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."

MORE FROM CNN: How to argue about religion online

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. A J

    If Scalia thinks that Satan is a 'real' person, it shows how delusional he is. Basing your judicial opinions on Catholic dogma has no place in the US. No matter what some people think, the US has never been a Theocracy, no matter how much right wingers try to force their beliefs on us.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • lookingfortruth

      Every law passed down by congress and in every law in every other country is someone forcing their beliefs on others, that's just the way it works. With or without religion, little will change, because this is human nature at work. Blaming religion for people being human is a common mistake I see people making here.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  2. The Man

    Intelligence and ignorance are not mutually exclusive.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Anyone speaking about a fictional magic being has very little intelligence.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • jake69

        Quite a few highly intelligent people throughout history have believed in a creator, even if not in the same vane as many religious nuts do. I find you atheists to be no different than fundamentalists. You both know all the answers and everyone else is dumb in your eyes. And you both constantly ram your views down others throats. I suppose I'm one of the unintelligent since I believe in a creator or force. I find it no less plausible that there is a higher being of some sort than to believe that all life today on this planet just happened to evolve from primordial slime with no orchestration whatsoever. But, on most things in our daily lives, I admit I have little in common with religious zealots, and am no fan of Scalia. Just tire of the arrogance of atheists and evangelicals, the only 2 camps who seem to get any attention in the US when it comes to spiritual issues.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • The Man

          You are not unintelligent because you believe in a creator, just ignorant of the subject.

          The more you know, the Furthur you go!

          October 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • lookingfortruth

          Believing in a creator is as ignorant as not believing in one, for only the dead know the truth to that one. People should stop pretending to know anything, because even what we know we don't understand.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
        • CP in FL

          Have you ever seen the Hubble Space telescope's pictures of star formation? There is no god that orchestrates the formation of the stars and planets. There is ACTUAL VISUAL EVIDENCE of star and planet formation. No god is required for this process.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  3. truthsayer

    Scalia is living proof, among others, that imbeciles can reach to very high levels of power. The belief in Satan is akin to believing in any of these gods: Aa, Aah, Abil Addu, Addu, Adeona, Adjassou-Linguetor, Adjinakou, Adya Houn'tò, Agassou, Agé, Agwé, Ahijah, Ahti, Aizen Myō-ō, Ajisukitakahikone, Ak Ana, Aken , Aker , Äkräs, Aku, Allatu, Altjira, Amano-Iwato, Ame-no-Koyane, Am-heh, Amihan, Amon-Re, Amun, Amurru, Anapel, Anath, Andjety, Anhur, Anit, Anu, Anubis, Apsu, Arianrod, Ash , Ashtoreth, Assur, Astarte, Aten, Atum, Ayida-Weddo, Ayizan, Azaka Medeh, Azaka-Tonnerre, Azumi-no-isora, Baal, Bacalou, Badessy, Bagadjimbiri, Bahloo, Baiame, Bakunawa, Bamapana, Banaitja, Ba-Pef, Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, Baron Samedi, Barraiya, Bata , Bathala, Bau, Beltis, Beltu, Belus, Bernardo Carpio, Bes, Biamie, Bilé, Binbeal, Boli Shah, Bossou Ashadeh, Budai, Budai, Bugady Musun, Bugid Y Aiba, Bunjil, Cai Shen, Ceros, Chenti-cheti, Chi You, Chimata-No-Kami, Chun Kwan, Cihang Zhenren, City god, Clermeil, Congo (loa), Consus, Cronos, Cunina, Dagan, Dagda, Dagon, Daikokuten, Damballa, Dan Petro, Dan Wédo, Dauke, Dea Dia, Dhakhan, Diable Tonnere, Diana of Ephesus, Diejuste, Dimmer, Dinclinsin, Dragon King, Dragon King of the East Sea, Duamutef, Dumu-zi-abzu, Ea, Ebisu, Edulia, El, Elali, Elder Zhang Guo, Elum, Engurra, Enki, Enma, En-Mersi, Enurestu, Erlang Shen, Erzulie, Ezili Dantor, Fan Kuai, Fei Lian, Feng Bo, Four sons of Horus, Fu Lu Shou, Fu Xi, Fūjin, Fukurokuju, Furrina, Futsunushi, Gasan lil, Gasan-abzu, Goibniu, Gong Gong, Govannon, Gran Maître, Grand Bois, Guan Yu, Guangchengzi, Gunfled, Gwydion, Hachiman, Hadad, Hakudo Maru, Han Xiang, Hapi, Hapy, Heka , Hemen, Hermanubis, Hermes , Heryshaf, Hoderi, Hongjun Laozu, Hoori, Horus, Houyi, Huang Feihu, Hung Shing, Iah, Ibong Adarna, Iku-Turso, Ilmatar, Ilmatar, Imhotep, Imset, Iron-Crutch Li, Isis, Istar, Isum, Iuno Lucina, Izanagi, Jade Emperor, Jar'Edo Wens, Ji Gong, Julana, Jumala, Jupiter, Juroujin, Kaawan, Kagu-tsuchi, Kalfu, Kalma, Kara Khan, Karora, Kerridwen, Khaltesh-Anki, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Kidili, Kini'je, Kitchen God, Kneph, Kōjin, Ksitigarbha, Kui Xing, Kuk, Kumakatok, Kuski-banda, Kuu, Ku'urkil, Lagas, Lan Caihe, Lei Gong, Leizhenzi, Lempo, Ler, Li Jing , L'inglesou, Llaw Gyffes, Lleu, Loco (loa), Lü Dongbin, Lugal-Amarada, Maahes, Ma-banba-anna, Mademoiselle Charlotte, Maîtresse Délai, Maîtresse Hounon'gon, Maman Brigitte, Mamaragan, Mami, Mamlambo, Manawyddan, Mandulis, Mangar-kunjer-kunja, Marassa Jumeaux, Marduk, Maria Cacao, Maria Makiling, Maria Sinukuan, Marinette, Mars, Marzin, Matet boat, Mayari, Mbaba Mwana Waresa, Meditrina, Mehen, Melek, Memetona, Menthu, Merodach, Mider, Mielikki, Min , Molech, Mombu, Morrigu, Mounanchou, Mulu-hursang, Mu-ul-lil, Muzha , Na Tuk Kong, Nana Buluku, Naunet, Nebo, Nehebkau, Nergal, Nezha , Nga, Nin, Ninib, Ninigi-no-Mikoto, Nin-lil-la, Nin-man, Nio, Nirig, Ni-zu, Njirana, Nogomain, Nuada Argetlam, Numakulla, Num-Torum, Nusku, Nu'tenut, Nyyrikki, Odin, Ogma, Ogoun, Ogoun, Ogyrvan, Ohoyamatsumi, Ōkuninushi, Omoikane (Shinto), Ops, Osiris, Pa-cha, Pangu, Papa Legba, Peko, Perkele, Persephone, Petbe, Pie (loa), Pluto, Potina, Ptah, Pugu, Pundjel, Pwyll, Qarradu, Qebehsenuef, Qin Shubao, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun, Ra, Raijin, Randeng Daoren, Rauni , Resheph, Rigantona, Robigus, Royal Uncle Cao, Ryūjin, Saa, Sahi, Samas, Sarutahiko, Saturn, Sebek, Seker, Serapis, Sesmu, Shakpana, Shalem, Shangdi, Shango, Sharrab, Shen , Shennong, Shezmu, Shina-Tsu-Hiko, Simbi, Sin, Sirtumu, Sobek, Sobkou, Sōjōbō, Sokk-mimi, Sopdu, Sousson-Pannan, Statilinus, Suijin, Suiren, Suqamunu, Susanoo, Tagd, Taiyi Zhenren, Tala, Tam Kung, Tammuz, Tapio, Tenenet, Tengu, Tenjin, Theban Triad, Thoth, Ti Jean Quinto, Ti Malice, Tian, Ti-Jean Petro, Tilmun, Todote, Toko'yoto, Tomam, Tu Di Gong, Tu Er Shen, Tuonetar, Tuoni, Ubargisi, Ubilulu, U-dimmer-an-kia, Ueras, Ugayafukiaezu, U-ki, Ukko, UKqili, Umai, U-Mersi, Umvelinqangi, Ungud, Unkulunkulu, Ura-gala, U-sab-sib, Usiququmadevu, U-Tin-dir-ki, U-urugal, Vaisravana, Vaticanus, Vediovis, Vellamo, Venus, Vesta, Wadj-wer, Wen Zhong , Weneg, Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun, Wepwawet, Werethekau, Wollunqua, Wong Tai Sin, Wuluwaid, Xargi, Xaya Iccita, Xevioso, Xuan Wu , Yama, Yau, Yemaja, Youchao, Yuanshi Tianzun, Yuchi Jingde, Yunzhongzi, Zagaga, Zaraqu, Zer-panitu, Zhang Guifang, Zheng Lun, Zhongli Quan, Zhu Rong , Zonget.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • reddragon

      Zeus... don't forget him. Or Hades... or as another person said... Voldemort / Dumbledore

      October 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Eber

    The universe is unconscious living mathematics(mind) evolving to consciousness. Starting as infinite potential striving for infinite actualization.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  5. pbernasc

    yeah Satan's name is Scalia

    October 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  6. JB

    Why does it seem like the majority of readers of this blog are atheists? It seems that the majority of comments here below demand that only atheists make it to the Supreme Court.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • truthsayer

      I just don't want delusional people believing in unfounded, unproven, non-existing gods, to decide the laws of the land – is that so much to ask. Would you prefer Muslim Supreme Court Justices or Just Christian?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • JB

        I have no preference to which religion they hold, be it Muslim, Christian, or Atheist. It just seems to me that demanding that judges be atheist is contrary to civil liberties.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          I don't think anyone has said only atheists be on the SCOTUS but there is such a thing as separation of church and state.

          October 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • sam

      Not at all. It's moderation that's key – and this guy has never displayed that. We need less of this behavior in our officals and judges.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • JB

        This I can understand. If you disagree with his judgments or politics, sounds great- voice those opinions all you want. If you say "clearly he is incompetent to be a judge because he subscribes to Catholic beliefs", why do we bother having freedom of religion at all if believers continue to persecuted?

        October 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • sam

          Right, freedom of religion still applies, and that's fair. I just dread the idea that a person in power can wield it based only on his own worldview, and forget that the nation he affects is meant for everyone.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
        • JB

          I agree that a judge should always consider the impact their judgments have on the entire nation, and not view a case just from their own situation.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
        • Winking Demon

          It is not a matter of persecution. When a person seeks and accepts a role as a public official, and especially when they explicitly proclaim that their religious beliefs will be reflected in their public actions, then discussion of the improbability of their belief, or their certainty about things that no one can know, becomes legitimate public discourse. Remember Scalia once said (paraphrased) 'Every one thinks that death penalty cases are important, but we Christians on the court don't see them as significant. God will sort them out in the next life.'

          What Justice Scalia thinks about these matters profoundly affects his actions *as a public official*; it becomes our business.

          October 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  7. Reverand W.B. Telkal

    1) The majority of people DO NOT believe in the Devil; they have grown beyond that.
    2) The Devil, Satan, and Lucifer are all different beings from different cultures and backgrounds. So be sure to know who it is that you believe in.
    3) Many polls show that quite a few people that claim that they are Catholic/Christian is due to pressure from family/work/neighbors. Makes you think.
    4) I personally think that anyone that still believes in invisible beings that can control your thoughts, feelings and actions should not be in authoritive positions of any level.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  8. sam

    Jesus Christ, I was sure this was The Onion for a moment. This dumbass should never have been on the bench, anywhere. Park bench, maybe.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  9. ME II

    I agree with Scalia on one thing, why so shocked?

    If someone believes in God the devil is not a leap, but a baby step further.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I got the impression that the reporter was shocked that he was willing to say it so directly.

      In itself, the fact that Justice Scalia believes in the devil is quite unremarkable.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
      • ME II

        Perhaps you are right.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • truthsayer

      What if the so called Devil is so clever he is actually God? But of course, he would have to be God too if you are monotheistic - it really is all a bad comic story entrenched in our civilization.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Michael

    Since I am not a beliver, I don't believe in a devil or any other supernatural being. In my eyes, it's a cop out to blame your thoughts and actions on anything else, especially the supernatural. Take responsibility for your actions. Grow some bolts !! If anyone that has committed a crime says, "God told me to do it." or, "The devil made me do it" well, those people should be removed from the gene pool, posthaste, sanctioned with extreme prejudice.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  11. Live4Him

    So many people feel that everyone should have the same views as themselves. Why shouldn't everyone be forced to believe in Satan? After all, there are hundreds wanting to force their religious views upon Scalia.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Permiter of Ignorance

      Because there is no proof of a "Satan." We may as well believe in Zeus.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • sam

      Satan isn't necessary. The world already has assholes like you.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • hee hee

      Really? The poor supreme court judge is the one being oppressed?

      His judicial decisions are criticized because he is a judge and the US is nominally still a democracy.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  12. BJJSchecter

    I am scared now. And, it's not because of satan.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • reddragon


      October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  13. PushingBack

    This is an incredible weakness of the mind exhibited by a Supreme Court justice.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Didn't Scalia ever take a science class? Did he answer "god did it" to the questions on his test? How do these religious fools get appointed to the Supreme Court? I have so many questions.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
      • Matt

        Again, another moronic statement. For starters, he wasn't taking a science test. He was answering a question about his personal beliefs. Last I checked there is no screening process to make sure that a government official doesn't believe in something remotely similar to the rest of humanity. Please exercise intelligence in your arguments.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Matt

      You cannot be serious. You consider belief in the supernatural to be an "incredible weakness." Are you so self-serving & pompous as to think that anyone who believes in something transcendent is beneath you – that they somehow have a mind not as advanced as yourself. Do you realize that there have been – and are today – human beings who believed in God that happen also to be intelligent. It's okay if you don't personally believe in the supernatural. I do. But to be asinine enough to suggest that those who do are somehow beneath you – that's just stupid.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • sam

        Believing there's a devil that used to make pigs run off cliffs and now is messing with our heads in more modern ways is not transcendant. It's dangerous, delusional tripe, and indicative of more serious personality issues. You don't let people like this make major decisions if you want to survive.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
        • Matt

          It's the Bible, dude. Again, you may not buy what's in it – that's fine. But a considerable chunk of humanity has considered the book credible. Considering you are in the minority, perhaps it's you that has the "personality issue."

          Another reminder, most of the human race has believed in this sort of thing. Perhaps it's multiple gods – or 1 God – or evil spirits – or something. One way or another, it's supernatural – transcendent. And since you happen not to believe in anything, I'm sorry to say, you don't get the "privilege" of regulating what is acceptable and not acceptable to believe in.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
        • PushingBack

          Precisely! At some point, those that are able to discern fact from fiction need to stand up and be heard. And this matters to our survival, not just on a social scale but as a species and global ecosystem.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • Winking Demon

          True, "a considerable chunk of humanity has considered the book credible," but some of us have grown up. Come on along, and join the Reality Club. After all, many of us believed in Santa...

          October 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
      • PushingBack

        It absolutely is a horrible weakness of the mind showing that it is unable to discern reality from fantasy. A person's desire for it to be real does not make it any more so. Faith does not make it more real either. Your inability to conclude that life is finite does not make it infinite. The anger in your response only shows an emotional investment in your particular construct. There is no emptiness found in my life because of a lack of faith, but in stark contrast I find it more purposeful to know that the randomness of all the variables needed makes my contribution even more important. People are made less valuable by religions that teach man was created and can be destroyed by an greater power over and over again. If it's not right, send a flood to destroy it and build an ark.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Matt seems to think that it's okay for believers to be pompous and think nonbelievers are beneath them, but not the other way round. Sounds hypocritical to me.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  14. hee hee

    See, the author of the Holy Trollers article implied that atheists are by definition trolls (because they have a category to themself!) We were chided for many things, including our assumed superiority.

    Here we have a supreme court judge who believes in the friggin' boogeyman. How do you respond politely to this? "Umm... excuse me kind sir, but I believe that you are mistaken about the existence of Satan. Let us engage in careful tabulation of the reasons for and against believing in him". It doesn't work, and here's why: because it's just plain and simple silly.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • sam

      He didn't take well to the reporter looking at him strangely. He certainly wouldn't deal with being debated.

      He looks so damn bad in this that I wouldn't be surprised if he was quietly encouraged to retire sooner rather than later. It's one thing to believe what he does...and another to spout it and make the whole court look insane.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  15. LeRoy_Was_Here

    Funny. I think Antonin Scalia is the devil. Or at least one of Dick Cheney's minions.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Ricky

    And this guy made it to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Unbelievable!

    No wonder why we are facing so many problems. People like him would have us go back to the dark ages if they got their way.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  17. 60minuteman

    Apparently Scalia the magnificent, doesn't believe in separation of church and state. No wonder he makes such horrendous "legal" decisions.....

    October 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  18. nitrous

    Maybe Satan can convince Scalia to run off a cliff as well.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  19. John

    Scalia is correct.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • PushingBack

      You can believe in the devil while I believe in Voldemort.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
      • reddragon

        lol... i worship dumbledore. Let's start that religion please:)

        October 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
        • PushingBack

          Sorry, I will not be converted away from McGonagallism. It is the one true faith! 😉

          October 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • sam

      Sadly, he's right about only one thing:

      'Pope Francis is "absolutely" right about the church needing to concentrate more on mercy and outreach than on fighting the culture wars.'.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  20. xirume

    Recall this senile fossil now. We need intelligent, pragmatic people on the S.C., not believers of mumbo jumbo.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
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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.