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. Jack M

    Too bad Scalia doesn't even know his Bible. Satan was an angel whom Jesus banished from Heaven. Angels are not people, and people are not angels. Therefore, Satan is not and never was a person.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • B

      In the philosophical sense, "person" can mean any "self-conscious or rational being." In fact, the core belief regarding the Holy Trinity is that there are three Divine Persons in one Godhead. If we can refer personhood to the Father and the Holy Spirit, why can it not be extended to (fallen) angels?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  2. Lionly Lamb


    October 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  3. Michael Carrillo

    Call me Satan's minion— The separation of church and state, certainly takes a back seat to the separation of sanity and delusion. This is the reason why Justices should NOT be awarded LIFETIME positions on the bench. Time to retire this crazy old man. Geez.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  4. Pal 3

    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

    LOL! This guy is a poster child for being a "sheeple" what an ignoramus 🙂 GO ATHEISTS !! enough already with these creepy monotheists and their pagan idols, time for some sanity...

    October 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  5. JJ

    This scares the shit out of me that such a powerful man who determines our laws believes in demons and sky gods and fairies.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Jane


      October 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Mark

    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 can not 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 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • The Man

      Wow, look at all those trees! I don't see a forest, but there sure are a LOT of trees!

      October 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
      • Mark

        You are The Man!

        October 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Pastor

      Great comment, Mark!

      October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • APIA

      Anti-matter is not a 'material object' and is studied by science no? Maybe god is not a thing, or someone, but just an idea in which a philosophy/theology is built around? You can prove or disprove an idea can't you?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
      • Mark

        Anti-matter is of the material world just like magnetism.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Christian theology says that its god is immaterial, but logic says it is certainly material.

      The god of dogma purportedly answers prayers by making physical changes to our world (pulling Johnny out of the pond so he doesn't drown, changing someone's body so they don't die of cancer, causing people to walk on water - that sort of thing). This god therefore, at a minimum, intersects with our world, and makes material changes. These miraculous changes should be detectable, measurable, and observable. This god doesn't escape our reality, or the grasp of science.

      I'm suspending all belief in the creature until these effects are detected.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Mark

        Read about Catholic mystics such as Padre Pio, St. John Vianney, or about Fatima, and Medjugorje,

        October 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  7. say what13

    You gotta be kidding me. This guy is a lunatic. Next he is going to have dinner with Santa Claus. And we wonder why
    America is turning into a giant joke. He's a Supreme Court Justice. If someone was to say this is in his court they would be laughed out of the courtroom.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Redrum

    I like deviled eggs. Is that bad?

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


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

      So long as you don't hatch them...

      October 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  9. Universe

    In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    “By the fig and the olive.
    Mount Sinai.
    And this honored town (Mecca).”* 95:1-3

    *95:1-3 The fig, olive, Sinai and Mecca possibly symbolize Adam, Jesus, Moses, Abraham and Muhammad, respectively. Thus, all major religions are represented.

    “We created man in the best design.
    Then turned him into the lowliest of the lowly.
    Except those who believe and lead a righteous life; they receive a reward that is well deserved.
    Why do you still reject the faith?
    Is God not the Most Wise, of all the wise ones?” 95:4-8

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Catholics are not Christians, but they play them on Sundays...


      October 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • juanmoretime

        All who believe in christ, regardless of denomination are CHRISTIAN.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • juanmoretime

      I am sorry, as a christian, your religion considers me an infidel (dihmmi) and is not a religion that is tolerant of others, otherwise you would have christian churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia. Those christians who live in moslem countries are being heavily persecuted if not killed by your religion of peace, you are even killing your own co-religionists. Thanks, but no thanks.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  10. coderjones

    like religion itself
    scalia is unbelievable

    October 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  11. gino

    Get thee behind me, Scalia!

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

      And our president. He believes in Jesus!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    believing in the devil is just as silly as believing in god or santa or the tooth fairy.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  13. CP in FL

    Anyone that believes in fictional magic beings should be removed from any government position, especially the Supreme Court. Does Scalia also believe in the Tooth Fairy because there is the same amount of evidence for the Tooth Fairy as there is for god's existence, none. When you actually talk to a religious person and have them explain what they believe in it sounds like they exist in an alternate reality, and they do. There is no evidence of any god, therefore god does not exist.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG


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

      Sure there is evidence that there is a God. What there isn't is proof. Ironically, there is also evidence for evolution, what there isn't is proof (that is why it is still a theory and not scientific law). One believes what one wants to believe and one discards what one wants to discard. Today, no one knows a fact that hasn't been already interpreted for them.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • CP in FL

        There is plenty of scientific evidence of evolution. Evolution is a theory that is generally accepted as fact. Gravity is also a theory, but I bet you believe in gravity right? There is ZERO evidence of any god. That is why they call it faith, because there is no evidence. If you say that god exists then prove it? Can you provide one piece of scientific evidence. I didn't think so.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • juanmoretime

      If you've ever been in combat, with bullets and shrapnel flying all over the place, believe me, you pray to God.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • The Man

        Yes, fear creates many distractions.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
      • Verimius

        Juanmoretime, take some time to read about MAAF, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. There ARE atheists in foxholes.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • m0r0n

        Then why do they bother to wear bulletproof vests? Those things are uncomfortable and expensive.

        November 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          Exactly! But I think that's going to go flying right over their heads... no pun intended...

          November 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  14. rick nagy

    Is this guy out of his mind? He is making decisions that will impact society? This is why this country is so screwed up! Does Scalia believe in Harry Potter as well?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  15. JustASec

    YES! Scalia is confirmed as a religious zealot. That's why we get stranger than fiction rulings from him.
    Another reason judges shouldn't have jobs for life. And certainly, a guy like this should not be addressed as "supreme". Guh.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  16. realist

    Scalia IS the devil

    October 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Luiz Penalva

    The Devil exists. The proof is that he put Scalia in the Supreme Court.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  18. KevininPHX

    This. I swear, sometimes I feel like I'm living in a freaking cartoon. How is this even possible?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • rick nagy

      Kevin, I agree. Where have we gone as a society?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • joeknockz

      How is it possible that a supreme justice believes in Good and Evil? Believes in God and Satan? You do realize that the majority of humans believe the same right? Do you understand that if you do not YOU are the minority. YOU are the weird one so to speak. Don't be so shocked.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
      • 4th&26

        So was the first person to say that the world was round...what a weirdo!!

        October 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  19. AvdBerg

    The devil is a reference to the natural spirit of mankind (John 8:43-45). For better understanding of the spirit of darkness that controls all of mankind, we invite you to read the article 'Who is God and who is Satan' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    We also invite you to read John 8:43-45. It explains why mankind in his natural state is unable to hear or understand spiritual truth

    All the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I prefer not to visit your website and be deceived into buying your book. But nice try.

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

      I was confused, but now that I have been to your site, it is completely clear to me. There is a book which explains Satan, and therefore he exists. Now that I know that I can move on to the next question. I hope there's a book for that question too.

      It sure would be nice if there were a book for all questions. Then I wouldn't have to do all this hard looking and thinking. Phew.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  20. Freedom Fascist

    This is scary stuff America...WAKE UP!

    October 7, 2013 at 3:08 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.