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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. gladiatorgrl

    Wonder how other AMERICANS who are NOT Christians feel about this nut deciding cases especially those related to religion. I wonder how Justice Roberts feels now about how history will view his court. After Citizens United and this comment by Scalia, Alito's body language at the SOU address, NOT well.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  2. Ted

    The Judge is correct. We the.people need to get back to religion for our survival as humans.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • gladiatorgrl

      you DO realize we're mammals or do you think the world was populated by a boat full of animals that don't eat each other

      October 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • fastball

      What we should get back to is a few of the lessons of the Bible....don't lie, cheat or steal. Treat people with as much respect as you'd like to be treated.
      Maybe if we paid a bit more attention to these things, the world might be a bit more of a civil place in which to live.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Madtown

      Oxygen is something that is crucial for a human to survive. If you believe in God, you can argue he provided it. If religion was crucial to a human's survival, wouldn't God also have to provide it? Since there's no 1 religion that all humans have equal access to, you can conclude that God did NOT provide religion as a means to survival.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Derp.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  4. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN6XlZAE2o0&w=640&h=360]

    October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  5. Reality # 2

    "Judge?" Scalia

    A new creed that you need to peruse:

    The Apostles' Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    October 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  6. gladiatorgrl

    This explains a lot and WHY it's so important to put RATIONAL people on the courts. Imaginary creatures do NOT exist this man's a NUT!!

    Suggested Reading: The Nine by Toobin. REALLY INTERESTING comments about Scalia

    October 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  7. Tom

    Of course Satan is real – He's serving on the Supreme court, that's why Scalia is so sure.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Pat F

      That's not a nice thing to say about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg!

      October 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  8. J-Man

    Interesting article. Same thing I have said many times to people who say they don't believe in God and imply that people who do are stupid. About 90% of Americans say they are Christians. Why do the 3-7% who are vocal atheists think they have better reasoning than the rest of us. Many people with Genius IQ levels do and have believed in God. There are probably only a handful of true geniuses don't believe in God. I submit that it is them who are so arrogant that they refuse to accept a higher power.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • gladiatorgrl

      Google TEAPOT theory and get back to us. When God comes down and TELLS us what it wants we'll believe it exists.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
      • Topher

        Umm ... He already did that.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Permiter of Ignorance

          Really? When did he tell you that?

          October 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
        • Topher

          Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Permiter of Ignorance

          "Really? When did he tell you that?"

          gladiatorgrl said, "When God comes down ..."

          God became a man 2000 years ago.

          " ... and TELLS us what it wants we'll believe it exists."

          He gave us 66 books so we can know about Him, what He expects of us and what He offers us.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • ME II

          @Topher,
          "God became a man 2000 years ago.
          ...
          He gave us 66 books so we can know about Him, what He expects of us and what He offers us."

          So, you, and others, claim. I am unconvinced.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • Topher

          ME II

          "So, you, and others, claim. I am unconvinced."

          If you find the evidence lacking, that's up to you. But gladiatorgrl, and many other "atheists" have told me the only way they'll believe is if God shows up and tells them Himself. But that's already happened. Why should He have to do it again? "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas." Do you know what the "sign of Jonas" is?

          October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • ME II

          @Topehr,
          " But that's already happened. Why should He have to do it again?"

          No, you are claiming that's already happened.

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

          Why shouldn't I believe that's happened? We've got eyewitness testimony, we've got secular writings, we've got historians who claim it. SOMETHING happened that we were willing to change our calendars. SOMETHING happened that made thousands of Jews start following what would have been heresies.

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

          @Topher,
          You can beleive what you like, but don't expect others to unless you have a strong case.

          What we have is testimony that *claims* to be eyewitness, much of which is is thought to not actually be from eyewitnesses. The secular historians were writing about what the heard happened 3rd or more hand information, i.e. hearsay.

          Changing our calendars is hardly reason to believe in the exact events that are claimed, only that enough people believed that something happened centuries after the fact, when the calendars were changed. The calendars didn't change until the 300s, I think.

          I'm sure something did happen, but what is the question. There were many claims of messiahs during that time, perhaps Christianity was the one that came out on top, through adaptation, luck, and salesmanship (e.g. Paul) like Islam beat out the local Arab religions, Mormons beat out many Great Awakening religious start-ups, and Scientology beat out many new-age beliefs.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • Buck Satan

        Or check out "The best optical illusion in the world!" On youtube.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • bostontola

      In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Strong circ-umstantial evidence that there is no god:

      Number of your god's creations who died horrible deaths from the following diseases:

      1. 300,000,000 approx.
      Smallpox

      2. 200,000,000 ?
      Measles

      3. 100,000,000 approx.
      Black Death

      4. 80,000,000–250,000,000
      Malaria

      5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
      Spanish Flu

      6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Plague of Justinian

      7. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Tuberculosis

      8. 30,000,000[13]
      AIDS pandemic

      9. 12,000,000 ?
      Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

      10. 5,000,000
      Antonine Plague

      11. 4,000,000
      Asian Flu

      12. 250,000 or more annually Seasonal influenza

      October 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • Madtown

        6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
        Plague of Justinian
        ----–
        Also known as Bieber-itis, it can be exceptionally deadly. Hopefully a cure that eliminates the Bieber from society is not far off.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • Jeb

          (Shudder) Maybe his voice will finally change.

          October 12, 2013 at 12:04 am |
      • Topher

        How is that evidence against God? It looks like evidence FOR God to me since it would agree with Scripture.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • david esmay

      More like 70% and that number is thankfully, shrinking every day.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Beth

      "About 90% of Americans say they are Christian."

      Not to rain facts on your delusion parade, but not they don't. According to the latest Pew poll, among ALL adults, its 78% that identify as Christian. And among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion. Why are facts so elusive for some? Its so easy to google these things.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  9. postedbygeorge

    Middle"Eastern" beliefs, just creeping into all aspects of American life, opening the door for Sharia.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  10. bostontola

    "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." Scalia said the Devil has gotten "wilier" and convinced people that he and God don't exist.

    Do you really want to be associated with this kind of thinking?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  11. joe

    "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?
    ------–
    Absolutely astounding that a Supreme Court Justice could be so ignorant and have such poor reasoning skills. I mean, how scary is that, that such a person sits at that level of power?

    The Christian God is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. Such a God wants for nothing, does nothing by definition. For example, if such a God wanted something–such a God would have it–that is the definition of omnipotence. If such a God tried to play a mind game with itself pretending that It really wanted the something but was not going to force the something to happen–then It didn't really want the something did it? It just played a little mind game–which is also impossible because the God is omniscient. So the whole concept of an omniscient, omnipotent God that suspends Its omniscience and omnipotence to play a little game with humanoids is just utterly illogical.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Mohammed

      "The Christian God is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. Such a God wants for nothing, does nothing by definition." ?? "For example, if such a God wanted something–such a God would have it–that is the definition of omnipotence." Uh – No Get a dictionary. Omnipotent is all powerful...You are powerful...you could run a mile or go punch someone out if you wanted to. But you might not if you had good reason not to or it is morally repugnant to you. Just to have power doesn't mean it must be used...that would not be wise, and God is all wise – Omniscient.

      October 11, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        Are you serious?

        Is that why he drowned every animal and child, because he didn't find it repugnant and he is all wise?

        Is that your final answer?

        and on top of that, you are still wrong.

        om·nip·o·tent
        ämˈnipətənt/
        adjective
        1.
        (of a deity) having unlimited power; able to do anything.

        REPEAT – Able to do ANYTHING.

        October 12, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  12. headlessthompsongunner

    Don't a lot of Christians believe that Satan is supposed to be swarthy man of European decent who rises to powerful positions within government, but who's every action is meant to bring people misery and despair?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Topher

      That's anti-Christ, who at one point during the Tribulation, will become indwelt with Satan.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • headlessthompsongunner

        Well, I stand corrected. Then I guess that Scalia is not Satan, he's just The Anti-Christ. I can accept that.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • Jeb

          +1

          October 12, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  13. Chris

    Secondly doesn't Scalia know that the Devil is not a person he is an angel. This guy does not even know his own story.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  14. Chris

    Atheism does not believe in God so if we do not believe in God why would we believe in the Devil. Both are just as likely to exist. Also at what point can we take away the life long seat of a supreme court justice these jekrs need term limits as well. It is this form of thinking that is dangerous to the world as a whole.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  15. HenryMiller

    Since nothing about religion can be proved—that's why they call it "faith"—it's a bit scary that a Supreme Court Justice can believe all that indemonstrable religious hokum. It really makes you wonder about his ability to evaluate evidence, though since the Court is not a court of original jurisdiction, maybe that doesn't matter so much.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Al

      We should be able to remove Supreme Court judges once they go crazy. Believing in whack-a-doodle boogie men is a strong indication that he's devoid of all reason.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  16. madelefant

    Unfortunately I think our greater media exposure has exposed a lot we weren't cognizant of. That being our justice system is all over the place, and has a bunch of wack jobs running around in it at the highest levels. Scaia is truly a socipath.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Akira

      I've thought for years, even before reading this article.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Pat F

      Look up "sociopath" before you use it next time.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  17. Jake

    How do Christians and any monotheists rationalize all of the other gods?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • HenryMiller

      Since religions aren't rational, no rationalisation is necessary.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • ?

      Are scam is better than their scam, we win $$$

      October 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • ?

        Our not Are sorry, dippy

        October 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Pat F

      Is there ANYTHING more boring than listening to atheists rank? It's almost as bad as being trapped with an ex-smoker or with an alcoholic going to AA.

      Get over yourselves, geez. You convince us of nothing but your own inadequacies..

      October 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Sired Jake...

      All the 'other Gods' are merely the sons of God the original...

      October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  18. Derek M

    Scalia may claim to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus, but he most certainly is not.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jo

      WARNING! Different denomination alert! WARNING! WARNING! (disclaimer: same "god" different cherry picker)

      October 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • JJ

      Lol...a judgmental Christian calling a Christian Judge a non-True Christian®. Classic!

      October 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • Derek M

        Who said I was Christian?

        October 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  19. OwMySkull

    Then it must be Satan that causes Scalia's devout Catholic priests to bugger little boys.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Iowa Guy

      No, it's the booze that does that.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  20. jimdevo

    For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, no explanation is good enough. It is an age old argument that will never be solved...until you die.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • lemon

      Belief is different than knowledge, and anyone who says they know(atheist or believer), is fooling themselves.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:48 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.