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. Joan

    Scalia should be fired for incompetence in logic. It's that simple. What a moron.

    October 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  2. Traffic

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: You can know either the position or the momentum of an atomic particle but never both simultaneously. It's impossible. Oh my gosh, science can’t know everything. Science is not all knowing. Heisenberg got the Nobel Prize for this.

    October 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Colin

      Your point being....?

      October 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Science never makes the claim of being all-knowing. That kind of arrogance is reserved for religion.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
      • matt

        some of us talk like science is our god. if you cant prove it using science they reject it.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          What reason would you have to believe something without any science backing it up?

          October 8, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • tony

      The HUP is being tested currently and may be discarded as not correct.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
      • Traffic

        Fascinating. Can you provide a link to your news report? I would actually like to read it.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Sara

      lol...if you think scientists are claiming they can know everything you have comletely missed the point.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  3. Nogods

    I am thinking that if we put an Amber Alert out for the devil that Scalia is certain exists and is walking among us, we can catch the sneaky bas – tard.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Traffic

      What do you think of Obama? He believes that Jesus died for your sins and resurrected?

      October 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
      • Rett

        You know I have never heard an athiest speak critically of Obama when he has stated on more than one occasion his belief in God and Christs death for mankind. The atheists seem very selective in who they term uneducated, myth-believing bafoons.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
        • Brett

          You fit the description well, Rett.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
        • Joan

          Rett, what is a "bafoon"? And why are Christians so ignorant and stupid, generally?

          October 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          Maybe he just wants to sound good to the 75% of crazy Christians out there.

          He was brought up in a secular home, and I wouldn't doubt that he was just faking it.

          Let's way until his terms are over.

          October 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  4. Dana

    There's nothing wrong with holding elected office and harboring irrational beliefs that are based on faith instead of evidence. After all, in a Democracy, the religious should have religious people representing them. However, there IS an issue with harboring irrational beliefs that are based on faith instead of evidence when you are appointed to an office that explicitly requires you to come to decisions based soley on the basis of hard evidence and unyielding logic. The fact that Scalia adamantly thinks- on ZERO evidence- that a "devil person" exists who actively afflicts and wracks the minds of the Americans is very chilling because it suggests that his rational faculties are compromised. This casts considerable doubt as to whether he is capable of doing justice to his most solemn position on the bench.

    It doesn't matter that this catastrophic suspension of reason and logic on his part is occurring in his personal life. Logic, reason, and respect for evidence is a skill, not an opinion, and therefore he is inadequately equipped for his post. If someone is bad at arithmetic while assembling a bookshelf at home, they aren't going to suddenly be good at arithmetic when they go to work.

    And what's more, Scalia proudly declares that lack of evidence for the devil is, in fact, the strongest evidence! That's like saying that the absence of ninjas in a room is in fact evidence that ninjas are there (since ninjas are too skillful in the arts of stealth to be seen!) Scalia clearly doesn't have a thorough understanding of the nature of facts and evidence.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Colin

      Great post Dana.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • AE

      "harboring irrational beliefs that are based on faith instead of evidence."

      That is an opinion. It is quite rational to believe in God if you have evidence. Faith is complete trust and confidence in something or someone (God). Not belief with no evidence as you imagine.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • Colin

        You do realize that you just contradicted yourself twice in three sentences, right?

        October 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • AE

          No. God is real. There is evidence for belief in His existence. Just because you can't or won't see the evidence does not make this untrue.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
        • Fallacy Spotting 101

          Post by 'AE' contains an instance of the Secret Decoder Ring fallacy.


          October 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
        • AE

          No secret decoder ring needed.

          You can have a great logical mind. Or you can have a more imaginative mind. But both can find God.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
        • huey long

          agreed. point being. so, i'm thinking show ME the evidence

          October 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • huey long


          October 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
        • huey long

          You do realize that you just contradicted yourself twice in three sentences, right?


          October 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • huey long

          You do realize that you just contradicted yourself twice in three sentences, right?

          AGREED. POINT BEING DODO AIN'T GOD.Just the Facts Ma'am...

          What reason would you have to believe something without any science backing it up?


          October 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        And what evidence is there for a god?

        October 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
        • curly

          curly lived.

          ask cheesecake!

          October 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
        • AE

          What kind of evidence are you looking for?

          October 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          Something that can only be explained by the existence of a god. So it must not rely on fallacies (arguments from incredulity, circular logic, appeals to emotion, self-fulfilling prophecies, or shifting the burden of proof for example). I've asked this before. No one's ever been able to answer without resorting to fallacies.

          October 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          Further, it must be verifiable. That means anecdotes are right out.

          October 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Rett

      Are you suggesting then that only avowed athiests are fit to serve in the judiciary? That would have disqualified some of our greatest jurists.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
      • Colin

        Fortunately, in most areas, the religious can quarantine their irrationality to their particular belief. Only in areas of morality do their superst.itions tend to bleed over into general decision making. HEnce his animosity for gay people.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "harboring irrational beliefs that are based on faith instead of evidence when you are appointed to an office that explicitly requires you to come to decisions based solely on the basis of hard evidence and unyielding logic."

      I believe it's worse than that. It's more like hiring employees (Congress, Senate, President are all our employees, they are supposed to work for us and we fire them if they don't) for your FedEx like airline shipping company that applied to your company because they have firm ties with the railroads and want to put the airlines out of the shipping business. Why would anyone hire someone to run their government that believes someday soon they will get whisked away in some rapture leaving the cluster flock behind? What motivates them to work for better governance if they ultimately are wishing their personal God would take over? Same thing applies to the republicans with their desire to shrink the government to the size you can drown it in the bathtub when the rest of us actual want a government that actually works and is accountable and transparent. And to get a government to actually work you have to hire people who believe in it and continue to fix it when things break down, not take it out back like a wounded horse to be put down.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        actually I thought i deleted two of those actuallys 🙁 ....

        October 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Bobby Fantasm

      Best Post Award 🙂

      I hope someone of some importance regarding this un-hinged chap's career reads what you, ever so succinctly, just typed 🙂

      October 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Like!


      October 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Colin

    We atheists should take note of this. This guy is one of the most senior jurists i nthe country. If somebody as accopmlished as him can subordinate his common sense to childish, supernatural bullsh.it because it is called "religion," we have a lot of work to do with Joe Average!!

    October 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      My thoughts exactly. I'm both disturbed and inspired by him outing himself. I mean, on one hand you've got the Judicial equivalent of President professing to the world he believes in fairy tales. On the other hand, we've got all this crazy out on paper for the world to see. Certainly a lot of his decisions make more sense with this in mind. He clearly has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Traffic

      What do you think of Obama? He believes that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
      • GodFreeNow

        Personally, I think Obama is just a delusional for believing in fairy tales.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
        • Traffic

          Thank you. At least you hold people to the same standard.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      I'm less concerned he has religious beliefs then that he's using religious beliefs to justify bigotry.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  6. Nogods

    Teach your kids science, they learn how to send astronauts to space. Teach your kids religion, they learn how to blow people's legs off with pressure cooker bombs.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • AE

      “They say there’s no atheists in foxholes, but there’s probably no atheists in rockets,” said Col. Mike Good (astronaut!)

      October 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
      • AE

        Religious objects—crosses, Bibles, icons, prayer cards—are among the most common personal items taken into space, according to James Hartsfield (Johnson Space Center spokesperson).

        October 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Traffic

      Look, I’m no scientist so when scientists say the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/sec and that the distance from the earth to the moon is on average 384,400 km I take them at their word. The scientist that taught me physics never actually verified these truths himself; someone else told him. I believe scientists when they witness to the things they know, the material world. And I believe in Jesus when He witnesses to the things He knows, the things of God.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        "Look, I’m no scientist"

        "I've studied science my whole life. I have a doctorate in medical science. "


        October 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Traffic

      Can you disprove an immaterial God using material measurements? Science is only one form of knowledge. It is simply the measurement of material objects interacting with material objects. It will forever be an incomplete form of knowledge. Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty proves this. Also, the scientific method itself is built on the limitations of experiments. You cannot have an infinite number of experiments, therefore scientific knowledge can never cross the threshold of absolute knowledge. I love science and think its great. But science will never be able to accurately measure that love.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • AE

        Science does not lead everyone to atheism.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
        • Traffic

          I've studied science my whole life. I have a doctorate in medical science. And I agree with what you say. I believe in God.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
        • Colin

          Look Traffic, working the midnight shift at Brooklyn General emptying the garbage bins full of soiled surgical dressings does not make you a doctor, ok.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • Traffic

          Funny Colin. Maybe we'll meet someday in the ER. I will be there for you man!

          October 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • AE

          Do you think Colin can recognize the positive contributions people who believe in God add to his life? Or does he simply imagine he generates all those good things?

          October 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        The burden of proof is not on those who do not believe in a god.

        October 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        You can't have it both ways. Your god can't both be "immaterial", and yet have the ability to cause material changes in our universe. These affects that he supposedly has on our plane of reality should be detectable, observable, and measurable.

        It's convenient to say he transcends science, but the only true way that he can transcend science is by not existing.

        October 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Traffic

      The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: You can know either the position or the momentum of an atomic particle but never both simultaneously. It's impossible. Oh my gosh, science can’t know everything. Science is not all knowing. Heisenberg got the Nobel Prize for this.

      October 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        Who claimed science is all knowing?

        October 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        and your pathetic book does? LMAO

        October 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        So... I guess that's no one.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  7. tony

    Just saw the report on adult reading, knowledge, intelligence around the world – The US was particularly low scoring. So I guess Scalia is a regular US guy. 🙁

    October 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  8. Nogods

    Denying evolution is like insisting that the Earth is flat.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  9. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Ouch. Suppression of legitimate speech hurts. But not too much.

    Again, my opinion of Scalia is that he is more interested in bringing his beliefs to the bench, including his belief in an actual Devil, than in giving the people equal recourse to the law.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  10. GodFreeNow

    Seek help.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  11. Answer


    October 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  12. EnjaySea

    Well, one good thing anyway. They don't do background checks before allowing someone to post.

    October 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  13. dorianmattar

    I can't believe we nominate humans that are this INSANE.

    October 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Lol oh boy, if you thought one supreme court justice being a catholic was bad, what will you do when you find out every President since Herbert Hoover (plus all leaders in American business, industry, entertainment, and politics) has attended druidic a mock human sacrifice ritual at Bohemian Grove, lol. Or that America was founded by the ultimate mystical society, the Freemasons.

      I honestly can't beleive people are so surprised that American leaders are spiritual and believe in MANY different and whacky forms of spirituality from catholicism to straight up witchcraft. Don't worry though, the rest of the world leaders believe in stuff just as kooky (if not kookier.) It's a whacky world man, no one ever said the world was orderly and logical. Though I personally don't mind, it makes things interesting.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        lol, you might be right.

        But it's 2013 for Pete's sake!

        October 8, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
        • Anonymous

          Lol sadly I am right, part of me wishes I weren't cause besides a concept of evil, most of this stuff is jsut dumb lol. Hey though, I don't make the belief systems, I just research them. Lol it is 2013, what's that have to do with anything? Heck since the New Age spirituality movement of the 60s things have gotten even crazier in the spiritual landscape.

          Heck the elites and their not so super secret magical societies aside, the common folk is into some pretty crazy stuff in 2013 lol. Now we got UFO cults, alien worshippers, yoga at all time popularity (yoga is funny enough a hindu practice meant to yoke the soul to the hindu gods), meditation (another hindu and buddhist technique meant to literally open yourself up to spirits lol), reiki, wicca,blatant occult/satanic symbols and messages literally everywhere in mainstream hollywood, scientology, so many UFO sightings that now UFOs cannot even be denied or explained off as military tests (but they still haven't told you what they are yet lol) etc. etc.

          Lol, like I said, its a whacky world, especially in Western Civilization. Though like I also said, it makes things interesting, so in a way its quite a fascinating time to be alive.

          October 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Bobby

    so many gods, so little time

    October 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  15. Apple Bush

    Sadly, we lost a family cat recently and had one of those "backyard burials". My 6 children all looked up at me with bleary wet eyes and asked the same question. If animals don't have a soul, how will fluffy go to kitty heaven? Why don't we eat her so the protein is not wasted, thus shrinking our footprint and helping the planet?

    October 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • ?

      I assume the children were not old enough to be told about pu$sy heaven, AB.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Girls. Six goddamn girls.

        October 8, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          And still you say it's Catholics who hate women. How sad

          October 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • ?

          AB, I understand the conundrum.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • OKfine

          BD a person that has six children is not afraid of women. Now an uptight s*xually repressed fellow like yourself is more than likely still afraid of women over that early incident. The RCC is a convenient place for the s*xually confused to hide.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          Thanks question mark.

          Bill, what in god's name would you have done? Do YOU have six girls??

          October 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      "How is this for a solution ladies?", I asked. I then set about digging a hole, skinning and wrapping the kitty in banana leaves and cooking her for three hours with hot coals and a banana leaf canopy. She was sumptuous AND we still got to have our funeral. The girls were thrilled (and full!)

      October 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Bacteria

        We are still having a party in your intestines. Thanks much!

        October 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  16. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    You know, thinking about religion, which lays out how one should live, what one should believe, etc., it makes sense that a lot of people believe. It just makes life easier – do these things and you won't have this set of rewards, but you won't have this other set of problems. Belief really is about not wanting to have turbulence in one's life.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • AE

      I used to imagine it was like that, too. Turns out I was wrong.

      October 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Yeah, you're right, and that's when the next bit of the mechanism comes into play – when things are not going well, you're being tested. Submit, but don't question.

        October 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
        • AE

          I imagined that, too! And then learned I was wrong about that, too.

          October 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  17. Colin

    I have never understood the whole idea of the devil. Why do Christians believe he wants to lead human beings away from God and into hell? What's in it for him?

    October 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I would say vengeance, wrath, misery, perfidy, debasement, perversion.

      October 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Sounds like the god of the bible to me. Maybe god's biggest trick is convincing people that he is "good" and the other guy is the devil.

        October 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          I understand your problem. You can't tell one from the other.

          October 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
        • ME II

          Book of Job

          October 8, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • OKfine

        As a lesser Demon BD is an expert on these things.

        October 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • ?

        Sounds more like you are describing the qualities of many of the popes.

        October 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      The real question is why the Christian church invented the Satan character, and his eternal barbeque. Take a look at the money being raked in every week in those collection plates, and that will give you your first clue.

      For example, Mormons, with a wink and a nudge, call tithing "fire insurance".

      If you don't believe, and go to church, and share your wealth with us, you'll go to Hell. Pretty good incentive, if you don't have the sophistication to see through the ruse.

      October 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Traffic

      Misery loves company

      October 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Robert Brown


      He know his time is short and he is mad. He's going to take as many as he can with him. Sound familiar?
      Revelation 12

      October 8, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
      • dorianmattar

        He knows his time is short? Where have I heard that one before?

        Oh yeah, a million times from people who insist the world is about to end and they are in every corner instead of the insane asylum.

        What is so difficult to understand that the bible is just an ancient book written by ignorant men?

        October 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          I was refering to these mass killing where the nut kills as many as he can before he dies.

          October 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
      • sam stone

        yep, annnnnny time now, jeebus is coming annnny time now

        no one ever accused born againers of being rational

        October 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  18. Bible Clown©

    Well, the Devil may or may not exist, but I think we can all agree that Scalia is a waste of human skin.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  19. Traffic

    Remind me why this is news? So Scalia believes in the tenets of his faith. So what. Obama believes that Jesus resurrected.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  20. Colin

    What the believer who says "atheists favors the devil's desires" misses is that we atheists don't believe in Satan any more than we believe in God. Big daddy baddie is every bit as silly and childish as big daddy goodie!

    The two characters are both lifted straight out of ancient mythology that we reject.

    October 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


      October 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
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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.