Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is considered by many to be a
intellectual, in fact the leading intellectual on the Supreme Court, and
yet we get the following exchange between Jennifer Senior of New York
Magazine and Scalia that happened just 2 weeks ago but could have come
straight out of the middle ages and vividly illustrated what Carl Sagan
called "The Demon-Haunted World”. Incidentally Scalia has said that he
disagrees with the idea that religious belief is a private matter that can
be put in a airtight box and has no effect on public life.
Senior: You believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Scalia: Oh, my.
Senior: Does that mean I’m not going?
Scalia: [Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Senior: Wait, to heaven or hell?
Scalia: 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
Senior: But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe
Scalia: Of course not!
Senior: Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
Scalia: 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?
Senior: Can we talk about your drafting process –
Scalia: [Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the devil.
Senior: You do?
Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard
Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Senior: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics
out there …
Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large
part of it.
Senior: Have you seen evidence of the devil lately?
Scalia: 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.
Scalia: It’s because he’s smart.
Senior: So what’s he doing now?
Scalia: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in
God. He’s much more successful that way.
Senior: That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure
that’s the – devil’s work?
Scalia: I didn’t say atheists are the devil’s work.
Senior: Well, you’re saying the devil is persuading people to not believe
in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Scalia: 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.
Scalia: What happened to him?
Senior: He just got wilier.
Scalia: He got wilier.
Senior: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the devil?
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? 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.
Senior: 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.
Scalia: I was offended by that. I really was.
John K Clark
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