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. chiz3914

    The easter bunny is real, santa claus, is too and don't forget smokey the bear LOL
    And this idiot is on the supreme court.

    October 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  2. wolf775

    Oh come on, Boehner isn't that bad,.... well or is he?

    October 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • viranka

      wow! when i started to read this i thought that is who Scalia was talking about.

      October 7, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  3. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    So what evidence is there of Satan? For a really long time people have trotted out the biblical accounts and the 500+ witnesses that they say support the truth of the legend of the risen Christ. What does anyone have that says that Satan is real?

    October 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  4. sirhuxley

    Those statements should automatically disqualify him from serving as a justice on the SC....seriously....

    Every single kid in Sunday school knows that the devil is just a ruse...

    October 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      I see Joe Biden is back posting again.

      October 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  5. tc

    I swear mt comment is getting deleted using the word consti**tion

    October 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  6. Elliott Carlin

    Scalia is generally correct on Satan, however he hasn't gotten any wilier or evil–he's always been the angel of light and the most deceptive of all creatures; Satan, that is.

    While we move ever more into a post-Christian western civilization. we'll be seeing more columns written by people such as this author who have no basic understanding of the underpinnings of our once great society.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Observer


      "no basic understanding of the underpinnings of our once great society"

      Was that the great society that supported slavery? Or the one that kept women from voting? Or way back to when they burned witches?

      October 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        Or the one which abolished slavery, which attempted to redeem itself through ill-intentioned welfare, voting rights and affirmative action...that provided reservations back to the Indians and gave them unbelievable rights to casino profits. True, there were evils, but if we have to take credit for them, we can take credit for attempting remedies to these evils. How about western culture developed early on in the colonies at Harvard Yale and Princeton, all founded by the religious...please, stop being so slanted in your opinion of this country's exceptional beginnings.

        October 7, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
        • Observer


          Yep. It was the largely Christian group of our forefathers that cheated the natives out of their land and forced them onto reservations.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        oh yeah, i'd be remiss to mention all of that blood spilt for slavery...remember?

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


          Blood spilt for slavery. Do you mean the Christians in the north who fought the Christians in the south who used the Bible to support slavery? That same Bible was used less than 60 years ago to deny interracial marriage.

          Trivia: The greatest number of people in our nation that were casualties of any one war were killed by Christians.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Pseudotriton

      wow, you sound just as delusional as Scalia.

      October 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  7. sirhuxley

    Oh Wow!

    Well, I believe in Joe Pesci....

    October 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • a reasonable atheist

      It worked for George Carlin!

      October 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  8. Fedor Jones

    I think Justice Scalia's vote in the Citizen's United case has done more to serve the Devil's desires than the actions of all the U.S. Atheists combined.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  9. JG

    There is NO WAY a US Supreme Justice who believes in gods, devils and hands-on devil's work acting directly on man should be allowed on the bench.
    The man openly admits he is delusional and justifies it by referencing the vast majority of human history, which was ignorant, did not understand rational thought, and believed in the direct intervention of gods and devils.

    This is grounds for immediate dismissal. I am not comfortable with Supreme Court Justice who is religiously deluded. This is very, very disturbing. I am picturing a long, grey beard and a black turban on this guy......

    October 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • tc

      Many believe the exact opposite that NO WAY an atheist should be on the bench making decisions about other people when they only subscribe to a personal belief system. But this is America, you can believe what you want.

      October 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Enough of the drama fella. You are slowly getting your way with no Protestant on the Supreme Court since our founding. And like it or not, our basis of law is found in Judeo-Christian law. Don't be one of those clowns trying to convince us God isn't mention in the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by Congress.

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

        Er......God is NOT in the declaration of independence. Go read it......

        October 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
        • Elliott Carlin

          Creator, Judge, Nature's God...

          October 7, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
        • Elliott Carlin

          ...divine Providence.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
        • Elliott Carlin


          October 7, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
        • Observer


          The Const-itution is the basis for all our laws. References to God, Jesus, Christ, Christianity: ZERO. ZIP. NONE. NILL. ZILCH.

          October 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  10. tc

    CNN keep deleting my comment about scalia and no key words to auto delete.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  11. Ryan

    Hail Satan!

    October 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  12. marc

    I cannot believe how upset ppl get from the mention of Jesus Christ but its ok to mention Allah or some other god...but the mention of Jesus christ really burns ppl why is that ?? This world is controlled by the evil demons thats y this word has gone to hell already...research what comes next ...by the time you realize that Jesus saves it might be too late for you .. thats where eternal burning comes from the one who has deceived this world and all who loved what was in it more than the Lord..the "devil" is who is deceiving the world .. Hope everyone is prepared on judgment day cause its coming and its not just a story in the "babble" may God have mercy on your souls... im sure when your in that place of desperation there is no one too help the first thing you say is"please God help me" and guess what,..he will he is merciful and also just God...deny me to the world and i will deny you to my father...just gotta turn on the tv to see the wickedness and this illuminati who control all you see on tv and news. The evil ones..even told you their plans on your veryown currency..but you dont wanna see it. Isaiah 28: 15 those who turn things upside down. Go watch a jonathan kleck video. Maybe you will wanna be saved after it ..i will pray for you all

    October 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • sbp

      What a hoot. "Yeah, may god have mercy on your soul?" Please - you WANT all non-believers to burn in hell. And the Illuminati reference is priceless. Hmm...what could that mean? Gee, I don't know, that all evil in the world is the fault of.....JEWS!!!!

      What a nut.

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

        I dont want that.. more souls the better..God loves you and forgives and forgets. Who do you know on this earth who does that now a days.. to never remember again..jews are Gods ppl.

        October 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • marc

        Jesus saves.!!! GOD BLESS AND I PRAY EVERYONE HAS A BLESSED NIGHT... :: ))

        October 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
        • ALL CAPS JESUS



          October 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • tc

      Lots of bad Christiians have soured a lot of atheists. Sad but true. If so called Christians actually followed Christ's teachings then they wouldn't be so angry

      October 7, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        Lots of bad atheists have soured a lot of Christians. Sad but true. If so called atheists actually followed C. Dick Dawkins' teachings on pedophilia then they wouldn't be so hung when arguing about morality

        October 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Couple of things...
      1) who said its ok to mention Allah? Just try it in a gathering of right wing Christians and see what happens.
      2) you know Allah is the Arabic word for god right? Even Arabic Christians call god Allah.

      October 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
      • Elliott Carlin

        theologically Allah is not the god of Christianity, nor is the Arabic counter-name for Christ. Allah never accepted Christ's sacrifice for sin, which is a staple of Christianity. They don't believe Allah is Trinitarian, therefore by definition, he's not the God of Christianity.

        October 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
        • Cedar Rapids

          Using that argument then neither is the Jewish version of god the same god of Christianity

          October 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  13. Bill

    Scalia would know first hand about the existence of Satan – he's good friends with Dick Cheney.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Bill, your originality is only superseded by your inability to make anyone laugh.

      October 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
      • Cardinal

        Reality is not a joke

        October 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  14. Johnny5

    Bronze Age thinkers are the devil of progress.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    The boot heels of CNN oppression are still on my neck. Imagine what they would be like in China, handing people over right and left for crimes of belief and unbelief. Oh well...

    I once heard a Lutheran pastor trying to convince his flock that the devil is real. The impression I came away with is of people who really don't believe in the devil. If they believed in the devil the pastor was talking about they would never leave the sanctuary.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • tc

      I don't know about lutherans, but Catholics aren't overly afraid of the devil if you are in full communion with God

      October 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  16. Derek

    This is standard doctrine, not just for Catholics, but for all Christians (and even Muslims). Is this reporter ignorant or just pretending to act as if Scalia's belief are unique?

    October 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • JG

      Standard DOGMA. These are children's myths. Period. There are not gods and devils and magical places where we get to live happily ever after. We live, we love, we die. That's it. Better enjoy what you have. This is NOT a dress rehearsal.....

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

        I wish you were right, but I don't think so. Have you ever heard the saying 'the Truth hurts'? It seems like the philosophy you are adhering to, but the Truth is beautiful...it doesn't hurt necessarily. And if you believe that anything that makes you feel good is false, then you will have a very miserable life. But please remember that you are choosing to see things in this negative way. Your beliefs aren't true because they lead to spiritual pain.

        October 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  17. ep tor

    Wow. And I thought the hard line Iranian clerics were wingnuts. We've got one sitting on the SCOTUS. Now that's frightening. Most religious Americans are week-end Christians, Muslims or Jews and believe in that the devil exists in the same way as they believe various other fantastical creatures exist such as superman, batman, the boogie man, fairies, sorcerers, witches, angels, goblins, ghosts, elves, leprechauns, zombies, Dracula and other various other god-like creatures.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Pixies

      Hey! We can heeeeaaarrr you!

      October 7, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  18. Seth

    It bothers me that a man who sits on the highest court in the land earnestly believes in fairy tales.

    October 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  19. Tom

    I am Satan incarnate and what is more...I am a REPUBLICAN! Ahhhhh! Haa! Haa! Haa!

    October 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  20. Tom

    *I am Satan incarnate! And what is more important...I am a Republican! Ahhhhhh! Ha! Ha! Ha!

    October 7, 2013 at 9:39 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.