Doris

      Uh on, someone's done woke up Carrie's grandpappy.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Winnie the Pooh :)

      Obviously the "Devil" is working within you. People like you worry me. Your hate and fear mongering will only lead to your demise. Welcome to American soil, where we all believe openly that our freedom of religion is exactly that. FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Please take your lunacy to Fox news.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  12. nwi

    Here is a guy who condemns listening to the opinions of the rest of the civilized world, including countries with very similar values, but he is concerned about the desires of a mythical being with pointy horns and a pitch fork.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Mark

      Wait did he mention pointy ears and a pitch fork? Oh no he didn't you just put words in his mouth. He mentioned he was more wiley. Did you read that part?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
      • sam

        Sarcasm's hard, isn't it Mark?

        October 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  13. IT IS ALL GOOD AND GOD IS AT THE END

    We are free to believe what we want. I spend lot's of time with the dying. I have become a believer. The person who doesn't form an opinion after many experiences , is a person to be feared.
    Go spend time with a lot of dying people...then post your opinion. This is America.....you can believe what you want.

    Satan is real,evil is real.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      I don't really see the correlation between working with dying people and believing there is a god. Can you explain, please?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  14. Informed

    Scalia is correct, as proven by many of the comments posted.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      You'll need to change your handle if that's the level of comment you'll make. You think people posting on a blog is the work of the devil? Sad.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Uthor

      Satan must be pretty bored, if he's playing around with the nonsense we all post here. You'd think the devil might have bigger, better, and more interesting things to do than mess with CNN comments.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  15. jinx9to88

    All you need to know is that he is a conservative. Enough said.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  16. Charles

    Hi is real and his name is Antonin Scalia.

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

      What's Hi?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Liam

    Scalia would know this more than anyone. He sold his sold to him/her/it a long time ago. 😉

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

      Can you sell a sold?

      October 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Very valuable – soul of gold.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  18. Cynic

    I believe in Satan too....pretty sure he was the one being interviewed.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  19. Winking Demon

    It is hard to describe how frightening it is to have such a lame thinker responsible for the law in this nation. Does he also believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?

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

      Standard response. No he doesn't.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • sam

        But how do you know? Have you asked?

        October 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  20. Cheezit

    Proof that the inmates are running the asylum.

    October 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
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About this blog

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.