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. frontgate

    Oh man, this guys looney. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    October 8, 2013 at 7:20 am |
  2. Remove Scalia NOW

    He should be disbarred immediately and expelled from his undeserved position of responsibility.
    The damage he has caused already will take a long time to fix. He is a pathetic delusional idiot. Just a fraud given a post like so many others in our government.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      He's publicly elected and he hasn't done anything to warrant being disbarred.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:23 am |
      • ThsIsNotReal22


        October 8, 2013 at 7:24 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Sorry, excuse the publicly elected bit. I got confused there for a minute.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:25 am |
        • ThsIsNotReal22

          But still, he obtained his office via the proper legal channel, except for that part where Bush didn't quite actually win the election 😉

          October 8, 2013 at 7:37 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          At least it kept Al Gore out of the hot seat.

          October 8, 2013 at 7:41 am |
      • TruroTrash

        Actually, he was appointed by Reagan.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:30 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I know. See above comment.

          October 8, 2013 at 7:32 am |
      • CaptainRon

        He was appointed.. Never elected.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:37 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I've acknowledged that mistake twice already.

          October 8, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  3. Not Catholic

    The most appaling thing about this article and the SC is that one religion is so over represented and idealogically has the ability to skew the court, If even a few in the SC or government shared this whackobirds ideas and relied heavily on their own personal bias then this countrywould be in deep trouble. OH wait. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Scalia is right, Satan is a man and is in control of the house and John Boehner is his name!!

    October 8, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  4. Pappy Boyington

    This guy would be more comfortable being a prosecutor in the Italian legal system

    October 8, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  5. James B

    It's refreshing to hear that this justice stands by his convictions. The two biggest lies the devil wants everyone to believe are 1. that he doesn't exist, and 2. that he's more powerful than he is. Thank God for Jesus!

    October 8, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      So he wants us to believe he's non-existent AND very powerful? How does that work?

      Also, if he's not very powerful, why can't Yahweh, a supposedly omnipotent being, kick his ass?

      October 8, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Paul B

      You're mistaking it for Kaiser Soze.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Mrs. H


      October 8, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  6. WASP

    to all christians: when exactly did god create the devil? verse please.
    where did the devil learn evil, if there wasn't any evil to begin with?
    -now remember the only two plausible answers to my second question is either god created evil, inwhich he would be evil himself or evil has always exsisted along side god, thus god isn't all powerful because he couldn't vanquish evil before creation.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • James B

      God creates beings with free will. If Lucifer decided, by his own free will, to become evil, can God reverse Lucifer's decision? God reacted to it by casting Lucifer out of heaven. Now this evil contrasts with God's goodness.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:15 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        If we are created by an omnipotent and omniscient being who knows exactly what actions we will commit in our lives, our lives are predetermined by the creator, ergo there is no free will.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:19 am |
      • Brother Maynard

        James sez: "God creates beings with free will."
        So if god creates beings with free will ... then you admit that he also created the choices for this free will ( to choose good; to choose evil )
        Therefor god created evil
        AND god IS evil.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'God creates beings with free will. If Lucifer decided, by his own free will, to become evil'

        so you are saying god gave the angels free will? why? and why didnt god know lucifer was going to do that? and why did he make a flawed being that would choose that in the first place?

        October 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Not Catholic

      I think it was in one of the many DC or Marvel comics!

      October 8, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      "when exactly did god create the devil?"
      The Bible does not provide that information.

      Good and evil always "exist" as potential, even if there is no manifestation. For example, before satan existed, there was no manifestation of evil, but the POTENTIAL do do evil (i.e. things that God wouldn't like) as always existed as long as God has existed.

      I don't know that Satan ever had to "learn" evil. It's not hard to figure it out. Just do the opposite of what God wants.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:30 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that


        October 8, 2013 at 7:36 am |
      • WASP

        @22: so doing evil is doing the opposite of what god wants correct?
        then you should own slaves, subjegate women, abuse your children, sleep with your kin, and ki11 none believers. if you aren't following his words you are doomed to he11.

        i love you folks cherry pick the parts of the bible that you like and fail to read the thing from cover to cover and put it in context of the time period it was written.

        (will provide verses on above points upon being asked)

        October 8, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • Brother Maynard

        22 – "Good and evil always "exist" as potential,"
        Ok so all you are really doing here is introducing another variable, not addressing the issue.
        But ... no problem I can play that game
        Who created this 'potential' good and evil ?
        The bottom line is if you hold the premise the god created everything then god created evil ( or potential evil ).

        October 8, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  7. Ace

    Selecting Bush to be president certainly proves Satan exists.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      At least he had comedy value. Bush was probably the worst president we ever had but he made me laugh many times. Obama, while not as bad as Bush, is still pretty terrible and he lacks the comedy value.

      If you're going to be terrible, at least be funny.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • James B

      Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his very own soul?" I would not want to be in Bush's shoes on judgement day.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  8. Tim

    So Scalia believes in the tenets of his Catholic faith. So what. Why is the this news? Obama believes Jesus died on the cross for our sins and resurrected. That won't make the news.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  9. Ace


    October 8, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  10. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    Well, Satan fights against Yahweh's tyranny. He fights against autocratic oppression. If my being an atheist means I'm in his favour, I'm glad of it.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  11. Buck

    Yippee! We got a certified wacko on the Supreme Court!

    October 8, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  12. andrew

    How the hell did this incompetent clown become a judge??? Who didn't read the paperwork on this idiot!!??No wonder our country is flushing down the toilet.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  13. Scott

    Not nice refering to Cruz as Satan. He is neither that powerful or competent.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  14. dot

    Just more proof Scalia should be removed from the bench immediately.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:51 am |
  15. fire.camp

    ...and this guy sits on the supreme court??!!!!......................................

    October 8, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • the five-four morons and an idiot

      aint it great?! welcome to america!

      October 8, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • TRIP




      October 8, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  16. JCS

    This guy is definite proof that ADULTS WITH IMAGINARY FRIENDS ARE STUPID.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Ian

      And he's a judge... how is he going to be impartial in court when dealing with a non-catholic let alone an atheist

      October 8, 2013 at 6:32 am |
  17. FaceChecker

    This shows the difference between a smart person and a wise person. Scalia is technically very smart, but he has no common sense and is not wise.

    October 8, 2013 at 5:08 am |
    • Idan Solon

      I don't see why you'd say that Scalia is "technically very smart." I have no evidence of it. He was appointed on a political basis. There's a very strong inverse relationship between intelligence and religiosity.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:38 am |
    • shawn l

      You dont have to be smart to be a lawyer. I see evidence of that in Washington DC every day.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:26 am |
  18. Sane Person

    Certifiable. How can we have a man who believes in spirits and ghosts helping to decide the reality of this country? The devil that actually exists is man, and one of those men is Scalia.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:55 am |
    • Mopper

      You may be 'sane', but uninformed. Your whole culture(Western Civilization) and axiomatically the United States is based on Judeo-Christianity. The Age of Reason was launched by a Catholic priest, St Thomas Aquinas, who like the good judge was a catholic and believed in the Devil .Apparently, you haven't done too badly by this as you have chosen to remain under this 'oppressive' culture which has always entertained a metaphysical reality. But alas where would you go anyways when you suffer these great indignities.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:12 am |
      • EvinAR

        Sorry, but the facts of reality don't care who believed what. They wouldn't care if Einstein believed that fairies existed in his private time. You have no argument.

        October 8, 2013 at 6:38 am |
      • EvinAR

        By the way, the Age of Reason wasn't "launched" by St. Thomas Aquinas; who told you that? That's a mind-boggling oversimplification of the history of an entire cultural movement.

        Besides, an entire culture of Arabic enlightenment predates Thomas Aquinas by a few centuries at least.

        October 8, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Kathy in KC

      This "intelligent" man does not realize that Satan is a human construct, not an actual personage. Satan does not appear in the Bible until the 21st chapter of 1Chronicles, where without prior context, he pops up and influences David to misbehave in such a way that God gets mad and smites Israel. Satan does not appear again until the book of Job, where he has developed into a sadistic character who makes a bet with God that he can turn Job from his faith. In both these introductions to Satan, the stories are couched in heavy allegory relating to the importance of faith and obedience to God in the face of temptation to do otherwise. That's how "Satan" became useful as a theological construct over time. It's noteworthy that neither the serpent in the Garden nor Lucifer is synonymous with Satan except in pop culture and bad evangelism.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  19. iPaul

    If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

    October 8, 2013 at 4:54 am |

    It' amazes me that someone with those narrow minded ideas(borderline stupid)can be in the Supreme Court!!!!!!

    October 8, 2013 at 4:50 am |
    • saggyroy


      October 8, 2013 at 6:02 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.