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. Richard

    "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
    -Max Planck

    Knowledge is spreading too fast for any group to be able to control it. All one needs to be happy is an enthusiasm for knowledge. This twerp would stand to gain from reading a bit of history and mythology. There used to be a god for every observable phenomenon. Now we have one (depending which religion we're talking about) that explains everything.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  2. Jeff

    Is there a teapot in orbit around the sun?
    Is it Possible? Yes.
    Is it Probable? No.
    Can you remain agnostic about it?


    October 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Doris

      I'm going to have to try harder to refrain from saying "I don't believe there is..." and to instead say "I feel confident that there is not..."

      Because as soon as you use that belief word, many will heap all kinds of meaning to it that you didn't intend.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
      • G to the T

        I try to differentiate between what I believe vs. what I know. One is conditional, the other is static.

        People who KNOW the truth are usually best to avoid (from either theistic/atheistic camp). Certainty is the best enemy of learning.

        October 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  3. marjee123

    yep and his name is Scalia

    October 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  4. CEBundy

    It would be nice to believe that we could have rational and reasoned people on the Supreme Court. I just can't see someone that actually believes in the devil as someone with good judgement.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  5. marjee123

    Yep there sure is and his name is Scalia

    October 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  6. Reality # 2

    Scalia, another victim of the Infamous Angel Con:

    (only for the new visitors)


    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan) (As does Scalia)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  7. Only the healing touch can rebuke Satan!


    October 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  8. Mack

    As with most conservatives, his self-righteousness blinds him to his own hypocrisy.

    As for the tactics of the devil, he has long abandoned the running of pigs off cliffs in favor of spreading more evil and mayhem by robbing conservatives of any measure of cognitive dissonance.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  9. wonderabout

    Satan is, yes, a real person – Scalia sold his soul to him – they are Facebook friends – ahhhhhhhhhhhh, and the lunatic fringe steps out into the light once again.... shaking head and mumbling – we are all so s(rewed!

    October 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  10. Throngs of Failures

    Your country worries me deeply.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • jim

      Trust me, it worries a lot of Americans as well.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      And what country are you from?

      October 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  11. Dick Masse

    One of two things HAS to happen. Either Mr. Scalia has to step down as a Supreme Court Justice, or, the others have to find a way to get rid of him. There is no place in our system of government for religious zealots, and that's exactly what he sounds like. The devil? What, are you like 7 years old? Go to bed and pull the covers over your head to keep the demons away? We have lots of problems with the economy and "shut down", but, what really scares me is that guys like Scalia, in his position of power, can change things for us based on his religious beliefs. THAT is scary. We need to do everything we can to get this guy out of his position of power. I don't want a religious zealot making decisions for me!

    October 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  12. Best of luck Justice Scalia!

    I don't drink alcohol, I don't eat flesh, I don't do drugs, I don't own a gun, I don't consume caffeine, I don't smoke, I work full-time, I pay my taxes and bills in full and on time, I have a doctorate degree, I've never been arrested, and I vote. I don't subscribe to any monotheistic or polytheistic religions and I don't believe in any gods, devils or spirits. All one has to do is be kind, be caring, be reasonable and be a good person. It's not hard to do. Good luck everyone! And best of luck to you Justice Scalia! Sincerely, a very proud American and a very proud atheist.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Jeff

      Someone help this man quick! He's in the grip of Satan!! 🙂

      LOL, be well...

      silly rabbit, gods are for kids...

      October 7, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I posted similar things about myself earlier and i was called boring!

      October 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Rob

      I agree with you completely.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      Wow, no flesh and no drugs

      October 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        I do eat meat and pus'sy. Which ever comes first.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  13. Anniemee

    I enjoyed this interview. He's right... how is it that some Americans have no idea what the Bible says or what Christians believe? We're very blessed to have easy access to Bibles and Christian teaching. People don't understand what a privilege it is, or how precious the words of Jesus are. I suggest starting with the New Testament: that's where the story of Jesus begins, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Yes the author's of the gospels are unknown, so why trust any of it?

      October 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • ChristianforMoreLove

        The reason to believe any of it is all the prophecies in it have come true. And are still coming true. Just to name one, the prophecy about the antichrist power said it would rule for 1260 years and then it would receive a deadly wound and it would later be healed and then the world would marvel after it. Well if you do your history you will see that the Roman Empire was divided into ten nations like the Bible also said it would in 476 AD. In 538 A.D. the Roman Catholic Church received the political power of the Roman Empire. So do some more history and you'll find the the Pope in 1798 (1260 years later) was done away with by Napoleons forces. So it received a deadly wound because it was not supposed to be in existence any more. But in 1929 the Lateran Treaty gave the power back to the Roman Catholic Church and so as predicted by the Bible its would would heal, and I don't know any other religious power that is wondered after by the world than the Papacy. Everything the Bible says is true because it keeps coming true without fault.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
        • sam


          October 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          No, those prophecies are coming true (as you put it) due to people having read about them and believing them to be gods will, so people are making them come true. Even if they were not fulfilled at this point, people would still be working to fulfill them. Look up self-fulfilled prophecies for a better understanding. We do know the bible is largely false-the flood is impossible to have happened; no virgin birth is possible; no-one has ever come back from the dead after 3 days...the list goes on.

          October 8, 2013 at 4:47 am |
    • Imagine No Religion

      I have read your bible. Several times. And it is exactly why I am an atheist.

      "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry." - John Lennon

      October 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  14. JustAGuy

    Actually, Satan is not a real person. He's a fallen Angel. Something Mr. Scalia would know if he studied the doctrine of his own Church.

    It astounds me how many people have sounded off on this when they don't even know what Christians believe about Satan. If you'd like to argue with a Christian about Satan, it would be a good idea to know what a Christian *believes* about Satan.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Which sect of christianity should we be looking at for the "truth" about satan?

      October 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Fallen Angel?

      Are you kidding? He's a fallen angel and he can't get up?

      October 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Unfortunately, even Christians can't agree about the subject.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  15. Joe Rockbottom

    The more I hear Scalia talk the more I think he is one of the absolute dumbest people I have heard. He just spouts absurdities constantly. Of course, then again there is Thomas...

    October 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  16. Mark

    Think of what Obama believes in. He believes in Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God, the second person of the Trinity. That He died for our sins and then resurrected from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Whew...

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

      How many times are you going to repeat this? You have a good portion of the country that thinks he's a muslim.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
      • Mark

        Until I get a response. It's true though. Obama won't make the news with his radical belief in the things of Jesus

        October 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
        • Observer


          Pass the word on to the TENS OF MILLIONS of IGNORANT right-wingers who stupidly say he's a Muslim.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Obama may have his beliefs, but he still appears like a rational human being. Scalia actually determines laws. That's is what makes him so scary.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
      • KanneMe

        I was willing to remain agnostic on the issue until I heard Obama speak of Muhammad as "the Prophet of Islam." I even cannot imagine any Catholic referring to him thusly.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Your boy Bush has said the same thing.

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

      Maybe, or maybe he's another Thomas Jefferson.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  17. Joe Rockbottom

    "My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil?

    Over 40% of Americans believe in ghosts, and that aliens from space live on earth. I wouldn't put much stock in what some Americans believe!! Certainly I would not appoint one of those people to the SCOTUS.

    Oops, someone did!! What was he thinking!?!?!

    October 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • ksb

      Regardless of what the gospels say (written by people born long after Jesus was gone), Jesus was a Jew. And nowhere in any part of Jewish history was there belief in the devil. So Scalia claiming that Jesus believed in the devil is just another example of making stuff up to support what you want to believe.

      NOT the logic I expect from a Supreme Court Justice.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Howard

      Joe, I think there are s lot of sheep out there who believe what their taught to believe. However, they are not to be compared with people who believe in spirits or life on other planets.
      To hold such opinions against those beliefs is similar to those sheep who are religion freaks.
      If my guess is correct, an open mind might steer one away from religion while making him more open to spirituality.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  18. David DeForge

    What a tool.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  19. somethingstellar

    As one of those atheists who tries to balance out my own beliefs with religion, I'm having a tough time with this one.
    Mostly, because I think if Satan were real, he'd have already started off pretty smart and wiley. I mean he must be relatively intelligent to survive so long against someone as allegedly powerful and omnipotent as god right?

    I don't believe in god, the man so much, but my variation of god is more like how one would think of the cosmic energies or whatever spiritual words you want to insert to describe the same thing. And I definitely do not believe in Satan. But if god were a man and so were Satan, Satan would have to do more than just run some pigs off some cliffs, unless he was trying to deprive us all of bacon and induce mass slaughter and panic.

    I've also always believed that if you put enough energy into a particular belief, you give it power. If Satan were a real man, he'd be getting his greatest joys from hearing of how much the Christians fear him and thereby feeding off of it. So starve the SOB if he's there.

    Either way, I'm glad he's not one of those people who think all atheists are minions of Satan. I might not think exceedingly much of religion, but its important to maintain a balance because isolating either side and demonizing them only splits society further at a time when we need a united society the most.

    October 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • nataS

      Personally, I trust that the Christian God is in his own Hell for plagiarizing the bible.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  20. Joe Rockbottom

    And this guy gets to have a say in deciding things? no wonder the SC makes such bad "decisions."

    October 7, 2013 at 6:35 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.