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 Editor

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

soundoff (3,730 Responses)
  1. Apple Bush

    Heaven is a place in Hell; a place where Angels and Demons dwell. The bell rings, the Devil Swings and on God’s throne he begins to dwell.
    Looking through space and time, the duality of the immortals shine.
    The singing begins and the song is one of the infinite. Universes are sung, galaxies too; Star and planet, us.
    But we can hear the singing not;
    For we are here on this planet caught.
    The webs we weave; tears to deceive.
    Rob of us of our own immortal lot.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  2. IthinkImBetter

    Yes.... God/Jesus anything "good" Is the part of us who truly are good people at heart regardless of our crimes.

    The devil/satan anything "bad" is our Ego.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  3. Apple Bush

    A man once achieved notoriety when he plastered the walls, ceiling and floor of an entire home with memorabilia from his life. The most sacred of all life’s moments were represented. Birth, marriage, death.

    When he sold the house a few weeks later, he was asked why.

    The man said, “Because I want to see how the new owners will choose to decorate the house.” He snapped a photograph of the house and walked away.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    The worst thing the devil ever did to humanity was to encourage us to seek knowledge and understanding so that we might better ourselves.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  5. Doris

    Filmed at the Royal Geographical Society on 22nd May 2013.

    Daniel Dennett is one of the world's most original and provocative thinkers. A philosopher and cognitive scientist, he is a cognitive scientist and professor at Tufts University. On May 22nd he came to Intelligence Squared to share the insights he has acquired over his 40-year career into the nature of how we think, decide and act. Dennett revealed his favourite thinking tools, or 'intuition pumps', that he and others have developed for addressing life's most fundamental questions. As well as taking a fresh look at familiar moves - Occam's Razor, reductio ad absurdum - he discussed new cognitive solutions designed for the most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, consciousness and free will.

    By acquiring these tools and learning to use them wisely, we can all aspire to better understand the world around us and our place in it. (youtube published on May 29, 2013)


    October 8, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Does he have a red suit and reindeer?

      October 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Would it help you "believe" if he did?

        October 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
      • tallulah13

        No silly. Santa is a myth. Just like god.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  6. Ahab the Arab

    it's time for Scalia to step down..

    October 8, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  7. morovia

    Of course he's a real person...looks like Sarah Palin and talks like the Westboro Baptists.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  8. Ralph_in_FL

    As an anti-religious person, I have to thank Justice Scalia for sending me my daily trainload of ammunition.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Drew

      Curious about that comment. Scalia is a brilliant scholar and defended his views perfectly.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        His argument consists of "historical consensus = fact".
        If that were the case, we'd still think the Sun revolves around Earth and that bloodletting cures most ailments.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  9. WillyTheShake

    Whack job!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  10. Ricky Nelson

    So you mean to tell me that your god created the boundless universe and put billions and billions of stars with trillions of planets circling them..right?

    And of these trillions of planets, lets pretend that they were all grains of sand.. and there is enough "sand" to fill up Dallas Cowboy stadium..right?

    And god decided that after creating all the stars and planets he should to be worshiped...right?

    So instead of putting billions of people on billions of planets to worship him he would just put two people on 1 planet and just call that adequate ... right?

    And these two people, whom he created, were suppose to live by his rules and worship him without ever making a mistake least they be punished for all eternity.. right?

    So as far as eternity goes..a lifetime is but a micro-nano fraction of time...right?

    And if you make a mistake during that micro-nano fraction of time you will spend the rest of forever in someplace that god didn't create..? Wait,what? I thought god created everything and everything that happens is according to his plan...is that not right?

    So if bad things happen to you it is it because god planned it that way or is it because he made it happen? Or is it because he could have stopped it but chose to let things happen to teach us a lesson? Or is it a combination of both?

    Anyway... So, god spoke to the early people and let them know the rules and had them put it all in a book, is that right?

    And that first book was ok for a number of year but then god figured that he had made some mistakes and needed to make some adjustments to the rules... right?

    And in the 2000 years since then he's kind of been incommunicado.....

    So how come he stopped talking to people and making public appearances?

    I haven't seen or heard of any credible sightings...

    Pardon me for asking... but my kids are pretty smart and they want and deserve an answer that is better than "god works in mysterious ways"

    They will not be satisfied with canned answers to difficult questions. They have out grown the Easter bunny and Santa Clause and will not be sold on anything super-natural without credible evidence.

    I, as their father, owe them some kind of proof if I want them to trust me and I have nothing except a book that was written when the world was flat and people had no understanding of the world around them.

    A book full of factual errors, contradictions, misogyny, bigotry, murder, prejudice, slavery, inequality and just plan nonsense.

    This is the year 2013 and grown, educated people are still babbling about how great their imaginary friend is and how we should all live by their beliefs or suffer in an imaginary place.. GROWN people in political and judicial offices!!

    It baffles a thinking, reasoning persons mind.

    I can only hope that the generation coming up today is smarter in that respect than the generation before.

    I mean, how hard would it be for god to wake up one day and tell everybody, either on CNN or telepathically, "I am here, worship me"?

    He would only have to do it once and everyone on the planet would be in church every Sunday for eternity.

    But instead, half the planet is believing in the wrong god because the story that got handed to them was different than the story that got handed down to the other half. The billion Chinese people who haven't taken Christ as their savior are all screwed or is it the other way around?.... The lost tribes in Africa, who have never even heard of Jesus are also screwed through no fault of their own.

    So, why hasn't he done that? Why have 2000 years gone by with generation after generation of people allowed to question his logic and not getting any rebuttal? The standard church answer for that question isn't washing with todays generation

    None if it makes any sense and therefore is being rejected out of hand by the new generation. They have grown up in the age of the internet where they can research what they have been told in church...

    They can see through the smoke and mirrors and make decisions backed on logic and reason.

    They understand that they can be good caring people because it is the right thing to do and not because they fear punishment from a make believe omnipotent being. They understand that they must make this life as good as can be because it is the only one they get and it doesn't last long.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Madtown

      "The bible is literal."

      – Topher, from the other day

      October 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • kkelleu

      As one who does struggle with faith issues, even with Masters in Theology thanks to Harvard, your diatribe appears to me to come from one who looks at concerete facts or theories...you've never had an EXPERIENCE with the holy..however that may manifest to you...it is easy to take extrapolations from Scriptures or interpretation of particular personal redactions...that's why there are so many factions of religious groups. I've asked myself several of same questions you put forth; however, I cannot deny my personal experiences with God...don't understand how it all works but its somehow real.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:49 am |
      • Madtown

        Will you describe those experiences please?

        October 8, 2013 at 11:52 am |
      • WASP

        @kk: " I cannot deny my personal experiences with God...don't understand how it all works but its somehow real."

        i have an obvious question on your godly experiences; seeing the devil also exsists according to your faith, how do you know it wasn't the devil acting in the guise of "god" to fool you?
        can you be 100% certain that what you experienced was god? remember lucifer is the great deciever. :)

        October 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • Bible Clown©

        "personal experiences with God" Generally this means you thought about something a lot and then wondered WWJD and suddenly felt all happy inside and full of peace and joy. Completely subjective experiences are pretty much equal to hallucinations and dreams as proof. Get God to tell you how to make a stable trans-uranic element next time, or give you tomorrow's lottery numbers or a cure for cancer, and you might be convincing. Fortunately there is a Bible Workaround for that; if God actually did ANYTHING for you, it would be proof of His existence, and your faith would be gone, replaced by knowledge. Without faith, you burn, so God is off the hook and never has to show up and deliver.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • mk

        KK: Many people also feel that the feeling of giving birth is a "miracle". To me, it was the single most "magical" experience I've ever had and I was overcome with emotion. And many people continue to look at their children as they grow and see the beauty. But there are those that don't get any satisfaction or have any feeling about birthing a baby or raising a child. It means nothing to them, there is no emotion or magic about it. Wouldn't this imply that something like this is an individual experience? Something that you deem a "spiritual experience" can mean something totally different to someone else, and it has nothing to do with religion but the response of the individual.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • mk

      Very well said and well-thought out, Ricky.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Raul

      Ricky Nelso,

      I loved your questions! these are the kind of questions that are honest, insightfull and also respectful...i am a Catholic and agree with you that logic and sylogisms alone wont' answer all these deep questions...i struggle with why God wanted it this way...only revealing Himself in misterious and hidden ways! what i belive, though, is that at the end of the day, those who were honest and coherent, meaning living a way of life aligned with honest answers to these questions, will find themselves enjoying eternity... the Hitlers of the world, the ones that abuse of power, those that inflict pain and suffering and hurt the dignity of other humans beings...will rightly find eternity sorounded by what the same.

      October 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  11. Deist

    Mr. Scalia (calling a Justice is totally inappropriate), for the best view of the "real person Satan" look into the nearest mirror.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Joan Wheeler

      How did a fruitcake like Scalia ever get on the Court? Reagan must have been in the early stages of Alzheimer's when he appointed this outlandish individual to the land's highest court. Scalia proves over and over again to be a embarrassment to the United States. Those religious fanatic Tea-Baggers must love him. Yikes! Get me outta here.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  12. The Perimeter of Ignorance

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, explains how God disappeared as an explanation for things humans did not understand about the universe, as the "perimeter of ignorance" receded. The greatest minds dared increasingly brave to question the world around them, but sometimes cowardly copped out along the way when they faced problems -similar to the modern Intelligent Design movement that advocates a "god of the gaps"- until someone else took over and furthered scientific progress. (youtube published on Mar 2, 2013)


    October 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Skater60

      Somebody once said: "We should not hide God in the dark corners of Science." I think God is, as Monty Python says, "And now for something completely different!!"

      October 8, 2013 at 11:48 am |
      • How the story of Jesus differs from the ancient myths

        Ok, I could go for that, but then that would mean you would have evidence of what God is, so that you could claim God is completely different....could we see that evidence?

        October 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  13. Skater60

    The Devil is a real person in the same way that a corporation is a real person.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      GASP! You mean, Mitt Romney is the Devil? Good thing he didn't win, then.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  14. Michael

    Scalia, one of the many mistakes that Reagan made. Iran-Contra, arming Bin-Laden, chemical weapons to Saddam to name a few. Yet Republicans call him great. Wonder why

    October 8, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Joan Wheeler

      Those are the big mistakes of the 20th century.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Because he "acted presidential." Style over substance for the Party of No.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  15. WeirdMN

    I believe in the Devil too – he's currently the President of the United States.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • joseph

      Two names: Cheney, Bush. Now GTFO boy who cried wolf

      October 8, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  16. Nicodemus Legend

    You guys who criticize him as a religious idiot living in the stone age with beliefs like a witch doctor have to remember that Isaac Newton, the founder of our modern science , the man who codified the scientific method of observation and experimentation was also a very religious man. He was into alchemy and magic, and studying the Bible for information and secret codes from God.

    The rational and non-rational (not irrational) are part of human nature. It is hard-wired into the brain and you will never get rid of one or the other. At most you can just temper them.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • WASP

      rational = logical thought
      irrational = emotional thought

      logical thought = science
      irrational thought = religion

      October 8, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • Nicodemus Legend

        Very true. But also our non-rational thinking processes have given us art, music, and the emotions that help create them. It can all be heavily abused however and that's when the non-rational becomes irrational.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Newton had a lot more excuse for believing silly stuff than Scalia, alive in 2013 and holding university degrees.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  17. Lamb of dog

    I imagine some day religion will be compared to other forms of mental disease.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Skater60

      Keep imagining. Imagination is good.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      There's already 'exalted paranoia,' but I think it will be seen as more of a pervasive meme that was hard to stamp out.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  18. Apple Bush

    It has recently been discovered that our universe resides in the toilet bowl of one Justice Antonin Scalia. His “big bang” seemed normal based on his enormous size relative to us.

    Our entire expanding universe is just a used condom Mr. Grody-Pants is blowing up because he thinks it’s funny. Good one “God”.

    I wish we pooped galaxies instead of shit. That would be awesome and it would answer some questions about dark matter.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Joan Wheeler

      My, my, my. Is potty-mouth the best you can do?

      October 8, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • Apple Bush

        Jealous Joan?

        October 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  19. jarad

    If a person believes in God, why is it strange they would believe in the Devil? don't they go hand in hand? That being said, the devil was created by catholics to convert the pagans, scare them into submission. most of the catholic holidays were specifically designed to coincide with pre existing pagan holidays to make converting easier. What ever you believe, its up to you.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • dewie

      Get serious. Horus married Zeus to liberate syria

      October 8, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  20. dewie

    Doomed I say!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
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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.