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. dewie

    They r doomed!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  2. dewie

    Can u imagine what Meredith, mike and all them poor athies must b feeling?

    October 8, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  3. Bob

    Religious belief inhibits true knowledge and understanding our world and universe. It is also our first attempt at explaining the cosmos and the world we saw. Being our first attempt, it was also our poorest. The bible is mythological and any individual who truly takes the 'word' in literal form needs to seriously get their head examined.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Apple Bush

      The Bible is not our first attempt. Hello.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
      • Bible Clown©

        He meant religion in general, not the Bible, was man's first attempt at explaining the universe. .

        October 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Struve

    Senior should go interview the Mormons and see what they believe, it might be even more of a shock.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  5. E

    And this is "the intellectual anchor of the courts conservative wing." Intellectual and Conservative don't belong in the same sentence.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  6. Nicodemus Legend

    I'm assuming Scalia is actually an intelligent man. He doesn't follow my political leanings though.

    You guys who criticize him as a religious idiot living in the stone age with beliefs like a witch doctor have to remember that Isaac Newton, the founder of our modern science , the man who codified the scientific method of observation and experimentation was also a very religious man. He was into alchemy and magic, and studying the Bible for information and secret codes from God.

    The rational and non-rational (not irrational) are part of human nature. It is hard-wired into the brain and you will never get rid of one or the other. At most you can just temper them.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • ME II

      To be fair though, Newton didn't have nearly the amount of information available to him that the average 2nd grader has today.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • tallulah13

      Newton lived 400 years ago, when proclaiming disbelief, or even belief in the wrong version of Christianity could get you killed. Scalia lives in an era where he does not have that excuse. He clings to ancient middle eastern mythology possibly because he was culturally indoctrinated as a child, or possibly because his ego enjoys tje concept of eternal life. He did not come to his beliefs through rational thought, because once you understand the complete lack of evidence to support anything supernatural, it is not rational to believe.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • I wonder

        He's skating on thin ice by wearing that black robe every day (or as often as he does). It's a bad thing to do according to Italian superst.ition. I wonder if he ever wears a purple necktie with it - double bad luck! I wonder if he shuns peaco.ck feathers because they are imprinted with the "Evil Eye"?

        October 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  7. Rich

    I bet Scalia sees Satan everyday. when he looks in the mirror in the morning when he's shaving.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  8. ken

    It's scary that there's people with these views in such influential positions.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • dewie

      Terrifying. Better head for medicinal

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

      Ken, go sin with no regard for man or God and then after you see the results tell me how scared you are.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  9. dewie

    Jimmy carter is devout!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  10.  dewie

    prison as well 2 those so called fast food companies who r cloning boneless chickns! point being it's illegal!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  11. Elliott Carlin

    I see all of the tolerant, open-minded and non-bigoted atheists are out in full bloom today.
    Must be unemployed due to no marketable skills, except typing.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Lamb of dog

      What are you doing? Typing?

      October 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  12. boredofceleb

    Well, I'm glad he's cleared that up for us. Is he Pat Robertson's best friend?

    October 8, 2013 at 11:16 am |

    Tags: possession, toasters, toast, Devil, Florida

    October 8, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Lamb of dog

      I can just see all the atheist getting into a bidding war for this amazing toaster.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • *


        October 8, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  14. dewie

    How's that job going, tom the idiot? Dodo, working hard I c!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  15. gg

    The Devil may be real but Scalia is just a nightmare...

    October 8, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  16. ItSoNlYmE

    How sad that this person is supposed to represent the highest level of wisdom in our society. I hope you all have read "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", because we're re-living it in America right now.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Rynomite

      Gibbons book is a great read. One of his main conclusions was that Xtianity played a large part in killing Rome.

      October 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Like you've read that. I read the 8th? one, which had most of the good stuff. The whole thing is only of interest to historians.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  17. Michael

    He must know the devil. He seems him in the mirror or when looking at W. Bush or Cheney

    October 8, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  18. dewie

    Ha ha, dm, u be losing ground u cancer on humanity!

    October 8, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  19. Dave

    I don't worship the devil. I can agree with alot of his policies, but I don't worship him.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  20. Apple Bush

    If you can understand it, it has nothing to do with you.

    October 8, 2013 at 11:07 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.