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. The Devil

    Hey, I believe in Antonin Scalia. He's one of my best.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:03 am |
  2. HotAirAce

    This not the first time Scalia has commented on atheists and gays:

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sasy atheists not welcome in ...
    Jan 13, 2011 – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sasy atheists not welcome in bible studies.

    October 8, 2013 at 3:57 am |
    • HotAirAce

      And this one includes a quote by Scalia that says it's ok to disregard atheists:


      October 8, 2013 at 4:09 am |
  3. Jerry

    Barack Obama on God and being a Christian: "I am a Christian", "I have an ongoing conversation with God.", "So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.",

    "Is Jesus someone who you feel you have a regular connection with now, a personal connection with in your life?"

    "Yeah. Yes. I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

    October 8, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • Sane Person

      And if he actually believes that, then he is nuts too. Tho, I believe most people just say this crap today to keep the right-wing nut jobs off their case.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:01 am |
      • Anonymous

        While I don't know whether or not Obama is sincerely a Christian in particular, it is almost indisputable that Obama is spiritual at the least. He has claimed to have read the Bible, the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita. Heck one of Obama's first overseas campaign trips in 2008 was to Jerusalem where he prayed in front of the Wailing Wall and inserted a prayer written on paper into the wall (which would eventually be stolen and printed on CNN.) One of Obama's first trips as President was to Egypt specifically to the Pyramids (they even found a hieroglyph that resembled him funny enough), indicating Obama has some interest in ancient egyptian mythology, and perhaps was also a subtle hint that he may be a Mason.

        October 8, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  4. Greg

    It is surprising that an obviously intelligent and erudite man has such a simplistic view of something so abstract. But such religious concepts were pounded into the heads of children of that generation as well as the notion that these concepts should not be questioned or explored. I suppose that there are bad guys in the afterlife that they are probably going to have bosses or even a single boss. The things I don't like about atheism are it's implicit arrogance and ignorance of spiritual forces. If there is no God then it kind of makes you god by default, doesn't it? The most valuable contribution religion has made to my character comes from the concept of a superior divine being. It confers a sense of humility, which is sorely lacking in the secular world, inspiration in the sense there is something greater to aspire to, morality in providing a set of principles to live by, and family as any good religion functions as an extended family. The lack of religious influence leads to arrogance, unprincipled/arbitrary and even inhumane behavior, isolation, and hopelessness about death and the spiritual world. The pendulum has swung from the hyper-morality of the Victorian age to the anything goes mentality of the current age. The proper and most productive balance is more akin to the views of the Enlightenment and mid 20th century.

    October 8, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • Franklin

      You made a good point and few words. I completely agree. Humility, good character, morality, and family are what religion has thought me. For better or worse, time after time, any person that's inspires to live their life as such will live see light.. God exist.

      October 8, 2013 at 4:26 am |
    • bmw86

      Greg, If you need some divine being to confer a sense of humility, then that means you lack it on your own! I don't need a supreme being to confer the belief that I should help someone in need, that I should to promote a life of fairness and peace to all. To me, it is only logical to sustain humanity.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:26 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      Ah I get it
      So the only thing preventing you from going out and r.a.p.ing, murdering, stealing, eating shellfish and wearing cloth made of two different fabrics is your belief in / fear of god?
      Some morality you got there.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:52 am |
      • yup

        I've seen similar questions hundreds of times. No theist has ever responded to them directly. They can't. They know how crazy it is; especially when you write it down!

        November 5, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  5. miscreantsall

    Of course the Devil is real.

    Scalia just had to look in the mirror!

    The scariest thing is, is that people like him are in positions of influence and power.

    Next scariest thing is, there are substantial numbers of people in the USA that actually endorse his kind of thinking.

    Makes me want to throw up.

    I wish Dante's Inferno was real, because these very same people would be first to inhabit such a realm!

    October 8, 2013 at 3:50 am |
  6. ThsIsNotReal22

    Props to Scalia for being open about his faith, despite the mockers. Imagine how surprised the mockers will be when they eventually find out Scalia was right after all!

    October 8, 2013 at 3:32 am |
    • Sane Person

      Uh right. Why do you always play the "ooh, just wait til your dad gets home!" defense to "prove" this nonsense? Is it because, even in death, your silliness is STILL unproven? You know what happens when you die? Your body rots. You cease to exist. You don't float in the clouds looking down at all the unfortunate people who didn't make it languishing in torture. (What a great heaven that would be... Oh look, there's uncle bob getting flayed! Oh heaven is so perfect..). You people never face the fact that your fallacies are not true.

      October 8, 2013 at 4:59 am |
      • ThsIsNotReal22

        My statement was not really meant to "prove" that my faith is correct. You claim that when we die we rot, and our consciousness does not survive. Well... challenge accepted. I guess we'll both have to wait and see.

        But I think you'll be surprised.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • truthprevails1

      You would think that if he was right and had the slightest evidence to back him, people would not have reason to question him/his belief. Not such a powerful imaginary friend you have there when he apparently demands idolatry (believe or else) but plays hide & seek constantly, never allowing for an end to the questioning.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:43 am |
      • ThsIsNotReal22

        In my opinion, the state of the world and the extreme evil that humans are capable of is enough evidence for a supreme evil being such as Satan trying to wreak as much havok as possible.

        If not, then perhaps humans as a race are not fit to exist.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • sam stone

      imagine the possibility that both he and you are wrong

      can you do that?

      do you have the humility?

      October 8, 2013 at 6:18 am |
      • ThsIsNotReal22

        Yes, I intellectually acknowledge the possibility that Christianity isn't true and that atheism or some other religion could possibly be true. But in spite of that fact, I still have 100% faith that the Bible is true and I have full expectation of everything it predicts coming to pass.

        If it turns out I'm wrong, I will be just as surprised as an atheist would be to find out that God is real.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • Fearbella

      Any chance Scalia could be wrong and he is wrongfully projecting his beliefs onto someone else?

      October 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  7. nik green

    Is Scalia for real? That is one of the most absurd pieces of infantile sunday school twaddle I've heard in a while. So if Satan is a real person, then where is Hell? A ranch in Wyoming?

    October 8, 2013 at 2:49 am |
    • Draco

      I would have to guess Satan is the head of every megachurch in America.

      October 8, 2013 at 2:56 am |
      • montyross

        Or the head of every liberal university

        October 8, 2013 at 5:02 am |
    • Esteban

      The Devil shares an office with the Speaker of the House.

      October 8, 2013 at 3:37 am |
    • saggyroy

      Hell is actually a small town in mid-Michigan.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:10 am |
  8. Rickmess

    I wonder what he would say about the devil made me do it defense? The man is a loon.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:45 am |
  9. Shawn Irwin

    The level of ignorance in Washington is astounding, but I have kind of got use to the idea that there is something in the air, water, or food that is really decreasing the intellect of people in office there.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:38 am |
    • saggyroy

      It's not their fault, it is the people that elect them, but then the system is rigged.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:17 am |
  10. charles

    Someone wondered how this guy became Supreme Court jurist. The reason is that a majority of Americans voted in a Republican as president, and voted them in to a majority in one or both houses.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:27 am |
  11. Markus

    How did someone who believes in fairy tales become a member of the Supreme Court?

    October 8, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • HotAirAce

      He was appointed by a president who also believed in fairy tales and whose wife regularly consulted astrologers.

      October 8, 2013 at 3:41 am |
  12. Kissandra

    It's sad to think the Justice will be mocked for this, mainly by intellectual elitists who - to date - have offered up no better explanations as to why we are all here. By the way, evolution answers the question of how, not why, so save your tart responses and the keystrokes that accompany them.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:21 am |
    • Fred Head

      Ad hominem and a failed grasp of science is all you can offer? We'll, we appreciate you hating your neighbor, as Jesus commanded you do

      October 8, 2013 at 2:25 am |
      • jp

        Where exactly was the hate? She said "Save your tart responses".

        October 8, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Kissandra translated

      I am resentful of smart people.

      This science stuff is way too difficult for me to understand.

      Shut up. I am the only person who gets to have an opinion.

      October 8, 2013 at 2:33 am |
      • jp

        Unnecessary comment.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:47 am |
        • Kissandra translated

          A Kissandra by any other name is still as obvious.

          October 8, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • Mike

      I'm pretty sure that if there's a God he'd much rather us make better use of our intelligence by trying to answer our own questions. The Judea Christian belief system offers a very narrow view of what type of singular being would actually be able to create something as complex as the existence we live in. Many of us who are spiritual consider the christian bible to be a slap in the face of a higher power in our universe. Either way... science and religion do not currently belong in the same discussion. We're too far behind to just assume that "God" did it. Use your brain sometime. It's more fun than you think!!

      October 8, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • Jean Sartre

      Scalia is a primary reason why we need to set term limits for SC judges... anyone who believe in devils, angels and gods should immediately be put in Bellevue and totally disqualified from any governmental position... How do you think this nation became such a FUBAR?

      Religion and all its fantasy!

      October 8, 2013 at 3:29 am |
    • sam stone

      Why must there be a reason for us being here?

      October 8, 2013 at 5:58 am |
      • dewie

        Shut up stank. Who says there must not be a reason? Jerk. Get lost spray face. Prison be waiting to swallow u, girlfriend

        October 8, 2013 at 9:01 am |
      • dewie

        I love DM Murdock, stanky. How bout choo?

        October 8, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  13. brian

    Is Scalia a real person?

    October 8, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  14. Mary Banilow

    Once again religious people are the psych ward patients who scream that is everyone else who is crazy.

    October 8, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  15. ptmom02

    It's so incredibly awesome that this man is supposed to make rational decisions about the law of the land. And he acts like the interviewer is out of touch...yeesh!

    October 8, 2013 at 1:51 am |
  16. Wilhelm Klink

    Hitler: "These pro-democracy people are so completely out of touch with the views of mainstream Germany"

    Scalia: "These atheists are so completely out of touch with the views of mainstream America."

    Maybe that isn't as good an argument as Scalia believes. Then again, his supporters are hostile to the educated and intelligent anyway. Stupid ideas win stupid people.

    October 8, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  17. dewie

    Being born-again makes all things become new, including the reality of that bloody monster. He is hideous and thoroughly revolting. It is as if he pens the sickness and hatred and vile perversion of observer, sambo, cheese face, u no, the whole depraved gang of 1 or 2 swine who never work and live here

    October 8, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • Observer


      List the "vile perversions of observer", you liar or else I will report you now.

      October 8, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Observer


      October 8, 2013 at 1:58 am |
  18. The Flamingo Kid

    The fact that many of you do not know that Satan is a real person shows how he has blinded your minds.

    October 8, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • RodneyMcNeely

      I guess our minds have also been blinded by Thor, Isis, Molech, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Edward Cullen, the Easter Bunny, and Darth Vader.

      October 8, 2013 at 1:46 am |
      • dewie

        O. How awesome rod baby. Good job

        October 8, 2013 at 1:49 am |
      • The Flamingo Kid

        NO. JUST SATAN.

        October 8, 2013 at 1:52 am |
        • Wilhelm Klink

          Isn't it funny that God does the same thing? Deities are really into hide and seek!

          October 8, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • ptmom02

      Weren't Adam and Eve the first people? The devil was cast out of heaven before god created Adam and Eve, no? Or else, how would he have tempted them?

      October 8, 2013 at 1:56 am |
      • The Flamingo Kid

        At first one of his responsibilities was to watch over the earth, but he was still allowed access into the heavens until a later time period when he was cast permanently to the earth.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:10 am |
        • Mary Banilow

          Of course, God made Satan, and being omniscient knew every last detail of what that meant and would ever mean, so God is responsible for creating evil and knowing exactly what it would do to every person. So God is totally responsible for Satan and evil, especially since he is omnipotent and could stop it at any time, but doesn't.

          October 8, 2013 at 2:16 am |
        • ptmom02

          So he's an immortal person on Earth? This is getting better and better!

          October 8, 2013 at 2:19 am |
        • Darth Scalia

          Yes, pt, once humans get in space all evil vanishes. With Satan stuck on Earth, a bit of planetary colonization will end evil forever.

          October 8, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • Mary Banilow


      October 8, 2013 at 2:03 am |
  19. Jonathan

    As Padre Pio once quipped to a self-assured penitent: you don't believe in hell? well, you will when you get there.
    And, as Faustina Kowalska wrote in her diary: "But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell."

    October 8, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • Wilhelm Klink

      It's fun to use your imagination, isn't it?

      Did you happen to notice that neither of the people you quoted had any personal experience or evidence to support their silly claims? No?

      October 8, 2013 at 1:52 am |
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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.