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. Fixin To in VA

    It's unbelievable that this man can have so much impact on our lives. Religion is a crutch man made to explain things he couldn't understand. To say the bible or Koran are the word of god is laughable. Man wrote those words. That's not to say there are not parts of each one that a person can use to influence how you live and how you treat people. Cutting off the heads of infidels wouldn't be my first choice. Live and let live.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  2. Derek M

    I know many atheists and they are all good people. Atheists have lower divorce rates than ANY religion. Atheists have morals – you hardly need religion to be a good person. In fact, I've met far more ugly, hypocritical religious people than atheists in my life.
    Scalia is an ignorant fool if he really believes his own discriminatory words.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Topher

      Are you an atheist?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • Derek M


        October 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • sam

        It makes zero difference, Topher. Quit fishing.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • ?

        Topher are you a fool and a coward, sam says so? The land of Nod, East of Eden where all the hot broads lived ask Cain.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
        • Topher


          You leave my good friend Sam out of this. He's my own personal heckler.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
        • ?

          Topher who named the land of Nod, Adam and Eve or god himself, Cain got lucky there you know.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  3. Alger Dave

    Scalia is awesome and we'll miss him on the court. The media, and their minions in Hollywood, Berkeley/SF, NY and elsewhere along the coasts do see the center of the country as populated with idiots! It's true that they do. And religion is practiced by morons, unless you're Native American or practice some strange and thinly held beliefs. Then it's awe inspiring. Their philosophies are 'widely held' but shallower than Lake Erie in August. 'Higher-power' forbid that someone like Scalia should espouse such a backwards way of thinking (never mind that the vast majority of mankind has and does believe in God) and be in the Supreme Court no less. The Devil? Believing in God is bad enough, but the devil? Curiously, with the plethora of horror films out there about the nasty dude himself, you'd think more Americans believed in the devil than God! He certainly gets more airtime.

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

      I see him walking around my neighborhood every year around this time, the devil that is. Curiously, he's usually hanging out with a Disney character.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • sam

        Yeah...almost always the princesses. That dog.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  4. jeffmarkunas

    Of course there's a Devil – His Last Name is Scalia – Right?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • OKfine

      Alright, but don't forget our lesser Demon, Bill Deacon.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • .

        Should be fun when he weighs in on this.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  5. joncraft84

    Everywhere you look you can find some part of the devil and some part of Christ itself. When Christ is there the devil is also there. The devil and Christ have an ongoing war and anybody that denies that is denying Christ hisself. This will continue to go on until Christ comes back. And anybody that denies Christ is coming back shouldn't believe in him because he will come back. It may not happen in your lifetime, or in my lifetime, but he will come back.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jo

      ...and he'll be riding six white horses when he comes....oh, he'll be riding six white horses when he comes...EVERYBODY NOW!!

      October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Queen

      If it bleeds...we can kill it.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      Christ will indeed come back ... but only when he can play the piano again ... damn roman nails!

      October 8, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • joncraft84

        Christ only had to bear those nails because we the sinners nailed him to the cross, and we are still nailing him to the cross. For Christ time is standing still while the circle around him keeps going. Everything evil you do to this day in his eyes is still nailing him to the cross or vice versa everything you do good is going toward that effort of getting Christ off the cross. And we just have to remember that.

        October 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  6. JDD

    This sentence: "Scalia, ... also said Pope Francis is "absolutely" right about the church needing to concentrate more on mercy and outreach than on fighting the culture wars," is an ongoing interpretation that I think isn't what Pope Francis intended. After all, the very next day he continued to engage in those 'culture wars' with a speech addressing abortion.

    One can't really escape being part of the 'culture wars' – that's the definition of culture.

    Interestingly enough, at CNN's link provided for that sentence, the CNN article immediately starts to interpret its own poll in a certain cultural direction.

    But most disappointing of all, from a journalistic point of view, is how the link itself reads "...Catholics agree...on ENDING the culture wars" (!) That's an interesting jump in emphasis.

    Concerning the reality of the devil – Scalia's right, of course.

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

      Just because you agree about the devil doesn't make either of you right

      October 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • JDD

        No argument there – whether I, or anyone else, believes in the devil doesn't at all affect whether or not he exists.

        October 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  7. joe

    Now I know the rationale for Scalia's judicial opinions; "The Devil made me do it!"

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

      Satin IS a real person name Scalia.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  8. Rob

    Of course the devil is real. His son"s name is Hellboy and he lives with Aquaman, the Toxic avenger, John Luke Picard of the Enterprise, a cute girl who catches fire everytime she gets excited, a guy with really funky eyes that when he takes his glasses off burns everything to the ground and a bunch of other " mutant " kids all,with extraordinary powers. Just hope he can get Magnito off his back long enough to propose to his girlfriend in time for Holloween to meet daddy.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  9. zappo15

    Yes he is and his name is Scalia

    October 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
  10. Warren

    I think that those who don't believe in God doesn't believe in Satan either. It is all

    October 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • joe

      Say what?

      October 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  11. Lionly Lamb

    Satanic viewpoints are as a conceptualized augmentation rooted within one's ideology of wrongness and/or unacceptable social rationalisms...

    October 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • ok...so


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

      Translation: There is no such thing as objective evil.

      Most people, if they live long enough and read the evening news once or twice, tend to start to doubt that point of view.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  12. Madtown

    "I even believe in the devil."
    I would think the crew at Saturday Night Live is already working hard on this one.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • sam

      SNL and South Park. We'll have to wait and see who goes after it first.

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

      no devil. no evil. no sin.
      everything is peachy.

      "mom, i couldn't. i just couldn't. maybe i was tired or hungry or in a bad mood. i don't know. but i tried my best. i really did. i just couldn't be bad."

      October 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  13. aiquoy

    The fact that a supreme justice relies on his religious views to dictate the laws that governs our lives means most are fundamentally biased, therefore inherently flawed when it comes to maintaining a peaceful society based on religious freedom. It automatically gives a certain faction oppressive power over the masses. I believe their is a higher power, but I also lean more towards having people with such influence being atheists than religious zealots for the sake of ensuring that no particular religion can impose their views on the masses. We have the freedom to practice different religions, not the freedom to impose our beliefs onto others and expecting them to adhere to them. That's not religious freedom, that's religious oppression. That's why people left Europe to come to America in the first place.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Daniel

      But what qualifies atheists and non-religious people to be better leaders, decision makers, etc.? Every human's decisions are influenced by their worldview. So why would you exalt a non-religous person's worldview over that of a religious person? Both have the potential to be wackos. And to any people who respond: please refrain from some angry rambling. I'd like a true answer.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • Mark

        The key word is 'evidence'. Evidence shows one set of beliefs to be more accurate than others. Retaining the invalidated others for emotional/egotistical/traditional reasons is primitive, and dangerous in a position of power.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
      • postedbygeorge

        Because accountability and consequences , good or bad are based on an individuals actions based on "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" not religious beliefs. American belief not Middle[ Eastern} belief.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
        • JDD

          The actual quote from the Declaration of Independence:

          "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

          October 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • G to the T

          JDD – You've correctly assumed that the Founding Fathers were deists. Now take the next step – why didn't they say "endowed by our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, ..."?

          October 9, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • JDD

          G to the T

          For the same reason that when I sing, "My Country Tis of Thee," and end with "Of thee I sing," I don't have to add at the end, "By the way, I mean America."

          October 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • boobie

      that's it. i've had it. i'm moving. not kidding. this dude believes in forgiveness, even if the chick is caught doin it while she's got an old man. he's an iron head sheep herder sympathizer and should be put in the same cell as sambo. i ain't jokin

      October 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  14. A traveler

    It is hard to accept that this justice believes in such baloney.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • looloo

      what do u believe?

      October 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  15. Jane

    anytime someone lets it be known that they actually do believe that Elvis is still alive....

    they immediately pay a price...whether its at a job interview, or a first date, or wherever...

    a price is paid in ill concealed laughter...

    so why all the hate? If I want to believe in noodle monsters and invisible demon gods leave me alone.

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

      You're not on the Supreme Court making decisions that affect millions of peoples lives who might not believe in your wacky mythology.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  16. FreeFromTheism

    Oh, if he's Catholic then it's ok... for one second I though that he was a Buddhist.. in that case believing that Satan was a real person would have been crazy...........

    October 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

    Freedom of religion? Not according to all the ppl posting here. WOW. I thought i was in america!? Well, it WAS america.

    BTW, if you believe in the christian god, you believe in the devil. Pretty simple.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • sam

      No one's stopping anyone from believing, practicing, worshipping etc...

      Try not to sound too hysterical.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      "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!"
      this is just priceless

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

        sorry, didn't mean to post this as a reply (I still disagree with your post though, I just don't care to respond)

        October 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  18. Truth

    A little knowledge of science makes man an atheist, but an in-depth study of science makes him a believer in God.

    -Francis Bacon

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

      Ask Einstein, Hawking, or any representative modern scientist. The favorite examples of religious scientists are always from primitive centuries past. Since Darwin and Einstein, non-belief dominates those who study reality as the purpose of their lives. This ought to be a clue for the rest of us.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • BOB

      Bacon said it wisely and succinctly. It's the modern fashion to dismiss God, the scriptures, the devil, etc. How quaint those believers are. How ignorant. But if you press the critics, especially the smug and arrogant commentators that spew their venom online, for logic and evidence, for any knowledge they possess that supports their atheism, they are at a loss. In fact, many of the most intelligent cosmologists, historians, biologists, and philosophers in the world today find a great deal of evidence to support belief in God and the scriptures. If there is truly an intelligent being that created and embodies goodness, you don't have to be crazy to think there's another being who fosters evil.

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

        The majority of scientists are non-religious. They may still be deists, but you should be reluctant to include deists by your side. Deists and atheists reject faith as a means of knowing anything.

        Never yet has a legitimate challenge been made to the Argument from Improbability against the existence of a primal creative intelligence. And never yet has a reason been given to hold one religious story above all the other stories with gods and monsters. The counter-response always leaps to some other topic.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
        • Mohammed

          The Argument from improbability is child's play, To prove God to any one honestly willing to consider is not difficult. To choose Jesus? Well once you know there is a God you can choose which description of the creator that seems most apt but Jesus offers to show you His Father personally. All religions have some truth. It is up you to find out which is closest to the Great Reality.

          October 11, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          How is it not difficult for a critical thinker?

          I'm sure it's easy for a gullible person, but if you ask one required evidence, then it becomes VERY hard to believe.

          Incredible claims required incredible evidence.

          The fact that the claims for god include just, omnipotent and loving, while the world is as it is, makes it really clear that there is nothing there.

          A loving god doesn't create a devil.
          An all powerful god doesn't allow starvation, no matter what the reason.
          A just god doesn't allow people to be imprisoned for live or even killed for crimes they didn't commit.

          Again, Incredible claims required incredible evidence.

          At least for someone that wants the TRUTH.

          October 12, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      A little knowledge of the bible makes man a zealot, but an in-depth study of the bible makes him an atheist.

      October 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  19. boyamidumb

    Ok...... now we know why all of the totally weird Supreme court rulings. The Supremes have been taken over by the Devil. Right Anthony.

    Anton – I think you had better ask your doctor to increase your Prozac. Things are getting a bit out of control in that little space between your ears.

    You wonder why the country is in trouble on every front.


    October 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Mario Marquez

    It's sad in today's society where and if you state anything that you believe you will be belittled for it. Whether you are atheist or not.

    I think a person of power may and should have his own personal beliefs. As we are all elected to have. The issue I have is when people push these beliefs as law over other people who would rather choose not to believe. This applies to Atheists, and believers alike. Personally, if some one wishes to hear out what you believe in, go for it, but don't jam it down some ones throat if not. Again, this applies to everyone.

    It's just too bad that now-a-days, everyone's too focused on pointing out everyone's 'faults' in their beliefs systems rather than focusing on the real problem in today's society. Who cares if some one believes in god, or not. It has Zero baring on that person who does not believe.

    So I do not have an understanding as to why people get so worked up when they state "I believe in God" or "I don't believe in God". It's honestly pointless to argue about it.

    He's obviously in office to support the people who do believe, and there are others who are in office that don't. So to say "all justices should be Atheist, or that all of them should be Christian, is severely faulted.

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

      Your religious views are yours, especially if you are someone in this position. The fact that this man would come out of the closet like this is scary. These people who have been put "above" us all think they really are. NO sense of responsibility for their actions.

      But then, maybe it is better that we know he is a whacko for sure.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
      • Mario Marquez

        I definitely see your point!! It's really concerning because who really knows what his agenda is.

        Unfortunately, i'm not able to watch the recorded interview with him from work – and who knows what brought this about, or maybe he was just asked to comment on it - but either way, I believe he needs to tread lightly do to his position of power as he should not want to come across as over zealous with his beliefs.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • Mohammed

          Yes he has beliefs like all the founding Fathers of this country did, as 90% of the population does. You are the 1% – the weird nut job. I don't believe you exist! And since you don't.... well nothing you say will convince me. The Supreme Court is opened with prayer by an ordained minister always has been since the first. As is the House of Reps and Senate. The President swears an oath of office with his hand on his own bible..... a Christian bible. Every president has since George. Silly talk about this country becoming religious. It was founded by "religious nut jobs" and will remain so.... God willing (:

          October 11, 2013 at 11:10 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.