Justice Antonin Scalia: The Devil is ‘Getting People Not to Believe in Him or in God’

We’ve known for a long time that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia bases his legal decisions on what the Constitution’s original writers would have wanted, regardless of what society may think or believe today. (Somehow, in his mind, that legal theory can apply to technologies that only became available in the past few years as well as social changes that couldn’t have been anticipated when our nation was founded.)

In an interview with New York Magazine‘s Jennifer Senior that’s getting a lot of press today, we “learn” that Scalia’s not just conservative, he’s a conservative Catholic who believes in the Devil:

Can we talk about your drafting process–
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. 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.

No.
It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Right.
What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. 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.

It’s no surprise that Scalia is deluded or that he has contempt for those who don’t believe as he does. Indeed, 70% of Americans believe in the Devil, according to a 2007 Gallup poll, putting Scalia square in the majority.

But maybe that’s the most shocking thing of all. I expect the American public to believe in nonsense, but I want our elected and appointed officials to know better. Especially for those on the Supreme Court, whose entire job rests on their ability to have good judgment, Scalia shows us that even he, arguably the most powerful voice on the Court, can be swayed by a story as obviously fictional as the Christian myth. Shouldn’t he instead be the type of person who takes a common belief, looks for the evidence, and ultimately sends the message to the masses that they’ve been duped this whole time?

If only.

It’s all the more demoralizing when you consider how five of the other justices, all Roman Catholics, may also believe in the Devil.

If anything, this should really put to rest all those ideas about how Scalia is some “intellectual giant” on the Court.

Though, if you read another part of the interview, one could make the case that Scalia ought to reconsider his own Devil-belief:

I am something of a contrarian, I suppose. I feel less comfortable when everybody agrees with me. I say, “I better reexamine my position!” I probably believe that the worst opinions in my court have been unanimous. Because there’s nobody on the other side pointing out all the flaws.

By that logic, Scalia ought to be coming out as an atheist very soon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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