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. Imma Annoid

    At this point, all that can be done is remove him from the Supreme Court because he is clearly mentally ill. I don't see how someone of any intelligence and sanity can have such beliefs.

    It is very sad to see someone that should be respected have a mental illness. I hope he can get help.

    October 11, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      If you could just get personal religious beliefs declared a high crime or misdemeanor you'd have it made. I don't see how anyone with any intelligence or sanity could have such ideas.

      October 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • sam stone

        yet, you believe that a spirit knocked up a virgin to give birth to himself to sacrifice himself for "sins" he KNEW we were going to do before we were born

        where is that freewill, bill?

        October 12, 2013 at 4:20 am |
        • sam stone

          Come on, Billy Boy.....can you answer the question, or do you just disappear like the other pious christians who run from logic?

          October 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Mohammed

      You are a nut case! You don't exist! Prove to me you exist objectively (and I won't take your biased delusional testimony serious because you are a figment of a poor delusional weak mind). I demand proof! I won't consider any evidence that contradicts what I allready believe because I am a rational unbeliever!

      October 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • i


        October 12, 2013 at 9:02 am |
      • ploj

        Prove to me love exists. Right now.

        October 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Comment

        You rock Mo! And you're right. Of course there is one problem... I think I exist but do not think you exist. I can only prove to myself that I exist (most days).

        October 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Who else believes in Satan? Obama, Biden, 50+% of Congress and 67 % of the general population.

      October 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • Regarding Satan

        "Satan" translation "adversity" or "enemy". Could be anything ie: "That woman is the devil".

        October 13, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  2. Wow

    this is in response to rebecca burkwalter-poza opinion story asking us atheists to not belittle scalia because of his belief in the red horned boogey man. at the end of the story she asks us to respect their right to believe. well Becky.... when have the religious nuts ever respected anybody else's right to believe something different? lets not even mention the muslims and their "if you're not like me you should die" jihad philosophy. lets go straight to the christians who "love" their fellow man. walk up to a christian and tell them you are an atheist. see what reaction you get. go back to 1950, tell a christian you are an atheist and see what reaction you get. go back to 1650, tell a christian you are an atheist, see what reaction you get. a beheading maybe. read jerry dewitts book, see what reaction he got. you see becky? christians have rode their high horse long enough. its high time that christians stop believing that their way is the only way. its high time christians take their belief to church and keep them away from public places such as the supreme bench. now that the table is turned on you, you cant start whining "just let us alone". thats all we atheists have ever wanted. leave us, the public, alone. get away from our governments, get away from our schools, take your ridiculois belief into private and keep them there. atheist are not on the offensive, we are just now beginning to be on the defensive. after 1500 years of christian bullying its going to be a very long time before we atheists catch up to you, and i doubt we ever will. so as to your request to respect scalia's belief in the boogey man. i say no. i will give no respect in that belief because it deserves no respect. if you want intellectual respect then you must earn it.

    October 11, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Ace

      Maybe check spelling and hit return so people can read...

      October 11, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • james

      why depict it as a "red horned" creature when everyone in North Carolina believes it is blue and runs around trying to put a ball in a basket with no bottom.

      October 11, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  3. Corey

    religion, lol

    October 11, 2013 at 6:26 am |

    God is real and Satan is Real .http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g200702/who-is-satan-is-he-real/
    for more information visit http://www.jw.org

    October 11, 2013 at 5:03 am |
    • Tom

      No. They are not real.

      October 11, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • Karl

      You are nuts just like Scalia. Anyone who isn't blinded by faith can see that religion tears people apart instead of bringing them together. That is the only true evil in this world.

      October 11, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, a website

      i am sure convinced

      go home, boy

      get your fvcking shinebox

      October 11, 2013 at 10:56 am |
      • Mohammed

        You are a nut case! You don't exist! Prove to me you exist objectively (and I won't take your biased delusional testimony serious because you are a figment of a poor delusional weak mind). I demand proof! I won't consider any evidence that contradicts what I allready believe because I am a rational unbeliever!

        October 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
        • sam stone

          i don't really care whether you believe i exist. i will not punish you forever for disbelief. nor am i an omniscient being who knew of your disbelief before you were born

          October 12, 2013 at 4:24 am |
  5. Topaz

    Yes, he is real. He does many terrible things in this world but he is a defeated foe awaiting his eternal destination. You see he was defeated at the Cross when Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose in the third day. Jesus defeated the strongholds of sin Satan had on humanity. Only through repentance(turning from our sin) , faith and belief in Jesus Christ are we saved from eternal torment and given eternal life.

    October 11, 2013 at 4:55 am |
    • dorianmattar

      Go take your medication and really think about everything you just wrote.

      You know, like why do you use this christ as an escape goat for your mistakes.
      Why did jesus have to die a bloody death for your sins?
      Why couldn't jesus just forgive you?
      Why does your god need a horrible place with eternal punishment, specially for small things like working to save a child on SUNDAY?
      Why doesn't your god simply kill the devil and get it over with?
      Why did your god create satan in the first place if he already KNEW that he would turn on him?

      So take the meds and also think about why you like to believe that fantasies are real.

      October 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  6. bootyfunk

    i think atheists who oppose gaaa marriage should be banned from engaging in atheist rallies and from voting

    October 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Devil's advocate

      Are there any? If so I can't imagine their reasoning.

      October 10, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
      • rick

        there have been such people posting on here who do. they simply hate gays

        October 12, 2013 at 4:28 am |
  7. regenesis0

    Every Catholic I see desperately proclaiming that "Pope Francis hasn't changed anything!" and trying to reinterpret his statements to to "really" mean their narrow worldview us right has seemed like a sad relic of the past intent on inflicting pain on the future for leaving them behind.
    Scalia is no exception.

    October 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  8. Believer

    D.S. You are a fool who has no idea about life, it's purpuse and what's the meaning of it all. I guess some people come to this world, breathe the air and exist for a while and leave as ignorant beasts! But I guess many do it these days. The wise are minority of the few.... You're not an isolated case, by all means!

    October 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • el dono

      You sound lost.

      October 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • SaltAndLight

      Seriously? If you know something the rest of us can profit from, share.

      October 10, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  9. scott page

    That pompous, delusional fool needs to be impeached.

    October 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  10. Leftcoastrocky

    Satan: Scalia is real

    October 10, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  11. Bob

    The Devil is alive and is in the White House with the alias of OBAMA.

    October 10, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Right, all the woes of the world are the fault of the scary, scary black man with the funny, funny name.

      Your comment only served to let us know what "team" you're on, and that's about it.

      October 10, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • somethingstellar

      Oh yeah. Cause the Bible totally depicts Satan as a fan of affordable health care.

      October 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Max

      Another Chicken Little "sky is falling" Tea Partier without a clue.

      October 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Steve

      Not a fan of brown-skinned, left-wing proponents of charity and universal healthcare, huh?

      Guess that means you're not a big Jesus fan.

      October 11, 2013 at 3:41 am |
  12. Pool of Siloam

    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."

    Sadly, the devil continues to do the same things today, the possessed don't realize what possessed them anymore, they are in an altered state of mind either by drugs, alcoholism or sophism and the like.

    October 10, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Josiah

      Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter.

      October 10, 2013 at 8:10 am |
      • dorianmattar

        Delusional and mentally ill you are.

        October 10, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That's why I heed the advice of the Angel Azarias in the Book of Tobit and keep a generous supply of fish innards in my house at all times.
      "The heart and liver (of a fish) can be burned and used to chase away a demon or an evil spirit that is tormenting someone. The attacks will stop immediately, and the person will never be troubled again."

      Now that right there is practical advice from a source you can trust!
      Plus, you can cure glaucoma by rubbing the fish's gall bladder directly on the eyeball according to the Angel.

      October 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • dorianmattar

      No we don't bother with your ridiculous devil, we are to busy building a better world.

      From the internet to satellites, we build, while you want it all to end.

      Why don't you do us all a favor and take your self out?

      October 10, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Allen

        And sorry to inform you, but that is all going to burn away with fervent heat also. As will the earth and all the glory of man. Man and his witty inventions.lol.

        October 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
        • somethingstellar

          Sure it will. When the sun expands and goes supernova in a few billion years. But by that point we will be elsewhere.

          October 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          That's strange, Jesus apparently said the same thing to his apostles 2 THOUSAND YEARS AGO and yet HERE WE ARE!

          What kool aid is that you guys drink? Let your doctor know what you are drinking to help you with your medication.

          October 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • confuse-cius

      there is a blurry line between..."the devil made me do it" and "i have bipolar disorder"...example
      – i steal 401k money from thousands of people in pozi scheme >> the devil made me do it
      – i have mistresses on the side >> bipolar

      October 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Oh, okay. He doesn't do that much anymore because he's smart. So... why did he do it back then? Wasn't he smart back then?

      October 10, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        And I suppose your god got really smart in the interim as well, and that's why he never shows his face either.

        October 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  13. Lucifer Moloch McSatan

    Wow. This politician is a nutjob.

    Eat more burgers.

    October 10, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • A cow

      I have a face, and a nervous system just like you. Eat more veggies.

      October 10, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  14. Patrick

    Scalia ought to know. He signed a contract with him.

    October 10, 2013 at 4:23 am |
  15. Yuck

    The only God that I believe on is the living God of creation..

    October 10, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • Tom

      What does that even mean? What religious person doesn't think that? Muslims, Janes, Hindus think the same thing. The Greeks believed Prometheus created humans.

      October 10, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  16. Dave Green

    I'm no anti-theist. If someone believes in gods that's their business. We all apply meaning to our own lives and far be it from me to tell someone else what meaning they should apply to theirs.

    However, if your world view requires you to demonize anyone who disagrees with you in order for it to make sense, I'd suggest you rethink it. Something is askew if that is the case.

    October 10, 2013 at 3:27 am |
  17. mandarax

    I dream of a day when a literal belief in a magic invisible bogey man would disqualify someone from being in a position of making important rational decisions on behalf of other people.

    October 10, 2013 at 1:28 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.