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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. lolita from rhode island

    who are you gonna call?

    October 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Akira

      Joey Buttafucco?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  2. Jon

    Wow, it's funny to see all of the atheist outrage over Scalia's comments. Don't people realize that over 90% of Americans believe in God? I can only conclude that these folks are so out of touch with reality that they don't realize that this is a standard religious teaching.

    It's one thing not to believe in it yourself. It's another to be shocked by something so common as Scalia's comments.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Apparently 90% of Americans require no evidence before they accept something as true. That, in itself, doesn't surprise me, as religion is an "inherited meme", and as long as the pattern of indoctrination from one generation to the next continues, there will always be a majority of people who believe in it.

      That doesn't mitigate how utterly bizarre the rest of us see these beliefs.

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

        Again, you are missing the point. I'm saying you're free to believe what you believe, but you shouldn't be surprised at these comments since it's commonly-known that over 90% of the country feels the same way.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Meffis Stoffalees

      History also teaches that, for Thousands of Years, 99% (or more) of the population were absolutely convinced that the world was flat and that the Earth was the center of the Universe... That was church doctrine and to openly disagree with it could get you killed by the "loving" religious leaders of the day.

      Just saying...

      Wake up America! Pitts off !

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

        You're also missing my point. I'm not arguing that the 90% are right by virtue of their being in the majority. I'm simply arguing that it's not surprising that the beliefs of our elected government reflect the widely-held views of the people.

        To take your example of the flat earth, this would be like someone in the year 1200 being "shocked" that everyone around him believed the earth was flat. What rational person would be surprised when the signs of everyone's beliefs are all around him?

        October 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mario Marquez

      The arguement really shouldn't be about how many, or who believe in a given religtion.

      What should really be argued is EVERYONE'S inability to co-exist regardless of religion. I cannot fathom why it;s so hard for people to live with some one else who has different views or beliefs. This goes for both sides.

      I think a part of the issue is that some people who are Christian, and Atheist alike use their name sake to further their own personal agenda's rather than what their beliefs would suggest.

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

      90% is a figure you pulled out of the air. Nice try, though.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Pander Bear

    I believe this should be grounds for his removal from the bench.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
  4.   Rebuke the Devil!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=360]

    October 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  5. RJ

    I find it interesting that part of his proof the that devil exists was that Jesus Christ believed in him. Seems to be circular reasoning to me. If the existence of Superman was in question it would be like saying my God even Batman believed in him!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  6. Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

    I wonder if Scalia's toaster is possessed by the devil, just like this woman's:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEeptg1YvSI&w=640&h=360]

    October 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Oh my

      LOL that is priceless!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  7. RobbyCanuck

    That any US President could appoint such a biased, doctrinaire and dogmatic religious mouthpiece to the US Supreme Court is beyond comprehension. His belief that fairy tale characters manifest themselves as real persons would better qualify him for a mental disorder.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • gladiatorgrl

      Suggested Reading:

      The Family by Sharlat
      The Nine by Toobin

      explains ALOT!!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  8. Vince

    I have respect for people's religious beliefs, in general. But is it even Catholic doctrine that "satan is a real person"? Is it human? is god also " a real person"? It seems like these comments are way out of the main stream, and may belong to a extremely literalist religious minority!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jon

      "Personhood" does not necessarily mean he's a human being, but an actual being. I think most people believe that. I.e. the devil is not just a "spirit being," but has physical form as well.

      As for God, Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ had human form, but was also fully God. So this is fairly standard religious dialogue.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  9. waterman

    It's just sad, sad, sad that a supreme court justice believes, literally, in these children's stories. Uneducated, rural people believing this is one thing. Supreme court justice? That's real bad. REAL bad.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  10. Mark

    If you believe God doesn't exist, does all your effort to convince people to believe like you really matter? After you and I die, nothing happens. Science says the sun is going to engulf the Earth in a billion years. It's all going to end for everyone one way or another. Why such passion? Yet, if you believe in God, then everything does matter, in this life and the after life!

    October 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • waterman

      @Mark it matters because religious beliefs affect real life here and now. Many wars, atrocities, sacrifices, oppressions, marginalization, injustice occur because of religious beliefs. As one small example, in most states you can't even run for office if you are an atheist. Other examples, discrimination against gays, teaching of creationism in schools. So the harm done by theism and religious beliefs matter a lot to atheists.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
      • JoeR

        they are the devil and they are among us

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

        So you prove my point. It matters here and now. But tomorrow it doesn't. Therefore, it doesn't really matter.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  11. Mark

    I trust Obama! He believes in Jesus and is always praying over the country with, "God bless America."

    October 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  12. Bill, NY

    This thing is a Supreme Court Justice?

    October 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • TAK

      No kidding. What an upside down world we live in.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Whatever

    Satan is actually a fallen angel, not a person, but good for the Justice to speak up for what he believes.
    And yes, Satan has been extremely busy pulling people away from believing that God exists and that Satan exists. The great deception.
    I always laugh at all the anti God comments on these blogs. Everyone will eventually find out if God exists. We will all die at sometime and at that time each of us will KNOW what the truth was. Non believers think that Christians use God as a crutch. Well I think that you use your non belief as a crutch. it gives you license to do whatever you think is right for you and not have to answer to a higher power. Humans don't like to be told what to do, and if you believe in the Bible, then there is a moral code to live by. I can quote the Bible but I won't. Where we want to spend that eternity seems to me, is of the utmost importance. It's not about religion...there are tons of religions out there. It's about a relationship with God and Jesus Christ who is the only way to salvation. time will tell...........eternity is eternity.I would like to spend it on the side of good.............

    October 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • sam

      It's too bad god made angels that would rebel, and now can't seem to do a thing about them. What a shame. Is it that he can't, or won't? How capricious.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      @ whatever: you said "and if you believe in the Bible, then there is a moral code to live by." The moral code in the bible, right? The one that condones genocide, ra-pe, child abuse, kidnapping, and slavery? THAT moral code??? Um, thanks, but no thanks.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  14. Only Benny can free someone from the Devil' clutches!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM

    October 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    •  

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM
      .

      October 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    •   

      Satan get out!
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM

      October 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Baalzabarber

    Satans on the board of Haliburton and had his hand up GW's rear end for 8 years working the puppets head

    October 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  16. gladiatorgrl

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
    -Lucius Annaeus Seneca,
    Roman philosopher and statesman 4 BC – AD 65

    October 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  17. CP in FL

    Anyone that says that god created the stars and planets should review the Hubble Space Telescopes pictures of star formation. Stars are constantly being formed. There is no god required for this process. Also, anyone that does not believe in evolution should read about how a virus can evolve in a short period of time. There is no god required for this process. All evolution really consists of is DNA that is changed and passed along to the next generation.

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

      Your comment is so intellectual that it is sad...............

      October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Patrick Henry

      You forgot the part about where that first DNA came from and you also forgot hte part where it is mathematically impossible for evolution to be factual.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

        "Proven that evolution is mathematically impossible to be factual?????

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

        No, really. Great comment.

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

        The Encyclopedia Britannica: Evolution, or the common descent of all living organisms, is a fact as well established as the facts that the Earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the Sun.

        Are you a flat-earther?

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

      God is the universe/ the universe is God.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  18. beevee

    Is this guy on some medication or mixed his medication with drink during the interview? Religion is just a way of life misinterpreted by generations of saints/gurus/scholars over the years. May be it is time for the justice to retire and spend full time talking with satan if he is real.

    October 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  19. Rebbe Bupkis

    Really? And this man holds one of the most powerful decision-making jobs in our country?

    October 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Jon

      Obama believes in the devil, too. As do most of our elected legislators. As do a vast majority of American citizens (more than 90%), I might add.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • gladiatorgrl

        he said he believes in the TEACHINGS like judge not lest ye be judged and do unto other as one would have others do unto them....

        October 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • Jon

          Well, he is a baptized Christian, so you can take that for what it's worth. Personally, I can't tell you what he believes other than what he has made public.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Patrick Henry

        Of course he does, they're related.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
      • sam

        More often than not, they pretend to, to 'fit in'.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:37 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.