Justice Scalia: Satan is real!

October 8, 2013 • 8:10 am

The latest New York Magazine includes an enlightening—and frightening—interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. You probably know that he’s a devout Catholic.

Scalia’s interview will school you about his judicial philosophy, his views on gays, his duck hunting, his poker playing, how he chooses his clerks, what he considers his most heroic deed, and other sundry matters. But the weirdest exchange is this, involving. . . . . can it be?. . . . SATAN! Yes, Scalia believes in the Hornèd one, Beelzebub, Old Nick. That exchange (the interviewer is Jennifer Senior) shows that he’s loonier than even I had suspected.  This is a jaw-dropper:

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.

Well, maybe I misspoke when I used the word “looney.” For if believing in a literal Satan makes you a lunatic, so are the 70% of his fellow Americans who share that belief. And of course the number of people who believe in something is not evidence that it exists, nor is the existence of smart people (mostly in the past) who believed in Satan.

“It’s in the Gospels,” indeed!

Whenever I criticize Scalia or his originalism, some readers hasten to tell me how smart he is—how thorough and incisive his opinions are.  Well, I don’t think much of a guy who consistently rules in favor of the privileged, or tries to suss out what James Madison would have thought of homosexuality or abortion.  He may be smart, but he’s mendacious pernicious.  And he believes in Satan.


h/t: Don

161 thoughts on “Justice Scalia: Satan is real!

  1. Hail Satan. Wouldn’t it have been a better strategy to get people to disbelieve before the movement really started picking up?

    1. Who says he didn’t start the movement? I mean, if he’s so clever and has such influence in the world, it’d be easy.

  2. The crazy part isn’t that he believes in Satan. Lots of Christians do, and while there’s no good reason to believe in Satan, there’s a difference between being duped by a majority unfactual belief and being crazy.

    No, no, no… the reason he’s crazy is that he brought this up all on his own. And that he thinks it took the devil 5000 years to realize he could do more damage by being subtle than by giving people seizures.

    Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, or retirement. Impeaching is a theoretical possibility, but it’s apparently only happened once. I don’t like hoping for anyones death, but if that’s what it takes to get rid of him…

          1. Looks much more like a phallic symbol to me. One very similar to Moses’s magic wand — the one that turned into a snake when he threw it on the ground, and that then ate the magic wand snakes of the Egyptians.


              1. That, and it’s quite consistent with popular Christian depictions of Hell. You’ll often hear them talk about demons or Satan shoving red hot pokers up people’s asses….


              2. Yes, but I don’t think that particular example of picturesque exuberance would elicit that reaction from Mr. Sulu.

                This one, however, I do believe would get the good Lieutenant’s attention….



    1. Yeah, I find it difficult to fear someone with such self-control, such dedication to physical fitness. Plus, he can’t really be spending much time tormenting souls – looks like he’s doing two-a-day or three-a-day work outs.

      I’d love to get some diet pointers from him. That’s my Achilles heel.

    1. I’m waiting for some sophisticated theologian to explain that people with beliefs like Scalia’s are a small minority that the media gives undue attention.

  3. “He may be smart, but he’s mendacious.”

    I don’t see how you can call him mendacious. AFAIK, he has truthfully disclosed both his (wacky) beliefs and his (infuriating) decision making process every time he’s been asked about them. Perhaps you mean he wasn’t truthful during his confirmation?

      1. Hmmm.

        Mendacious: lying, untruthful, dishonest, deceitful, false, dissembling, insincere, disingenuous, hypocritical, fraudulent, double-dealing, two-faced, two-timing, duplicitous, perjured; untrue, fictitious, falsified, fabricated, fallacious, invented, made up; informal full of crap; literary perfidious. antonym truthful.

        Pernicious: harmful, damaging, destructive, injurious, hurtful, detrimental, deleterious, dangerous, adverse, inimical, unhealthy, unfavorable, bad, evil, baleful, wicked, malign, malevolent, malignant, noxious, poisonous, corrupting; literary maleficent. antonym beneficial.

        Both are words I didn’t really know well enough to have used properly. Of the two, though, if I had to choose one as someone’s description of me, I might go with mendacious.

        Anyone who is pernicious I’d expect to be mendacious as well, using lies to do evil.

        Another learning experience. Thanks.

  4. Calling Scalia mendacious is being too kind. Although that is true, he is most of all dangerous. Regardless of how smart he is [most SCOTUS members are], anyone who allows dogma and partisan bias to drive their ‘thinking’ clearly demonstrates a lack of wisdom.

  5. “Q: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
    S: 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.”

    This is enough to make you snort your coffee. That is curious! Curious indeed. It’s almost as curious as how much less I see of Santa or the monsters in my closet as I’ve grown up. They must mean they are smart. Like me!

    1. “That must mean they are smart.”

      I swear this comment box changes words on me after I hit submit! 😉

        1. Well, of course it is. Just shows how subtle (or is it pathetic?) Old Nick has become. How else to explain Windows 8 or the TSA…?

    2. I did snort my coffee when I read that, especially the part about pigs running off cliffs. Could someone inform me of the part in the gospels where satan makes pigs run off cliffs!

      Curious that we don’t see devil possessed pigs running off cliffs anymore…..it used to be so common!

        1. That was what caught my eye, too. And, if I’m not mistraken, with that little glitch, Scalia committed the Unforgivable Sin: attributing Jesus’s power to Satan.

          Uh-oh. Sorry, Scalia — looks like you’re royally fucked, now. No Heaven for you!



          1. I suppose the devout have to attribute ALL of Satan’s power to God, don’t they, since God created Satan too?

            OTOH, I suppose you could say that Jesus only sent the demons into the pigs, and it was the demons who did the throwing off the cliff. Of course, insofar as Jesus knew that’s what was going to happen you could as well say that Jesus did it himself when he sent them there.

            In any case, Satan himself doesn’t show up in this story. Satan is given mostly bit parts in the Bible and spends most of his time in the trailer waiting for his two or three small scenes. I suppose he isn’t really needed because God so aptly plays the role of antagonist and protagonist all by himself. With a character like God, who needs a foil?

            1. Yes, Scalia obviously doesn’t know his Bible well at all (typical Catholic*).

              And it was the demons who requested that Jesus let them go into the pigs. Jesus obeyed the legion of demons’ request. Such a nice guy, Jesus. He’s even willing to allow demons to decide their own fate, maybe because he hadn’t thought the whole “What am I going to do with these demons once I kick them out of this man?” thing through. “Oh, you demons want to possess pigs? That’s cool by me cuz I sure as hell ain’t got no plan. Get it? Hell! Hahahaha!” (Demons role eyes at Jesus).

              *I can make this joke because I was raised Catholic.

        2. Anyone know if the Gadarene swine precede the walking on water episode?

          Both at the See of Galilee… I’m imagining that trickster Jesus was really strolling along a causeway of bloated pig carcasses.

          “Zum miracle”, as Zoidberg would say.

    3. You know who else has gotten smart and subtle over the years? Zeus. He used to make a lot of noise as he manipulated mankind, but now he’s as stealthy as a ninja.

        1. I retract my outrageous mischaracterization of Zeus. Clearly, Zeus provides ample evidence of his existence. Or is it Thor?

      1. The images that question summons will prevent me from sleeping tonight. It’s bad enough imagining Scalia in a bathroom.

  6. I dimly recall Scalia appearing as a panelist on PBS Fred Friendly Seminar sometime around 1980 — I think that was the name of the program. His commentary, as best I recall it, did not reveal his emotional commitment to doctrinal dogma so evident over the previous two decades. Or I just missed obvious tells.

    1. Even a Scalia has to have “the circumspection of a Baptist minister” and a George Herbert Walker (“Wouldn’t-Be-Prudent”) Bush until he has acheived the ambition of receiving a secure lifetime appointment to the SCOTUS by Reagan in 1986.

      I wonder if Scalia is on record regarding the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno and the near-death experience of Galileo? I note that (Catholic) critics of Bruno and Galileo try to make a big deal of their allegegedly abrasive personalities, as if that should somehow ameliorate/justify their torture and/or (threat of) execution by their pure-as-the-driven-snow Inquisitioners. Seems Scalia is not strongly positioned to expiate (bloviate) on abrasive personalities.

  7. If the Devil existed and became really wily then I guess he would stride the earth as a Supreme Court Justice. How could you tell?

    1. That’s the thing, I think Scalia is pissed as heaven that Geo. Shub got the node from Hugo Chavez.

      “And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here.” [crosses himself] “And it smells of sulfur still today.

  8. Q: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
    Assaninnie Scalia: 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?”

    Was a time “most of America” thought it was ok to have slaves, committee genocide against the “heathen redskins” and burn “witches” too.
    This is one scary man who holds too much power over the rest of us sane Americans.
    I can not wait til Hillary replaces him….. And I’m no big fan of Ms. Clinton either.

    1. Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil?

      “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

    2. Witches were never burned in America. They were hanged first, then cremated. The cremation was to prevent their resurrection on the last day. Apparently god could make Adam out of dirt but reconstituting a pile of ashes is beyond him.

        1. Giles Corey was arrested but refused to enter a plea. He was pressed (placed under a board upon which rocks were piled) to “encourage” him into entering a plea, but he died under torture before entering a plea or going to trial.

          These days, they’d use Tasers until he talked.

  9. 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.

    Haha! If that’s such a successful method, why did it take him a couple of millenniums to figure it out? Is Satan just that dumb?

    1. I think that the restart (of the on-off relationship he has with various sects) had him as smarter than the highest in the abrahamic pantheon. Just more evil, and so destined to fail. (Or something like that.)

      So this rewrite of Scalia isn’t canon.

  10. The image of Satan conveys a nice range of fundi hangups – Nightmare beast to scare people in line – and a complete lack of sexual organs.

    1. Unlike the pretty funny giant Beelzebub depicted in the final apocalyptic scene in the movie This Is The End.

    1. I have to admit, I always thought “Beelzebub” was a cool name. Beats “Satan” or “Lucifer” any day.

          1. I’ve seen Bruford play in a number of different bands and venues (arena to club). Just last Sunday (6th) I saw John Wetton doing some forty-year-old King Crimson music with a Chicago band named District 97. It’s not many musicians who can handle the Crim.

            1. Damn… that must’ve been really cool. The bass that made Milruckus waukee… Last time anybody of that caliber came to my little po-dunk town was at least a decade ago, and they wisely never returned. Cultural desert here.

              1. Before they played this number on Sunday, Leslie Hunt introduced it by saying, “This is a song by Kanye West”. Pause. “Just kidding”. Pause. “It’s about Kanye West”.

  11. Scalia being a supreme court justice is a perfect commentary on just how seriously fucked up the US is.

    The one thing I can’t figure out is, have we always been this fucked up? Or is it simply that so many other countries have become so noticably less fucked up while we have not likewise advanced that we suffer by comparison?

    One thing I have no doubts about is that Scalia makes me feel ashamed of my countries behavior. He is a champion of that segment of our population that is holding us all back from a better future for everyone.

    On the smart thing, I guess I just don’t know what smart means. Or maybe the claims of smart are intended to be very limited in scope? Maybe he has I high IQ? Plenty of evidence that IQ isn’t worth much. Hell, even I have a high IQ.

    1. i agree darrelle, folks like him, bush rumsfeld bachmann, palin, cruz, santorum, romney and cheney have made me ashamed of what we have become. how we have stooped to a level far below what we should stand for, what we use to stand for, and all in the name of greed promoted and (in their minds) justified by the “fact” that god is on our side….

    2. The one thing I can’t figure out is, have we always been this fucked up? Or is it simply that so many other countries have become so noticably less fucked up while we have not likewise advanced that we suffer by comparison?

      I believe it’s the latter. The American Constitution, with all its limitations, was a remarkable document of its time. Of course, it’s difficult to pinpoint, but I believe that the serious slowdown of the political progress in the US, as compared to European countries, began only after WWII.

      While the power of the gun lobby or the total lack of understanding of every citizen’s right to healthcare puts America to shame (not to mention the particularly aggressive brand of capitalism allowed to flourish here), there are some developments – for example, free speech, gay rights, preventing sexual harrasment – where America belongs with the most progressive of nations. In the immortal words of Leonard Cohen, it’s “the cradle of the best and of the worst”.

    3. I’m not so sure there’s plenty of evidence IQ is not worth much… lots in the literature (including the recent literature) that indicate that IQ (and various personality tests) correlate well with lifetime achievement, wealth, avoiding jail… though it’s kind of a chicken-egg problem to tease the effects apart from education (and societal factors that stack the deck against women).

      I’m only guessing here, but thinking Scalia’s smarts would be due to his high “Mendacity Factor”, or MF. (mofo, for short)

  12. Great, that’s just what atheists need – someone in a position of authority telling everyone (the majority of whom really believe this stuff) that the devil is convincing people not to believe in god.

    And how did the good Justice Scalia come to this conclusion after he observed Satan isn’t doing the type of biblical evil he once did (which I think I could argue things look pretty bad in some places)? Maybe Satan is just resting, maybe he’s doing all kinds of evil like you know, encouraging priests to rape children or maybe, just maybe he’s a myth that everyone identifies with because its generated by our human brains (which we all have in common though some are more limited than others). It’s why The Doctor Who episode, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satan_Pit&quot; The Satan Pit scared the bejesus out of all of us – believers AND atheists! The devil has universal appeal because he’s conjured from our stupid ape brains!

  13. What’s even more scary is that Scalia is not alone on the Court in his religious affiliation. The majority of the Court are Roman Catholic. Only Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan are not. (They are Jewish.)

    1. I wonder if they would be willing to grant certiorari tn the court case in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”?

  14. Not a fan of Scalia or his rulings but he is clearly toying with a very naive interviewer, whom Scalia probably sized up in three seconds. Scalia dangles a tempting conversational hook before her, in which he means for her to hang all her simplistic assumptions and ideas about him, which she does without even the faintest need to probe deeper. I’m sure Scalia was amused.

    1. You think he doesn’t believe Satan is real and that he’s just lying about it for the fun of getting a reaction out of her? Or that he does believe Satan is real but that he only brought it up, and so bluntly, just for the fun of getting a reaction out of her?

      It’s obvious he has fun shocking people. I don’t have examples ready to hand, but I can often recall him saying something that sounds really shocking and seeming to enjoy the reaction. He seems to like playing the role of the uncle who blurts out inappropriate things at family gatherings. But I haven’t personally seen any reason to think he doesn’t actually believe all the startling things he says. It seems to me that he just chooses to say them in a more blunt fashion than most in order to get a rise out of people.

      1. Show me another human being who has attained Scalia’s level of erudition in the areas of jurisprudence and linguistics AND believes the devil is real. Did you know that Scalia is very skilled poker player? Surely you’re aware that Scalia likes to play around with the soft-headed.

        1. So, you think he’s just lying to mess with everyone. OK.

          When does he show his hand and cash in his chips in this poker analogy? Is he going to come out next week and say, “Ha ha, I was only joking. You’re such a fool to take me seriously.” I’m not sure how that would make anyone but him look bad. I wonder how other conservatives would feel about that too? Quite a few millions don’t think he’s being ridiculous at all. But maybe I’m not seeing the Big Picture.

          Of course, it’s obvious he enjoys the reaction, whether he believes it or not, so I suppose that is motivation enough. I don’t see how that’s some big poker game, that’s just being a bit of a jerk for your own laughs. His prerogative, but I fail to see the high art in it.

          And, of course you are right that what makes it a bit surprising (but only a bit) is precisely the fact that most educated people who are believers tend to gravitate towards Sophisticated Theological views that try to rationalize all the obvious bullshit in the Bible. Unless you are running for office and need to pretend you believe all sorts of things you don’t, most semi-intellectuals will shy away from such literalist views. Even if they hold them, most realize how it will sound to speak them aloud and so don’t. But Scalia is in the perfect position, the safest job on Earth, to lose that inhibition, so it seems not at all implausible that he is just availing himself the freedom to speak his mind.

          In any case, among the fields of endeavor that I would expect to bestow on a person a clear view of reality, law and linguistics do not strike me as the ones to bet on.

        2. What does being knowledgeable of and skilled in the areas of jurisprudence and linguistics have to do with ones religious beliefs? There are scientists – many far more intelligent and less ignorant than Scalia, and who know how to process evidence in a way Scalia could not possibly comprehend – still believe in god, the devil, and a whole host of other religious nonsense.

          If Scalia is lying about his hell beliefs for kicks was he also lying for kicks when he equated having moral feelings about (the imaginary crime of) sodomy to having moral feelings about (the actual crime of) murder? Scalia is certainly a troll but there is no evidence that he disbelieves the ignorant and often offensive and morally repugnant garbage he says.

    2. Not a fan of Scalia or his rulings but he is clearly toying with a very naive interviewer

      I also detect irony, but there are two possible sources of it: 1) Scalia doesn’t believe what he’s saying, or 2) he believes what he’s saying but wishes people to think him ironic.

      1. Or more specifically, he wishes those people who find the belief in a real Devil person ridiculous to think him ironic, and those who think the Devil is as real as their mother to think he’s being totally straight with them.

        It’s a pretty childish and dishonest game. One should never underestimate the ability to suppress cognitive dissonance and actually believe both at the same time too.

        1. Conservatives play this game all time: if you agree with Limbaugh, Coulter, etc., great. If you don’t, then they’re just kidding. “Rush is an entertainer, don’t you liberals get that?” I doubt that Limbaugh sees himself as just an entertainer, or that his fans do, but it saves them from having to defend his remarks. And as gluonspring says, for Scalia to be facetious about this would offend most conservatives, who do take this seriously.
          Don’t assume that because something is “obviously” nonsensical to you, that it is equally obvious to other intelligent people. Otherwise intelligent people can believe in all kinds of nonsense.

          1. After all, Limbaugh’s talent is “on loan from God.” Also re: his “Half my brain tied behind my back.”

  15. if believing in a literal Satan makes you a lunatic, so are the 70% of his fellow Americans who share that belief.

    Though note that earlier this year that the latest US mental disorder manual, DSM-5, has no special pleading exception for magical religious beliefs (though they are allowed if they are consistent with a “subcultural norm”). Magical thinking is now an explicit diagnosis criteria for mental disorders:

    “The DSM-IV sets forth the following criteria, at least five of which are required for diagnosis:

    odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with subcultural norms (e.g. superstitiousness, belief in clairvoyance, telepathy, “sixth sense”, or bizarre fantasies or preoccupations)


    Magical thinking (with constraints) is now a mental disorder criteria. Meaning that if someone had invented gods and demons right now, they would be one step closer to a mental disorder diagnosis.

    I remember it was a ROTFL-able moment reading it.

    1. Agreed, I am suprised at the surprise. Christian and especially Catholic doctrine and tradition is chocked full of Lucifer. And compared to things like the Resurrection, it is no less ridiculous.

  16. “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.”

    Hey Einstein, perhaps the invisible demon didn’t exist in the first place??? Perhaps we have replaced demonic possession with scientific explanations of things like mental illness and seizures?

    If I knew nothing else about this man, I would think that he is a blithering idiot. It really does show how powerful religious indoctrination at an early age can be, for such an accomplished person to utter such things.

    And imagine if we had a prominent public figure utter the following:

    “That always puzzled me. What happened to witchcraft, you know? Witchcraft used to be all over the place. It used to be all over the New Testament. Witches must be more subtle these days.”

  17. Satan has his place. He scares a few Catholics straight; if that is what it takes.

    Just the thought of how many dreaded children are mentally paralyzed being persuaded of his presence does make me ill, though.

    1. Oh dear. That is getting dangerously close to the “you can’t be moral without god” argument.

      1. It is precisely the stance many people take that without Satan some would simply not be strong enough to avoid temptation because their belief in Satan is sufficiently powerful to make them think again.

        I can hardly assemble the imagination of what these people conceive to be true. For them Satan is real. Hitchen’s pointed this out many times; he would not debate that others are convinced of such beliefs, but that does not make those beliefs accurate. Alas, Satan was certainly not real to Hitchen’s and that should matter to people who use their brains.

  18. Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history.

    If you ignore the history of the world before 30 AD, that is.

    Oh heck, it probably didn’t get to “most” until far later than that. Sometime between 600 AD and 1800 AD. Islam took it from a regional European belief into northern Africa, the Mideast and Asia…then European colonialism expanded it into southern Africa and the Americas.


    But you missed Scalia’s latest whopper. Last Thursday he went to UVA and told the students there that Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in the separation of church and state.

      1. Jefferson was being ironic, like Scalia was when he said he believed in Satan. You have to be smart to understand the subtle ways great minds communicate.

        1. Yes, I know what Jefferson was being, and what “tyranny over the mind of Man” he had in mind. My surprise was that Scalia didn’t — or disingenuously pretended not to.


          1. Sorry, I was being facetious, not disagreeing. Some have suggested that Scalia was using humor or irony when he said he believed in the Devil and that we shouldn’t take his claims at face value. I was trying, and failing it seems, to riff on that idea and suggest that a Scalia who could say he believes in the Devil as an exercise in irony intended to communicate… something… might similarly think that a rather blunt and obvious statement from Jefferson didn’t mean what it obviously means.

            Humor fail on my part.

    1. Scalia: “Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history.”

      If you ignore the history of the world before 30 AD, that is.

      And if you ignore all but the Western world as well. Scalia sounds like the average religious American ignoramus. Very provincial and with a poor grasp of history. His church said it so it must be true and he’s willing to bend facts to fit his own conclusions (even though he gets much of his Bible wrong; again like the average believer).

      In addition to his wrongness about how many people believe and how long they’ve believed in the devil, his statement is just an argumentum ad populum. Just because most people believe it doesn’t make it true.

  19. There is silver lining in this cloud:

    The reporter (apparently) thought belief in the Satan was … irrational? Not to be expected in a Supreme Court justice? Not the assumptive default status for an adult?

    I’m not sure that would have been the case a generation ago.

    1. True. Or even if it was, the reporter wouldn’t have been so willing to let it be know she felt that way.

  20. “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?”

    What happened to the Devil? We learned what epilepsy is, inter alia. That’s what happened.

  21. SATAN, n. One of the Creator’s lamentable mistakes, repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back.

    “There is one favor that I should like to ask,” said he.

    “Name it.”

    “Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws.”

    “What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul—you ask for the right to make his laws?”

    “Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself.”

    It was so ordered.

    That’s from the pen of Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

  22. Here’s something that never made sense during my “religious” education. If Satan exists, then God must have created him. Did the omniscient, all-powerful, all-loving God make a mistake? God can’t make mistakes, so it must have been intentional. Therefore, God is an asshole.

    1. I think that is all reconciled with Satan works to god’s plan so even when he’s being bad ass he’s actually working toward what god wants. Yeah, it’s stupid but that was their stupid idea.

      1. We both know that it’s a con by the priest class to keep the believers terrified and in line. That is the truly “sophisticated” theology, and it works.

    2. It’s just an extension of the problem of evil. I’m sure a Christian would respond that Satan wasn’t created evil, but because of free will, he was free to choose to become evil.

        1. Many Christians are not smart enough, that is true, but I do not think intelligence is the main problem. These exact questions do come up in Sunday Schools all the time but, because they are disturbing to belief, they are glossed over quickly or subjected to authoritarian ridicule and silenced (teacher/priest acts as though it is a ridiculous question to cow the asker into moving on). People self-censor the questions too because they find the implications scary. It’s more a failing of courage or honesty than intelligence.

          I often think of the human mind like an airplane. When you see one flying erratically you can think, “That pilot is stupid”, but often what is happening is that there is an intelligent pilot but also a terrorist with a gun in the cockpit. So the plane may insanely try to fly to El Salvador when the pilot knows perfectly well there is only enough fuel to make it to Houston, but he has a gun pointed at his head. There is something insane, irrational, or stupid, behind the controls, to be sure, but that is not to say that there is not also some intelligent awareness in the cockpit also.

          If you haven’t been subjected to a religious childhood it might be hard to imagine what it is like to have an emotional terrorist installed in one’s brain, and how that can warp an otherwise very intelligent person, how that can train you to think carefully about some things but avoid thinking about others at all. The closest non-religious version of this terrorist in the mind would, I think, be phobias, where a visceral fear reaction overrides the rational parts of one’s mind.

          This dual nature of people’s mind is one reason that I think it’s not a waste of time to present these things to the religious. Many have been trained, with emotional terrorism, to habitually avoid thinking about these things. If we lay it out before them, however, they can’t help but turn it over in their mind and they are, many of them, most of them I think, smart enough to see the implications. Only a few will be brave enough to act on it, though, just as only a few phobics actually confront their phobias.

          1. When I was a kid I asked my father, “If the devil was an angel who turned evil, who tempted the devil to turn evil?” I wasn’t being a wise guy, I honestly was puzzled by this. My father’s response to this was to get angry and snap, “Don’t question everything!” I was cowed into silence.

            1. I can clearly recall being about six or seven and making my grandmother quite irritated when I asked her “Where did God come from?” I didn’t have in mind any doubt about the existence of God and even less was I trying to cause trouble. I took God’s existence as much of a given as the existence of any of the people I’d heard about but not met, like the President. It was just a rather obvious and natural question after you are regaled with the whole creation story and told that we can know God is real because, look, stuff!

              She didn’t get mad, exactly, but she frowned and got very agitated and changed the topic quickly in the same way that accompanied all of the taboo topics, like sex. Taboo is really the best word for it. Such questions occur to most believers and most are smart enough to see the obvious flaws in official doctrines, to sense the bullshit, but it is taboo to ask and, with good enough indoctrination, eventually taboo to even think, and so their mind just treats it like a found mine in a mine field. A flag is planted on the mine and all thought just goes around it. After a while avoiding the flags becomes such second nature you don’t even notice you’re doing some bizarre dance as you go from point A to point B.

              Indoctrinated delusion. But not hopeless, because they aren’t stupid so much as they are just well trained.

  23. It doesn’t do a jurist much good to be “smart” if he is hampered by religion and arrogance. I recently read an interview with McCain and Feingold in which they described the “naivetè” that the Supreme Court justices showed in considering the Citizens United case:

    McCain: “…the questions they asked showed they had not the slightest clue as to what a political campaign is all about and the role of money that it plays in political campaigns…”

    …and the reason Scalia and his jackass fellow justices are clueless is arrogance – and I think Scalia is perhaps the worst. He remains clueless about the extent of corruption of the American poltical process because is so convinced of how “smart” he is, that he needn’t bother with actually doing the work necessary to check his personal opinions against reality.

    He totslly ignores conflicts of interest rules and vacations with businessmen who have matters before the court. Every list of ethical rules forbidding conflicts of interest also forbids the appearance of a conflict of interest. If Scalia weren’t so incredibly arrogant, he be “smart” enough to see at the very least he has engaged in behaviour that has the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    1. Arrogant is an apt descriptor for Scalia. I heard him speak at a law school gathering, and his ego was so big, I was amazed that anyone else could fit into the room. He virtually oozed “I am so much more brilliant than any of you dimwits, so what I think and say is really what you should think and say.”

  24. I think the worrying thing is how he says of course he believes it, as if it was never worth a single moments consideration. And this guy is one of the nine.

  25. I think Scalia was being disingenuous and playing the reporter for a fool. I despise that type of intellectual terrorism.

    1. Well I must be very naive or it backfired because I thought the reporter sounded thoroughly sensible and Scalia sounded like a raving idiot. Senile dementia? Happened to the guy who appointed him…

      1. Agreed, if that was his game, I judge it a ‘fail’. There is no doubt Scalia likes yanking people’s chain, likes it so much that the idea he was trying to jerk the reporter around is not implausible on the face of it. Well, it’s obvious he was trying to jerk her around a bit, it’s just not obvious whether he was lying to do this or trying to jerk her around with the truth. In either case, the only one who came out of that exchange looking bad is Scalia, so if he was telling a lie just to try to get an overlarge reaction out of the reporter, a reaction that he could make fun of, his efforts backfired.

  26. I found this… revealing:

    Here’s another thing I find unexpected about you: that you play poker. Do not take this the wrong way, but you strike me as the kind of person who would be a horrible poker player.
    Shame on you! I’m a damn good poker player.

    But aren’t you the kind of guy who always puts all of his cards on the table? I feel like you would be the worst bluffer ever.
    You can talk to the people in my poker set.

    Do you have a tell?

    A tell.
    What’s a tell?

    What’s a tell? Are you joking?

    A tic or behavior that betrays you’re bluffing.
    Oh! That’s called a tell? …


  27. The idea that Scalia is “smart” is itself a deranged belief. If you live in the 21st century and believe in medieval phantasms you are by deduction a complete moron.

    1. Well, at least some part of him is a moron. You can be smart an delusional at the same time. The brain has an amazing capacity for compartmentalizing so that you can be brilliant in one sphere and a moron in others. History is full of examples of the type (e.g. Kurt Godel was paranoid and sure his food was being poisoned). So you’d be a bit foolish to assume that because someone believes in ancient fairy tales that, say, they don’t have a complete working knowledge of Chaucer, or can speak five languages, or can do some amazing math. It just means that the smart part of their mind is not in full control. A bit like a pilot with an armed terrorist in the cockpit.

      1. I’ve long differentiated two different scales of mental ability. Once scale runs from “intelligent” to “stupid” and the other runs from “smart” to “dumb”. The first scale refers to innate ability and the other refers to practical ability – something like the difference between “theoretical” and “applied” in science. Intelligent people frequently say and do some things. Stupid people can be quite savvy is some areas; think of a gangbanger who is of limited intellect yet is “street smart”, able to handle situations where that would kill many otherwise intelligent people. Lack of “smarts” also often exhibits itself as ingenuousness.

  28. I hope Justice Scalia was tuned in to Le Show the day Harry Shearer took the mic immediately following a featured song, portraying a booming-voice newscaster:

    “This just in! Mother Theresa located in Hell!

    “Based on a tip from an anonymous source, our news team just located Mother Theresa undergoing torture in the bowels of Satan’s lair.

    “Suspended in the air over a steaming vat of boiling feces by a pair of screaming demons holding her ankles, Mother Theresa, visibly terrified, repeatedly beseeched The Lord to forgive her sins and take her to Heaven.

    “God, when interviewed by our crack news team moments later, stated for the record:

    ‘I judge millions of souls every day. Once in a while one of those is bound to slip through the cracks. What does she expect me to do? If I fix one mistake, that would be an admission of fallibility, and then everybody would expect me to fix all the mistakes. Now, I’m very sorry about what happened to poor Theresa, but there is really nothing I can do without wrecking the whole scheme. No dice.’

    ” This concludes our Breaking News report from Heaven. And Hell. Have a nice day.”

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