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. yo yo

    Believing in the Devil, or God for that matter, doesn't make either one exist one more iota. You can believe in Santa to your heart's content, he'll forever remain a work of fiction and all your belief cannot change that, same goes for God and the Devil.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  2. JM

    Well, duh, all Christians believe in the devil. This is shocking, why? This is not a newsflash: People non-Christians admire believe in the devil.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      If this was Joe Blow, I'd just shake my head and laugh. But this is a man in a position of authority in the highest court in this deliberately secular land. The fact he is so ruled by religious delusions is quite frightening and offensive to me.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:42 am |
  3. Phelix Unger

    This man uses his unbiased mind to look at the rights and wrongs in society and passes judgement so they are the same right and wrong for all of America. Scary stuff going on in Washington. Where do you suppose they hide the garlic?

    October 8, 2013 at 12:09 am |
  4. couyon

    It is sad to hear that a Supreme Court judge actually believes that Satan is a real person. Satan according to the Bible was a cherubic angel turned bad and allowed to tempt Eve. God apparently created angels and one of them turned into Satan, not a person, but a bad supernatural being. It is a long time since established Christian religions have stopped preaching about Satan and damnation, preferring to preach about the God of love.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  5. Nathan V. B. II

    ouch!! theists are crazy. And the only way to get elected as President of the U.S. of A. is to believe this tripe. 2013 is still medieval. Come on LOGIC and KNOWLEDGE!!! (ditch the primitive Man thoughts)

    October 8, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  6. true light

    Wake up people he is right.

    October 8, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • tallulah13

      In order for a person to be right, their statements must be supported by fact. There is no evidence that any devil (or any god or any heaven or any hell) exists, therefore all he stated was his opinion.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  7. Peace to All Living Things

    gods suck 🙁

    why are we still stuck with twits that think mythology is real, and protect it and guise under this pathetic semantic veil called "religion" and then give it freedom?


    October 8, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  8. Charles

    Christ followers remind me of that scene in the Mummy!! he's wearing all these talismans in hopes of one being correct...they have all their "eggs in one basket" and when viewed under the eye of scrutiny/truth/logic/reason/NOT FAITH/intelligence ... then it fails miraculously every time (just like Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Norse/Greek/Egyptian/Hawaiian/Fijiian/Thai gods etc)

    October 8, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  9. Sigideba

    Sharia law guy has the eyebrows of a mentat. Trim that ish bro.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  10. terry b

    If the devil does exist I would believe that Scalia is one of his top minions here on earth. I consider him the worst Supreme Court justice of my life time. The man seems to hardly even know what the word justice stands for. Hard to call someone like that a justice. Hard to understand how Reagan could appoint the finest justice to the court, Sandra Day O'Connor, and follow it up with the worst.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  11. Charles

    I don't like god very much.
    But that's only because I know him real well 🙁

    October 7, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  12. secular

    Outright scary stuff, this judge is on the highest court of the nation and believes in Satan, heaven, hell, fairy tales and you want to tell me that doesn’t influence his decision one way or another on cases to be decided by Supreme Court? And we all think that all judges in the Supreme Court are unbiased, wow, just enough to make you sick, wondering what do the other judges belief systems are, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, unicorns…
    "You’re looking at me as though I’m weird," yes you are for crying out loud

    October 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Mari

      Insane!!!! Is this guy is a judge ? What wrong with this country!

      October 8, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  13. digitalclips

    Certifiably insane. There has to be a way to remove a Supreme Court judge who admits he us insane!

    October 7, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Unfortunately belief in unproven supernatural beings is not yet in the DSM.

      October 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
      • Arthur Paliden

        Yes it is, look under "having and talking to imaginary friends".

        October 8, 2013 at 12:01 am |
        • HotAirAce

          But religion continues, hopefully not for very much longer, to enjoy a free pass.

          October 8, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  14. Arthur Paliden

    And the world laughs.....

    October 7, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  15. TLORop

    "Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."-Scalia

    I get the feeling he believes because someone he met who is smarter than him believes.

    I'm pretty sure if you gathered the smartest people in the world the majority of them would be atheist.
    I doubt he has even knowingly talked to an Athiest.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Arthur Paliden

      Ah, so he has been traveling in the southern red states has he.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Krhodes

      Given the percentage of the population that claims atheism vs religious...i doubt it.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Observer

      The huge number of people who just show up for special occassions at church show how many people officially claim they are beleivers, but don't really practice it.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:08 am |
      • Arthur Paliden

        They just do it to keep the peace with the in-laws at the family dinner afterward.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  16. Arthur Paliden

    Right Satan is a real person and he currently runs the Tea Party.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  17. paul collier

    I remember hearing Scalia being praised, about the time of his confirmation and installation, for his intellect. If this is what passes for intellect in this country its no wonder we are in serious decline.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  18. devin

    The vacuum of naturalism, it's a nasty little thing.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
    • bostontola


      October 7, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        Because naturalism threatens his supersti.tion.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
      • devin

        Similar to the idea that many had at one time that the earth was flat.

        October 8, 2013 at 1:13 am |
  19. Lee

    Satan is a real person alright. Probably a campaign contributor too.
    And the Tea Party are his horsemen.
    Which one of them is the Antichrist we will soon find out. My moneys on Cruz.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  20. bostontola

    Why is it news that a person that believes in a god also believes in a devil. Scalia is a highly analytical person and yet his faith is more powerful than his reason. Unsubstantiated belief in combination with reason must have had evolutionary advantage over pure reason because we still have it.

    October 7, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • ooo

      The ability to "compartmentalize". I'm sure there are some great studies published about it.

      October 7, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
      • bostontola

        I think it's more about the fact that we face many situations where we need to act with little to no information. In those cases we act on intuition. Those that can't are disadvantaged. Other situations develop more slowly allowing data driven strategies to win. Having the combination gives you a better chance in the broad range of challenging situations.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Pseudotriton

      We still have the wisdom tooth, too. What's the advantage of that?

      October 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
      • ooo

        Point made, but science is evolving way to fast for us humans to keep up. If this trait truely is a product of evolutionary advantages, we couldn't hope to lose it fast enough to keep up with modern science.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
      • bostontola

        That is a valid point, vestigial structure takes a long time to go away. I still think there is advantage to having reason and imperfect intuition, including belief. The analogy between belief in god and wisdom teeth is good, usually does no harm but occasionally gets impacted.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
        • Pseudotriton

          but most of us get our wisdom teeth pulled out when they come out, don't we? 😉

          October 8, 2013 at 12:02 am |
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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.