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. Krakalakin

    The most frightening thing about this article is not the devil, but the fact that a man with this much power holds these beliefs. Whether he likes it or not, whether he recognizes it or not, his religion is evolving along with society, albeit at a snail's pace compared to other sociological behaviors. Men in power just like him used to sentence innocent people to horrendous deaths, men with beliefs identical to his, carrying the same bible as his....sanctioned by his religion, by his god....this man cannot keep his religion out of his decision-making any more than the criminals of old, it is tamed by civil law now, but the grand myth still drives him....far more frightening than any trumped up "devil"....

    October 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  2. craigorie

    Thank you Ronald Reagan for this gift. Too bad we couldn't return it.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • devin

      The man simply stated he believes in the devil. Exactly what is it about that statement that brings out such malevolence from the atheist/agnostic crowd? Actually, that's rhetorical, I know the answer.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        There's no evidence for a god or a devil. I think the disdain for Scalia comes from an expectation that a member of the SCOTUS should be able to recognize and analyze evidence and base his opinion on the evidence.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  3. craigorie

    Scalia and Satan? Well, it takes one to know one.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  4. devin

    ".Are you so out of touch with with most of America....You travel in circles that are so, so removed from main stream America that you are appalled anyone would believe in the devil.....Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

    Absolutely brilliant.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Many more intelligent people than you or me have NOT believed in the devil

      What was your point?

      October 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
      • devin

        Point being, this defining of people of faith as ignorant neanderthals is both naive and disingenuous.

        October 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • AE

          I agree with you, devin.

          October 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
        • ughhhhh

          faith rautha

          October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
        • Observer


          Usually true. It's like Christians who fantasize that atheists and agnostics have no morals.

          October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Describing people who believe in myths created thousands of years ago to explain the unknown as ignorant Neanderthals is only wrong in terms of time and (sub)species.

          October 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
        • AE

          Claiming that Catholics are "people who believe in myths created thousands of years ago to explain the unknown" isn't very accurate.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Why/how is it inaccurate? There is no evidence to support any of the supernatural claims in The Babble and many of the claims in The Babble have been explained or debunked by science.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
        • AE

          That is your opinion. Actual scientists have stated that science has drawn them closer to their religion. The father of the Big Bang Theory was a Catholic priest. I would not describe him as an ignorant Neanderthal.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Unless you can provide some evidence to the contrary, it is not just my opinion. And what individual scientists claim about their personal beliefs is irrelevant. But you might be able to change my mind if you could provide a reference to a scholarly article published in a reputable scientific journal (that leaves out anything from The Discovery Inst!tute) successfully concluding with "some god did it."

          October 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
        • AE

          What a guy who spends way too much time in message boards of religious opinion pieces thinks is also irrelevant.

          I never said "some god did it". So, why would I try to prove that to you?

          October 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          So lots of bluster and attempts at diversion but no evidence. As expected. . .

          October 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          AE, You may not have used those words but as you're defending the writings in the bible against scientific knowledge, the only conclusion to be drawn is that you do believe that god did it regardless of evidence. As you say the Big Bang was first proposed by a man of faith, but the Big Bang coupled with evolution disproves the creation myth, therefore if there were a god it would be pre-Big Bang and hence not the personal god of all religions.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
        • AE

          That is not the only conclusion to be drawn.

          The creation myth explains the relationship between the Creator and the creatures. Big Bang and evolution have not disproved it.

          Understand I believe that God is speaking to our hearts in that story. The story is very true and relevant for many human beings today.

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

          Perhaps for delusionals it sounds/feels good but it is still unproven, if not debunked.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
        • AE

          Science has failed to debunk the origin story found in Genesis.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          If you say so. . .

          October 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
        • AE

          It is an origin story. Not a scientific formula. God (or evolution) gave us a creative/imaginative side to our brain. We should use it.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          So now we've moved on to "The Babble is not to be taken literally." I guess that's why the Smithsonian doesn't use it for historical purposes.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
        • AE

          What is with the slur words? Calling the Bible the babble? Why should I trust your word? You say you are superior to MLK; yet your words are evidence you are not that great. You just hate religious people. It is nothing logical.

          October 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          More bluster and blather but no facts.

          Be a good christian, get over your persecution complex, and move past my editorializing and deal with the fact that you claimed to have evidence but have not provided anything but more unsubstantiated claims, claims that in any other domain would be labelled as bullsh!t.

          October 7, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
        • AE

          I have evidence. It comes from God. God still exists, even if you deny him.

          Why don't you go to one of your domain's that would label this as bullsh!t? Why do you want to talk about God and religion here all the time?

          October 7, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Randall "texrat" Arnold

      Quite the opposite. Scalia is indulging in logical fallacy here, something one would hope Supreme Court judges would be brilliant enough to avoid.

      October 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
      • AE

        What logical fallacy here did he indulge in?

        October 7, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
        • Randall "texrat" Arnold

          Argument from authority, for one.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
        • AE

          Can you explain how he used the argument from authority logical fallacy in his statements?

          October 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
        • Randall "texrat" Arnold

          Too easy: "Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

          October 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
        • AE

          Ok, we have a misunderstanding.

          devin said "Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

          You said: "Scalia is indulging in logical fallacy here"

          Are we talking about Scalia or devin indulging in logical fallacy here?

          October 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  5. ssampson

    No idea what to say.... We are chasing people around the globe who actually believe that GOD is telling them to do it. These are people who are brought up or manipulated in a cult like environment with limited exposure to the outside world. Admittedly I don't think that the leaders themselves actually believe what they say to the followers....

    We say we don't do Holy Wars....

    But WE are led by people that DO actually believe in this rubbish; people that actually believe that GOD is in charge of this dysfunctional planet...

    I'm not sure which is worse – radicals led by con artists, or radicals led by true believers... This guy shouldn't be judging a pie contest...

    October 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • devin

      Actually, what is worse, is an individual like yourself making judgments on someone who simply believes in a realm different than our own.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
      • Beau

        What an asinine remark to state his opinion is worse than a supreme court judge using belief equivalent to that of magical unicorns instead of factual evidence to judge something. It's just plain stupidity.

        October 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
        • devin

          What is even more asinine, is stating that he in any way uses these beliefs in making legal judgments. Either you didn't read the article or else you are extremely inept at comprehension. Those really are the only options.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
      • Brad

        Religion is an antique way of putting the unknown in a digestible box. Religion is "eating the menu" when it comes to God. There might be some kind of "God," but religion is obviously man made. If there is a God, he/she/it is unknown, undiscovered, something scientific and not anthropomorphic. For someone like Scalia to be mixing religion with government is dangerous and against what the secular founding fathers intended.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • devin

          And yet you have created your own article of faith stating that God can not be known. Exactly how have you come to this knowledge and what proof can you provide?

          October 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  6. stevie68a

    Tell Scalia that saying the rosary,( repeating prayers over and over), is not devotion, but is brainwashing.
    Like it or not, we really are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old.
    I was raised catholic, and the nuns and priests were good-hearted and dedicated people. But that still doesn't make the religion

    October 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • tanya

      what you have said is rubbish

      October 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Why is it rubbish?

        October 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
      • Relictus

        Religion is rubbish.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  7. GIUK

    He's dumber than a bag of nose hair.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • devin

      And yet, you couldn't hold a a candle to him in a conversation.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
      • Pixies

        No do not get flames hear nose hairs.. we have no more pillows if you burn them..

        October 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  8. kathy

    Judge Scalia keep on witnessing...you are so right. And yes i too take Gods word literally. Narrowminded ...the path to hell is wide and the path to heaven is narrow...God gives us free choice to believe or not and when you are at the gates of hell saying Hod please save me
    .it will be too late..so if im narrow minded..its only in your sight..i look forward to heaven. Ive made my choice..every knee will one day bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. 🙂

    October 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      I frown on your poor use of grammar. You are a heathen!

      October 7, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Jane

      Beautiful Kathy! I pray for the love of God to penetrate every heart for one day all will know that Jesus Christ is Lord, the devil is real and he (the devil) has lost!

      October 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
      • Relictus

        I am one of those forsaken by God. God's love is out of reach.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
        • Jane

          God's love is never out of reach, His redemption and love are available to anyone who asks in sincerity.

          October 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Too bad you can't prove a single thing you claimed.

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

    FAT TONY Scalia – The JOLLY Mafia Justice as opposed to Murder Inc – Roberts

    October 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  10. Robyn


    Well, it is certainly good to know that Mr. Scalia views anyone who doesn't toe the line of his religious dogma is doing the work of the supreme incarnation of evil. Such people really should not expect fair or even legal treatment from the pious justice, since his rulings are based not on legal precedent, but on his unique ability to read the minds of people dead for two centuries.

    Mr. Scalia is not the Devil.
    He is the guy who runs in to the 7-11 to get the Devil a pack of smokes.


    October 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  11. charles e brightman

    Have you all been gorging on suppositories?

    October 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Timmy

      which kind, mister?

      October 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

        Italian suppositories. Brand name – Innuendo.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  12. Mike

    Am I the only one around here that gets how hilarious this conversation must have been?? A SCOTUS justice said he believes in God and then feels the need to whisper conspiratorially that he also believes in the devil. He's clearly making fun of the interviewer for being incredulous of religious beliefs generally. ....Nobody??? .....Well, okay, then.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Please explain why he made the comments about atheists and LGBTs. The interviewer didn't get the joke so he just had to adding more humour?

      October 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  13. thebes42

    Too many religious zealots and extremists, like Scalia who is part of the self-mutaliating sect Opus Dai, seek and receive the political power to force their angry-god into the lives of perfectly normal and happy people.
    I'm not saying that one can't be religious, I am a minister. But trying to cram a god of hate down the throats of normal, happy, people just causes grievous harm in the end.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  14. Russ 139

    God: well, Antonin, we're you a good Catholic?
    Scalia: Yes, you have the record.
    God: Were you good to other people?
    Scalia: Yes. Don't you know?
    God: I can read minds, but I can't read motivativation
    Scalia: I did what you told me to do
    God: We never spoke
    Scalia: What you wrote in the Bible
    God: Humans wrote the Bible
    Scalia: not...not... your words...?
    God: I don't speak to humans – until now
    Scalia: Well, I did what I thought you wanted
    God: Why not what the people wanted ... what was best for the people
    Scalia: Well, I,... they taught us...
    God: People never taught you to do what was best for others?
    Scalia: We were taught that YOU decided what was best for people. "GOD'S WILL", and all that
    God: And that makes sense to you? You're a Republican... personal responsibility. Remember that?
    Scalia: I'm confused...
    God: "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you" Why do humans have such a hard time with that?
    Scalia: Just doing what I was told...
    God: Next

    October 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Robyn

      "I was only following orders" didn't work at Nuremberg or My Lai.
      It should also not be a valid excuse from the Supreme Court Bench.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Scott

      Russ interesting that you quote the Bible to shame Scalia and yet have your pretend God character say that he never spoke to humans. Which way is it? Only pulling out the parts that make your point? I do agree though we all would be better off following the golden rule but do you believe it came from God?

      October 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
      • Relictus

        The "Golden Rule" is not moral. Masochists have no problems abusing you under it. Intelligent sociopaths add "... if I was dumb enough to get caught" to it. You may do a host of bad things to others that you would personally find inoffensive. I love peanut butter. Let's go find someone with an allergy to peanuts ... NO! One man's meat is another man's poison.

        October 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  15. ari

    in the old testament, satan is an angel (not a "fallen angel") that serves as humanity's judge. the idea that satan is lucifer, a fallen angel mentioned only in passing, is a medieval invention. the idea that satan/lucifer is an enemy of god and rules over hell is also a medieval invention. in the bible, lucifer is only described as being in chains in hell, not ruling it. and in judaism, and actual christianity, there is no evil being working opposite of god.

    scalia knows so little about his own religion, not that that's surprising.

    October 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Revelation 12

      October 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
      • Doris

        Bill & Ted 40:12:005

        October 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      I find it mildly amusing that Christians will insist that mankind is now living in a fallen world, one that was once perfect, but original sin is the reason we now have evil and death. By turning from God we are cursed by these things. Yet Satan turned from God and he still lives? More than that he is powerful and can add to his power by thwarting Gods plan and usurps the souls of men. Why would God, the one who created Satan, allow this? God killed almost every living thing on Earth at least twice yet he still can't stop Satan? Of course it's all total baloney but why the lack of power to do anything with this particular creation of his?
      Secondly is the concept that if we(atheists) were given concrete evidence of God's existence then we would not have free will to choose. Be robots as it were. But many in the Old Testament supposedly had first hand experience with God, including Satan, and they still chose to deny him. Obviously their free will wasn't affected but who in their right mind would choose to pick a fight with the creator of the universe? They rebelled against him but to do so seems clearly insane when they had clear proof of his existence. More than anything this only highlights how improbable the Christian God is.

      October 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  16. wakeup

    It's outstanding how all of the minds of the people commenting are corrupted! You don't need to "see" anything, it's a way of thought that allows you to really see. What's wrong with America? It's You!!!!

    October 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you make corruption sounds s.e.x.y.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  17. Observer

    Is claiming "the devil made me do it" sufficient to get an acquittal in Scalia's rulings?

    October 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  18. the dude.

    This is NOT politically correct, MAN!!!!!

    October 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • the dude.

      If you don't hate religion and despise and act hostile toward religious people, you should NOT be a government employee. NO.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:27 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.