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."

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. dm murdoch

    say what?

    October 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. Sesaak

    I love how the religious articles on CNN bring out all of the depraved atheist of society. It is sooo funny. Subconsciously you fear this man may be right and this scares you.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Sume

      LOL, this is about how real your Satan, your god, your soul, and your after life is...


      October 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
      • Frank

        LMAO! I'm surprised that so many people stuck around for so long.

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

        This is damn hilarious.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Frank

      LOL. Nice try. No usually if there is any fear it comes from the possibility that this nutcase will not properly abide by the wall of separation if he hasn't already done so.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  3. Satan

    All I ever wanted was for people to stop blaming me for everything. Nobody ever thinks it's their own fault. Well that and a burger with a communion wafer on it and a double side of fries. *heavy sigh*

    October 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  4. Jeff A

    Perhaps Scalia should familiarize himself with the the word "atheism" before he attempts to speak on the subject. Atheists no more believe in the existence of "the Devil" than we do in the existence of a god, which makes his remarks asinine.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Sesaak

      This is funny. Saying that God does not exist is like saying that you yourself don't exist. Faulty logic.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
      • Jeff A

        There is irrefutable evidence that I exist. Your god, not so much.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
      • tony

        That's your illogocal belief.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  5. Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear


    October 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  6. Germanicus

    At least this guy is in for life..

    October 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  7. jim

    Any rational person has to be deeply saddened that such an arrogant, ignorant man is in a position of so much influence. A true tragedy.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  8. tony

    Who put that garbage on the supreme court?

    October 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  9. NorthVanCan

    Ok. Now that scares me. To think this guy is in such a position of power, and believes in kids stuff?
    Lord help us.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • jim

      If only there were a god to save us from its followers.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Lanclelot6870

      Wait, you have an issue with his belief in the devil, but say Lord Help us?
      If you have read the Bible at all, or follow ANY sort of faith in God, you would understand him...

      October 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  10. HotAirAce

    If you are an atheist or LGBT and had a case before the Supreme Court, do you think Scalia would give you a fair hearing?

    October 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Observer

      Good point.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Lanclelot6870

      You can not take someones faith away from them as a body of the Supreme Court. They can be impartial jurors. IF you read his comments about his faith and understand what he has said, you can see he is very impartial!

      October 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        If he had said he was an atheist and scorned the notion of any god and a devil, would you be so generous?

        October 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Let's talk about facts

    Facts: satan. prove he exists. (yeah, evil exists, in many of us, but a real person?)
    Thank you, Mr Justice , for clearing up that we selected mentally challenged people to the supreme court.
    I wonder why there weren't any extended (republican) hearings when he was up for the nomination?

    Scalia scallywag justice, that wasn't. Have you no shame, Sir, no sense of decency?

    October 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      You may be on to something. Evil, lies, & deceit all exist. A spiritual being with those attributes also exists.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  12. jason

    This guy must believe in santa clause and the tooth fairy too.

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

      I bet he doesn't believe Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy are real.

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


      (dang that Tim Allen movie!)

      October 7, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  13. As a Catholic,

    this just solidifies my dislike for this man. What a jerk. He just makes the rest of us look bad by spreading hate in the name of our faith. Ugh. Everybody is nice. It doesn't matter what you believe or don't believe, I love you anyway.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Mark

      I love u too. The Bible and Catholic theology are clear that there is a devil

      October 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  14. Mark Silvers

    What a nut job. Maybe he believes in the Easter Bunny too.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    More trolling by Belief Blog. Got to pit those atheists against the christians as always.

    I find the reactions to Scalia funny though. Yet no one bothers to mention that Barack Obama has read the Bible, the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita and is party to many mystical circles such as Bohemian Grove, Freemasonry, etc. Don't get me wrong though, I personally think it is a good thing Obama knows a good deal about religion, even if he did choose the left-hand path. We must have a leader that knows about spirituality and its many forms, because quite frankly, atheists cannot run a country, except to run it into the ground (examples, Soviets, French Reign of Terror, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.)

    It is not uncommon for world leaders to believe in spirituality. For instance Ayatollah Khameini believes he is a descendant of Muhammad. (You'd think with the Syria Civil War going on that Belief Blog would seize the opportunity to explore the Shia and Sunni divide and the story of the First Fitna.) The Dalai Lama beleives he is an emanation of the Adibuddha, perhaps he will reach Shambala. In India the caste system advocated by the Aryans and Utnapishtims of hinduism is still in place and is a major deciding factor on whether a hindu will enter politics, business, or become an untouchable (ever wonder why so many Indian doctors bear the last name Gupta?) Almost every important male figure in American politics, business, or entertainment attends the druidic ritual at Bohemian Grove. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Grove, but it probably be beneficial to explore its druidic roots considerring most people confuse the Grove with ancient Caananite Moloch worship, which is actually quite different.

    The spiritual landscape is quite vast and varied. It be nice to see the Belief Blog actually live up to its name and cover all religions and belief systems more fairly and thoroughly, instead of being the Disbelief in Christianity Blog. It is a shame CNN Belief Blog has an agenda to only deride christianity and promote atheism, and overall just pit the two against eachother in an endless trolling war. It really doesn't even do atheists any service. Sure you get to derride Christianity, but there's still billions of other people with even crazier beliefs than you could begin to imagine. And quite honestly, you cannot even begin to understand pressing world issues without understanding religion. You cannot understand some of Africa's complex problems without understanding animism, shamanism, and traditional African religion. You cannot understand the Middle East without learning about Islam, you cannot understand Israel without learning about Judaism. You cannot understand India unless you learn about hinduism. You cannot understand the Far East without learning about buddhism, shinto, taoism, or especially for China, confucianism. Sorry atheists, I know you want a world without religion, but unfortunately you cannot even begin to comprehend the world without religion, you cannot understand the majority of worldwide issues without some understanding of religion. Not just one religion either, you must understand a good number of them to even begin the quest to understand the world, even if you do not believe in them.

    October 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • tony

      Of course spiritual landscape is infinite. There are an infinite number of ways to get something wrong, and very few to get something right. Usually just one in most situations. No god is the simplest and most likely answer.

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

        Lol a fair assessment tony! However, have you not considerred the possibility that atheism could jsut be yet another dead end road that is also wrong? Could it be that there is One God, multiple gods, a pantheistic god-force permeating the universe? It seems to me the lack of a God would be a lack of order and therefore a model for chaos. If we assume the model of chaos is true, then the Earth should be getting wiped out almost any day now or enslaved by aliens, lol.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Fred

      "Sorry atheists, I know you want a world without religion, but unfortunately you cannot even begin to comprehend the world without religion"

      LOL – you don't seem to understand the religious background that many atheists possess.

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


        Yes. Reading more and more of the Bible has helped to create many atheists and agnostics.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
      • Lanclelot6870

        Atheism is a religion onto itself! So yea, I think most people know....

        October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Stephen Jones

          Atheism is a religion like OFF is a TV channel.

          October 7, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
        • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

          So, atheism is a religion? Then not believing in the Easter Bunny is a religion. Not believing in Santa Claus is a religion.

          No, Lanc – atheism is NOT a religion – it is merely a lack of belief in one or more gods. Do you believe in Zeus? How about Thor, God of Thunder. If you say "No, I don't believe in Thor", then you are an atheist vis a vis the proposition that there is a god named Thor. Is you lack of belief in Thor a religion? Is it YOUR religion? Of course not.

          October 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • Anonymous

          Lol, Atheism is indeed a religion. I understand most modern atheist's puzzled reaction to this too. Lol let me go along the vein of 50 Foot's thinking. He asserts that atheism is not a religion due to its lack in worship of a god or gods. However, this is still a religion, jsut merely a religion without a deity. In fact there are other such religions, for example, animism, which depending on the sect of animism can worship literally no deities, but believes things like rivers, rocks, trees, etc. have spirits. Another example of a religion without a deity would be pantheism. In pantheism there is no deity, but there is a belief in a divine force which permeates the Universe and everything in it. Lol, something like the Force in Star Wars, if you will (which I should add Jedi is actualyl a new and growing religion as well that lacks a deity lol.)

          October 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      You seem to confuse the concept of "understanding" a religion with "believing" in what that religion's tenets are. Many atheists are far more knowledgeable about the bible, for example, than many Christians. The atheist has the advantage over the believer in that, the atheist's views are not coloured by years of religious indoctrination in a given faith. Thus, the atheist has the perspective to look at ALL religions and hold the view that the ALL have fundamental flaws, whereas the religious believer often sees the flaws in other religions, but not those in his or her own religion.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • Anonymous

        Lol, I actually tried to point out in my comment that you do not have to believe to understand with the last sentence. You are correct, many atheists have great understanding! However, looking at the atheist comments here, and knowing mostly atheists in real life, those people who seek understanding on religion,mythology, or philosophy seem to be far and few. Not that I blame ya atheists, I moreso blame CNN for creating this trap in which atheists are pretty much pitted against christians for the sheer sake of pitting the two against eachother.

        I did enjoy your post, I was an atheist once myself and did indeed research on Christianity very objectively which was very beneficial. I even think people should let their kids grow up secular instead of indoctrinating them in these mostly false churches (false churches in the Christian sense that is.) I have also been a fan of other religions and mythologies since a young kid, and no I was never indoctrinated as a kid, I've only been to church less than 10 times, if that, and quite frankly, hated it My family was certainly not a religious household either, kind of your all American secularist family honestly.

        However, I still think it is very important to study the religions and mythologies. The problem I hadwith atheism when i was an atheist is that atheism tries to make science into a religion, which is of course impossible by the definition of science. Science merely is observation of the Material World through Physical experimentation. So naturally science by default cannot contain all the answers as it can only explain the Material World. This I believe is why religion, mythology, and philosophy are very important, and why I have great disdain for the Modern Atheist who isn't an open thinker like the atheist of old, but rather someone who exists only to try to snuff out and disregard the non-scientific branches of knowledge.

        I am sorry if the stereotypical Modern Atheist besmirches the atheists that actually do want to pursue knowledge. Perhaps you can see some empathy with Christians whose names are besmirched by false preachers like Billy Graham lol.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  16. Get thee behind me, Scalia

    the dude makes sense

    October 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Stephen Jones

      "the dude" is a nutter.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  17. tevii

    The religious cra zies are what ruined the Republican party

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

      And that, in a nutshell, is why I no longer associate myself with the Republican party.

      October 7, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  18. Baal

    And THIS guy is on our Supreme Court???

    Be afraid, be VERY afraid!!!!

    October 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Jake Millens

      Why should we be afraid? Because of his religious views? That makes him weird? He's probably smarter than you. People like you are what America should be afraid of. Just another ignorant internet bully

      October 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
      • tony

        I see you are a closet justice too. But you aren't on the SCOTUS

        October 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • sam

        Jake – first off, when you call someone a bully, you're insinuating they have power over you and are abusing you. In this case, you're just clutching your pearls. What you likely mean is "someone who disagrees with me."

        Secondly, when someone like Scalia is in power over very important decisions that may affect a large amount of the populace...well, this is a secular nation, with many beliefs. We don't all want to be stuck with laws that only agree with one particular worldview.

        People like you are the problem. Feel better now?

        October 7, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  19. Satan

    I can clear up some of the confusion here. Your God is in my Hell. He stole stories of other gods and used them in his 'holy book'. You aren't allowed to do that, so I have burning here for eternity. Good luck with Earth. Cheers!

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

      What stories did he steal?

      October 7, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        There are many similarities with other myths from that region which predate the NT stories.

        October 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
        • AE


          October 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Doris

          Not only that, Santa, early Christian apologists (Justin Martyr included) had to involve Satan in this crazy scheme called 'plagiarism by anticipation' to explain away the stories seemingly being out of sequence.

          October 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • AE


          This research disagrees with you.

          "Justin was trying to convince the pagans that parallels existed, and that pagan myths were misunderstood copies of stories in Hebrew writings."


          October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |

        To AE: Read the Books!!!

        October 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • AE

          I do.

          How come when I ask for evidence that Christians stole from pagan religions nobody has any credible literature or web sites to support the claim? I have looked into the matter – and most claims that atheist make on here are not founded.

          Can you help?

          October 7, 2013 at 7:22 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.