An Interview That Should Scare the Bejesus (or Devil) Out of You: New York Magazine Talks to Justice Antonin Scalia

Richard Dawkins has labeled belief "delusional."  Most of us know that the Devil was a Judeo-Christian invention, a bugaboo to keep the flocks in thrall of dualistic dogma: behave yourself and J*H*V*H or Jesus will reward you with Heaven; fuck up and you will wind up in an eternity of hellish hotness or frigid cold, depending on the imagination of the cleric (and on that alone since no one has gone to the undiscovered country and returned to tell the tale). That a sitting justice on the SCOTUS believes in such nonsense suggests Dawkins not only was right, he pinpointed a genuinely frightening prospect: final arbiters of our nation's laws who are Donald Duck crazy. 

I am a new subscriber to New York Magazine.  I started my sub when I returned from a brief visit with my son in Brooklyn, but to be perfectly honest about it, the magazine, like all print media these days, must be having hard times: they made me an offer I simply could not refuse.  I do not feel I wasted my money, not if the last issue is any indication.  It contains a portrait of Joaquin Phoenix doing a new movie with the delightful director, Spike Jonze, and an extended and quite revealing interview with Justice Antonin Scalia.  I urge you to read the entire interview online at

In the meantime, let me say that with regard to women's rights and those of same sex couples, Scalia contradicts himself -- you'll see how -- and he is equally befuddled on the subject of interpreting the Constitutional "as written," punctuating his presentist arguments (that the 18th century has any similarity to the 21st) with admissions, repeatedly, that "times change."  But the most incredible (jaw-dropping, really) aspect of the interview is how closely he adheres to Catholic dogma.  A Sicilian, Scalia actually believes in the infallibility of the Pope, application of Catholic dogma to such things as abortion, and the existence of the Devil.  I warn you, this segment of the interview may have you not only seeing red but going out into the streets and screaming that the sky is falling in. Here, in all its astonishing stupidity, is the segment I am talking about:

You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?

Oh, my.

Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!

Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.

But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!

Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?

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.

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.

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.

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Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? ... Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

Good grief ... a JUSTICE ... and he wants to justify the devil using an ad populum argument???

I hadn't even thought of that, Loren! You certainly know your fallacies. Argumentum ad populum. Everybody likes Coca-Cola so Coca-Cola cannot be bad for you; let's drink a liter a day.

I sort of know them, James.  That one just jumped out at me, especially from someone who should have WAY better arguing skills than I have!

Scalia has the morals of a stereotypical Catholic Sicilian covered with a cloak of religious piety. I experience that as revolting. Devil, indeed. He should know. 

Scalia shits on our democracy because he comes from a Church that hates democracy and freedom and always has.  

The Inquisition used the Devil to vilify their victims.  The above Justice Jerk would love to re-start it once more and get all the nonbelievers who escaped.  So he's trying to incite his gullible following to be violent toward atheists again.

Scalia is wrong about most American Christians believing in Satan. According to a Barna poll taken a few years ago 59% agree or agree somewhat that Satan is merely a symbol of evil, not a real entity. Only 35% indicated belief in the devil. Of course they had not yet seen this interview with Scalia and he may have changed their minds.

There may, of course, be other polls with different results, but I take this as an encouraging sign of the weakening of the religious hold on the population. It is not to be expected that the long history of religious belief will dissolve rapidly. Instead people will gradually give up some peripheral doctrines such as Satan and the Holy Ghost. I would bet that the number of Catholics who believe in the real presence is no longer very high. As time goes on various doctinal elements will vanish from the popular mind and the process of converting Jesus into a New Age figure will be complete.

To believe in satan means you believe the christian bible (at least somewhat) even if you now think satan is just an evil symbol. Christians believe stuff that will eventually nullify their beliefs.

I'm 67 and an example from my teen years was that the fundies really believed that jesus was coming back for you, and that graves would be opened up in that day, and you would be caught up to meet jesus in the air. The bible says this. Preachers of that day were claiming the world would make up lies to cover for the fact of all the opened graves.

Current thought wants to deal with this "spirit" or "soul" that you have, and how it leaves the body at death and is "instantly in heaven." Current religionists claim your body is not going. IF that is true, then the scripture about being "caught up to meet jesus in the air" is no longer true and it talks of something happening that is no longer necessary. You don't need to be "raptured" or caught up if you are already there the minute you died.

Thoughts on comforting the grieving has now changed a bible scripture, in part because Paul could never tell whether he was "in or out of his body" when he had his religious revelations. If he was that un-sure maybe none of us should have believed him in the first place!

Also most use birth control and many have abortions so heir view of God differs significantly from their Church's which could be further evidence that they are becoming more free in their thinking.

James, Clearly Scalia is infected with delusional beliefs, and they impact his decision making ability or lack of. The Abrahamic faiths present the source of this pathology, it is based on false assumptions or incomplete information, "confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception”. 

Scalia believes the Legislative Branch has the power over the Executive, and based on what we have seen during the Obama years, the president has had a devil of a time getting his issues passed, and appointments approved. In my opinion, Obama was elected with money from money interests and he has to appease them.

Either Obama said what he meant in his campaign rhetoric but had to pick his crowd of advisors from the money-interests when elected, or he didn’t mean what he said in order to get elected and then did what he thought and agreed with money-interests. 

Before his campaign, he had some pretty remarkable progressives on his election team … not one of them was chosen to serve with him after election. Why? The details will probably not be known until we are all dead and dancing as atoms in the universe. Will future generations learn the answers to these questions and make better choices? 

Scalia thinks words have power and what was written in the 18 century should apply to 21st century situations. The horse has been replaced by mechanical devices, mail has been replaced by the internet. How could 18th century thinking meet 21st century demands? 

Scalia values principles born out of the Stone Age, put in writing by Bronze Age technology, and passed to the 21st century as if values have not changed. Might makes right for primitive peoples while might can make wrong for these modern times. Thinking, reasoning, communicating, negotiating, compromise have changed the ways we resolve conflicts and solve problems. The explosion of Homo sapiens has changed the ways we can do things in this Science Age. 

Rights of women, GLBTQ, workers who produce goods and services have changed since the days of slavey, domination, and supremacy. 

Get over it Scalia, we are evolving, whether you believe in heaven, hell or the devil!

Scalia perceives the devil's work in those who do not believe in god ... that means us, folks!

That a Supreme Court justice actually believes in a "devil" as active in human affairs as this sap indicates here is just downright terrifying. Almost all mainstream religious groups now believe that the "devil" is simply a metaphor or symbol of opposition to good, which is just God misspelled. As Joan points out, his RCC upbringing survived intact so that it has colored every decision he makes, in strong contrast to JFK, who really did leave his Catholicism at the cathedral when he took the oath of office. I think Scalia's very existence is a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. What on earth was congress thinking when they allowed this theocratic nitcompoop to get onto the court?!

The sad-dangerous fact is that Scalia has an agenda, largely defined by the RC church, but also by his willful disregard for the discipline which should be part and parcel of the office he holds.  He is far worse than Alito or Thomas, because he should know better, yet he chooses not to.

As with so many other unqualified public figures, he should be impeached.  He won't be, because the will to do so isn't present in enough people.


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