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. In honor of El Diablo


    October 8, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  2. votarus4

    The real shock of the article is that the reporter is shocked. On which planet was she born that she doesn't know the main religion of this country and their core beliefs. Now, Scalia STILL being a bigot after all these years–that should be a shock, but alas, it is not. The devil is alive and working in Scalia, apparently.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  3. Pat Miller

    This is the best that we could do for a member of the Supreme Court? The man is a fruitcake!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  4. Lamb of dog

    How sad that this man has so much authority.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Bob

      Scalia, it is people like you who rant about what god wants and doesn't want people to do, who pretend to have some sort of special private commune with a being who is imaginary in the first place, that are the truly evil people on planet earth. Proselytizing is in fact, one of the most evil things you can do, because when you do it, you make the world a worse place for the rest of us. You sew the seeds of bigotry and hate and separation from your fellow man. F* you, Scalia. "Most of the world has believed in the devil." Great. Most of the world used to believe that the Earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the Earth. Mass belief doesn't make something true. What other 2000 year old mythological beliefs are you going to trot out today? Newsflash: Time has moved forward since then. Science has moved forward since then. The garbage spewing from your mouth is manifestly untrue, and demonstrably incorrect. Grow up. Stop believing in Santa Claus, and stop thinking you know what's "right" and "wrong" morally. The truth, while inconvenient for a pompous blowhard like yourself, is that we inhabit a world of gray, and you have no special goggles that allow you to decipher the moral landscape with any greater success than the rest of us. Jerk.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  5. Mick

    So, the reason I don't believe in an invisible magical demon is because that demon has convinced me he's not real?. Why, that clever rascal...

    October 8, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Mike

      And he's done and excellent job of it, apparently.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  6. joey

    ah, that's comforting, what an intelligent race we are

    October 8, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  7. John from Wisconsin

    Justice Scalia thinks everything is a person: corporations, Satan, stem cells... You name it, it's a person. He also thinks money is speech. Last I checked, my wallet didn't contain any oration, and money doesn't spew from my mouth when I talk, or fly from my pen when I write. Where does he get this stuff?

    October 8, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      From the Holey Bibble!

      October 8, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  8. Bob

    What a FRIGGING psychopath. He is insane, impeach him now.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  9. jeff

    How could someone with such intellect believe in a deity, much less the devil?

    October 8, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Mike

      You're implying that everyone with a high level of intelligence will always reach the same conclusions... which would pretty much negate the need for science. He believes the way he believes because his observations and experiences have lead him to those beliefs and have strengthened those beliefs. That shouldn't be that shocking... he's had different experiences than you...

      October 8, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • In Santa we trust

        This is a judge and should know about verifiable evidence; there is none for a god (or devil).

        October 8, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • Oncler

          You still don't get the point, that the evidence he holds to are his experiences. I'm sure there are other things...

          October 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          Clearly he didn't see the universe form or life form. Science may not have answers for that but it does have answers since those events; the religious creation myths are incorrect. Creation myths are the underpinning of a religion. Nobody including Scalia has a personal experience that can withstand scientific or judicial scrutiny and provide evidence of a god.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  10. Bill Angus

    YES – Thank you Justice Scalia: Either one believes in a God and something that plays his opposite role... or belief in a higher power ceases to make sense. One cannot fathom a divine benevolent God who sends cancer to the good or brings natural catastrophe down upon the innocent. Yet if God has an opposite number we can even argue that opposite has a purpose... which could be to bring us to seek shelter with God.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      You're correct – belief in a higher power makes no sense.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      So it's Satan who gives cancer to good people?? Well, why doesn't God stop him from doing that?? Isn't God more powerful than Satan?

      You're a mass of contradictions.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:07 am |
      • Oncler

        Most religious people would say that cancer or any from of disease is neither brought by God or the Devil. They would say its apart of life, in a designed temporary life that is destined to end. No one is guaranteed a pain free life good or evil and everything in-between.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
      • In Santa we trust

        The religious give god credit for the good but none of the bad whereas it is just the randomness and uncertainty inherent in life.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  11. jsrj46u

    why do we have a mentally-defective troll on the supreme court?

    October 8, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  12. The Brutal Truth

    Great. Just f***ing great. If this man believed in goblins running around, he would be adjudicated insane. But because he believes in the Christian goblins it is considered OK.

    Religion is insanity.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      If Scalia thought there was an invisible man in his closet, we'd stick him in a loony bin. But believing in an invisible man who lives in the sky is somehow OK.

      Weird, huh?

      October 8, 2013 at 11:09 am |
      • Scott

        In this age of me/self, it's more and more popular to be critical of people who know in their heart that something, bigger than themselves, exists. To me, belief in a higher power goes beyond faith and approaches common sense. Because I cannot fully explain it doesn't push me away from it. I'm typing on a computer and can communicate with people around the world in an instant. And our next closest "relatives" are still throwing pooh at each other and living in trees. That, along with multiple other examples, goes beyond faith – and approaches common sense – that intelligent design exists. Not believing in that takes way more faith than it does to bellieve. Not sure why that is so scary for people.

        October 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  13. fnordz

    Listen to Scalia's fallacious appeals to popularity- "most people believed in the devil" etc.

    I expect more from a SCOTUS justice.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • jsrj46u

      then you'd be surprised to read his opinions based on logical fallacies and unfounded assumptions!

      October 8, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • ME II

      To be fair, I don't think he was using that as an argument for the existence of Satan, but only for why the reporter shouldn't have been surprised.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:12 am |
      • AE


        October 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  14. Maja

    Science has shown that pinworms make pigs and other animals run off cliffs. Satan is a pinworm. Irritating sure, and sometimes incidentally fatal, but not a human being.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  15. z7k7

    Just because they are "governed" by a higher power, I see that all the religious nuts have no respect for others believe and continue their preaching of Bible, Koran,etc..

    How can they prove that in fact all religions are not the "word of the devil", since they divide us and make them feel supreme to other human beings. Who can suggest that its not the devil has not played mind games on "prophets".
    All the contradictions and confusion in religion teachings is Devil's work, since it breaths "relegious nuts" as Scalia, and supporters of his view, suppressing any other view and label humans bad.
    Is that God's work ?

    If you really a true believer, "You should not judge other people, only God is the judge" .
    If you are a true believer and believe in the strength of your religion, God and your own religious believe, you shouldn't fear any "non-believer" or need government to impose your religious views with the help of laws or government.

    And I have high respect to true believers, not the "fear the devil advocates", instead of "love God!".
    If you obey God and live your life because of fear of Devil, who are you really worshiping ?
    Ask that question ?

    All people are created in God's image and God's children, and majority will do the right thing at the end of the day, including "non – believers".

    October 8, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • bones

      As a believer, I don't fear anything. Trust me, I've walked through the fire concerning my own faith, and there's nothing you can say that I haven't considered deeply.

      But the tone of the this entire commentary is overwhelmingly persecutorial against anyone who dares to have any ounce of faith. It just seems there is a lot of pent-up anger towards believers by those who argue that there is no God.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  16. Rynomite

    The power of indoctrination! An otherwise seemingly intelligent person, who has climbed to one of the highest posts the nation offers, still believes in fairy tales. So sad.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • A True Conservative

      An otherwise intelligent person thinks that universe, in all of its glory, is the result of a gigantic explosion with no designer or creator behind it. How sad.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • Rynomite

        An otherwise intelligent person thinks that some sort of creator (nay.. their own particular version of a creator) created the universe. Yet who created that creator? Was there an infinite regression of creators?

        The silly "you can't create something from nothing" cosmological argument completely ignores the fact that your creator fits the same description.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • ME II

        @A True Conservative,
        Actually, there wasn't an "explosion" since there wasn't any matter, yet, for an explosive reaction.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:19 am |
      • ColoradoVet

        It was some scientific alien experiment gone awry. 🙂

        October 8, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Where do you get that he's otherwise intelligent? The guy's a bucket of snarls and slurs and crazy talk.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  17. Mick

    "Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, come on, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! " In other words, "I was handed a list of things I must believe in, and Satan was on it, so, by golly, that's good enough for me." It's nice to have such free thinkers in public office.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  18. Mick

    So...most people in the world supposedly believe in Satan, therefore he's real? By that logic, if we were living a few thousand years ago, Zeus, Horus, Poseidon, and a few hundred other gods would be real.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You mean they're not?!?

      October 8, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • AE

      It is 2,000 years later and Jesus is still alive and available.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |
      • HotAirAce

        There you go again, spouting off stuff you can't possibly back up.

        October 8, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • AE


          October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • Mick

        Yes, AE, the Jesus story is still alive and well. Thanks to the Christians aggressively spreading the belief around the world, sometimes through not-so-nice means (think Crusades, Papal Inquisitions, etc.) – until the pagan religions were wiped out.

        October 8, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • Rynomite

          Keep this in mind. Worship of the Jebus myth has lasted 2k years. Worship of the Jupiter/Zeus myth started around 3000BCE and continued in large numbers into the early CE. It takes awhile for stupidity to die out.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • A Frayed Knot

        The Hindu gods have been around for something like 7,000 years - still going - and have undoubtedly had more adherents over the centuries than Christianity. Must make them real, eh?

        October 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
        • AE

          No. None of them have proved themselves real and available to me. Only Jesus.

          October 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
        • Joey

          AE that wasn't Jesus that was the Devil, and he tricked you and now you are going to hell.

          October 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Apple Bush

    I find it unimaginable to be on my death bed waiting for a mythological being to take me to fairy land. Not very comforting. I will rely on family and friends to see me off gracefully.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Mike

      Why? Will the efficacy of their send-off have any impact on your decomposition rate, or the speed with which the chemicals which make up your consciousness dissipate into the soil around you? Will you, being already dead, be capable of having any opinion on their send-off? Is there a way to measure how effective or ineffective their send-off is? Or is this just another "I don't like Christians' views of what happens after death, so I'm going to make up my own version," type of thing?

      October 8, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • Apple Bush

        No, I just love them.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  20. Doctor Seuss

    Yes, the devil is real and his name is Antonin Scalia.

    October 8, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • OKfine

      Do not forget the lesser Demon, Bill Deacon, that I prophecise will be along right soon.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • doobzz

        And he'll be in a bad mood because it's been about four days without an article about the pope.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:08 am |
        • OKfine

          Well the article does say that Scalia has a brother that is a priest, that should bring fond memories or fantasies into BD's mind.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:26 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.