October 7th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Scalia says atheism 'favors the devil's desires'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

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(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."

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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. dude

    how sad. a sc-justice believes in the devil...hmmm – i wonder what his thoughts on santa, the easter bunny & tooth fairy might be?

    October 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Mark

      And Obama too. He says he believes in Jesus! That he died for me and you. For our sins.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • sam stone

        Sin is a man made concept, Mark. It doesn't exist outside of our minds

        Of course, neither does heaven, or hell, or god

        October 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  2. nataS

    I once had a doll that bled real blood from the eyes! But when I told everyone, they just took me out of school and sent me to another kind of school but also a bit like a hospital, but with guards and bars and things. I had years there. Wonder what happened to my doll?

    October 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Mark

    Obama believes that Jesus died on the cross for our sins 2,000 years ago! What's the difference? That doesn't make the news.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • want2believe

      When Obama is asked about his religion, he normally refrains from making comments implying atheism "favors the devil."

      October 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  4. Jdubba

    Wow...at a young age when I told my parents and teachers that I had make believe imaginary friends.....imaginary beings just like god, jesus, the devil, etc. , they thought it was cute and told me some day I'd grow out of it. It's pretty scary that our society hasn't grown out of believing in god, jesus, devil, and all that crazy non-sensical stuff that was invented to scare people and concentrate power, wealth, and cultures. Its all made up craziness cloaked as religion but in truth it's brainwashing and indoctrination in it's most pure form. Yikes.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • G-Money

      Are you willing to bet your eternity on that?

      October 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • ksb


        If I live my life treating others decently but not believing in god, and when I die it turns out there is a god, then I would either be accepted for my good life or rejected because I didn't believe in god.

        If I did believe in a god, it would be a god that cared about my actions, and not one iota about my beliefs. A god that cared more about my beliefs than my deeds is not a god worth knowing, certainly not a god worth worshiping.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  5. AvdBerg

    The devil is a reference to the natural spirit of mankind (John 8:43-45). The direct opposite of the spirit of man (the devil) is the spirit of God referred to as the 'Holy Ghost' (John 14:26). For better understanding of the spirit of darkness that controls all of mankind, we invite you to read the article 'Who is God and who is Satan' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    We also invite you to read 1 Cor. 2:14. It explains why mankind in his natural state is unable to hear or understand spiritual truth

    All the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9, and what mankind must do to be reunited with the true and living God.

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

      Skip your hypocrisy. You don't practice what you preach.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Does CNN charge you to advertise?

      October 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  6. Ken Margo

    God better stop boehner before he ruins our economy?

    October 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  7. peick

    You guys should read The Screwtape Letters just for entertainment. You might find insight there, if you are open-minded enough to admit the possibility of things beyond your senses.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      "The Screwtape Letters" Sounds like adult material.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  8. Samantha

    I am embarrassed to be American!!

    (but also a little glad that the pig suicides have ended, whew!!)

    October 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Tamara


      (Never, ever have I responded to any comment on any site before.)

      No the pigs are now safe. The lemmings in the country however...

      October 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • sam stone


      October 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • Babe


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

      America was built on faith.

      October 7, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  9. adrifter

    As much I think Scalia's views are terrifying for a justice of the Supreme Court, he's right to say his views are within the mainstream of what most Americans think. That's even more terrifying.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Eric

      I remember as a young kid discovering that the majority of the world truly believes in a wide variety of blatantly laughable fairy tales, some based on ancient oral myths written down by bronze age barbarians. At that point I was enlightened with one of the main reasons why the world is such a screwed up place.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  10. ThinkForYourself

    The comments seem to be filled with too many insults, too little sense.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  11. Wow

    Sorry to look your high horse in the mouth Scalia, but anybody who truly "believes" in the devil cannot be "intelligent". I call that an oxymoron. Pun intended.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Rusty

    I'm atheist now, but even when I was a young Catholic kid, I always told my priest and catechism teacher that Satan didn't exist. Because that would imply that there was an equal and opposing force to God, which is in violation of the 1st Commandment. If you believed in Satan, and Satan's power, I thought you were an apostate. So why anyone, who believes in the 1st commandment, can also believe in Satan is beyond me. You are responsible for your own actions, noone else.

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

      You know...that's a pretty good point.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Can't argue with that!

      October 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  13. joe

    The devil IS real and he goes by the name DICK CHANEY – I thought everyone knew that!

    October 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  14. billsw

    This is absolutely frightening.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  15. Demigod Vadik, CA

    You know this is embarrassing for the country...

    ...a judge on the highest court is talking mythical nonsense...

    ...this freak Scalia needs to be removed on the basis that he has lost all his marbles...

    October 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Mark

      And the President too, He believes in Jesus, that he died for our sins.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • Observer

        Maybe. Maybe not. Every president has to say they do even if they don't.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        I thought the Obama haters said he's a muslim.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  16. Toaster possessed by the Devil


    October 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • The Anti-Hannity

      You're my favorite person on the Internet today.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Samantha

      That video just reminded me, NEVER GO TO FLORIDA!

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

      Lady, I sure hope your TIOLET doesn't get possessed! (Better lay off prunes!)

      October 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  17. Pmpc

    To understand the truth of what he is saying, do a search on this word. MEDJUGORJE.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mark

      Awesome! Never been there but want to

      October 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  18. sly

    Ho ho ho .... Hey Scalia – I am the devil, and I can make pigs run off cliffs.

    I will make you run off the cliff you buffoon.

    Time for age limits on the Supreme Court, since this fella is quite senile.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  19. AmericanExceptionalism

    There are idiots, bigots, ignorant, religious nuts in every country, the American Exceptionalism is that we appoint them to the USSC, public offices, Congress.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  20. JohnRJohnson

    This guy is totally out of his mind.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • fookinGod

      for convenience its easier to blame satan for all the bad things. and he is a judge. he should give satan a chance to defend himself.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Mark

      And the President too. He believes Jesus loves us!

      October 7, 2013 at 6:31 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.