U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 77, is well-known for the colorful and unabashed way he expresses his opinions. His latest headline-making comments involve Satan and his strategy for working in the world today, a concept that shocked the New York Magazine reporter who interviewed the justice recently.
The Reagan appointee has never been shy about his Roman Catholic faith and ardent trust in the pope. In a speech to the St. Thomas More Society in 2010, he encouraged Christians not to care when people question their unquestioning belief. “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” he said, quoting Paul.
Later, during the same speech, he added a comical caveat to that advice: “But faith that has no rational basis is a false faith. That is why I am not a Branch Davidian.”
In the long New York Magazine interview published Saturday, Scalia talked about everything from the Defense of Marriage Act to his favorite TV shows. But things got really interesting when he addressed his apathy toward how history will view him: “I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.”
Taking that as a reference to the afterlife, reporter Jennifer Senior asked whether Scalia believed in heaven and hell, admitting she did not. As she tried to steer the conversation back to the list of questions she presumably prepared before the interview, Scalia derailed her plans by leaning in, and in a stage whisper adding, “I even believe in the Devil.” The resulting exchange is almost as entertaining for Senior’s shock as it is for Scalia’s orthodox explanations.
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.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.
Listen to Nick Eicher and John Stonestreet discuss Justice Scalia’s New York Magazine interview on The World and Everything in It: