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Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine!

Via PZ – Scalia explains heaven and hell and the devil to an incredulous journalist, and then bullies the journalist for being incredulous. Yeah, gee, how dare anyone be surprised that an adult intelligent Supreme Court justice thinks there’s such a thing as The Devil.

Whatever you think of the opinion, Justice ­Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights.

[Nods.]

I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years.

I don’t know either. And, frankly, I don’t care. Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.

You believe in heaven and hell?

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

No.

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.

So it’s Catholic doctrine, so what? You can’t just assume that people believe in everything that’s “doctrine” even if they do belong to the church whose doctrine it is. “Doctrine” isn’t really something that rational adults should subscribe to in that way.

It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it reasonable? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it likely? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there evidence that it’s true? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there any good reason to believe it?

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.

But why be faithful to Catholic dogma? Why do that? Why not see dogma for what it is – intellectual coercion, nothing else – and walk away from it?

And why talk as if it’s belief in the dogma that’s reasonable and the journalist’s surprise that’s weird? Why say “Hey, c’mon” as if you were being nothing but reasonable?

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.

Ah now that’s the true bully note – how dare you disagree with “most of America,” how dare you think the devil is a ridiculous and cruel old story when most of America doesn’t, you commie weirdo faggot feminazi slut.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    Notice how Scalia doesn’t answer the last question. Instead he sneers at the interviewer for not being mainstream.

  2. screechymonkey says

    I disagree with your take on the last quoted bit. I think Scalia is dead-on to call her out of touch for being surprised that someone believes in the Devil. I don’t think that it’s bullying just because he implies that he’s in the majority and she isn’t, any more than it’s bullying when she implies that he’s out of touch with evolving values about homosexuality.

    But keep this handy for the next time some accommodationist writes a condescending piece about how “nobody” (except a few fundamentalists) really believes the stuff that those silly Gnu Atheists criticize. Frankly, I wish they’d gone into more detail, to nail down whether or not Scalia’s Devil is some vague metaphorical thing or an actual intelligent deity/demigod/whatever.

  3. says

    I saw the headlines, etc. about how ‘ Scalia believes in the devil’, but when I read the actual interview it seemed to me that he was teasing the journalist. I could be wrong, perhaps he genuinely believes in a literal Satan, but my impression is of a puckish old conservative, who knows full well that us gullible liberals will jump up and down about this kind of thing, and has deliberately and mischievously set out to ‘troll’ us.

  4. Havok says

    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.

    It’s AN explanation, but it’s not a reasonable one.
    I’m sure if Scalia talked to people in some places in the US, they’d tell him the devil is still all over the place.
    And of course, Scalia could not countenance the most probable explanation – the devil never was “all over the place” – he’s a fiction. No, it just took the devil a few millenia to figure out that not being so “all over the place” was the way to go – and I thought Satan was supposed to be quite clever.

  5. dmcclean says

    I made this comment on Pharyngula too, but I think it deserves comment:

    In my opinion the really bad part is where he says

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

    This is only true under the white european concept of history where “most of mankind” “for all of history” has been christian. It isn’t true on planet earth where there hasn’t been a single moment in “all of history” at which “most of mankind has believed in the devil.”

  6. says

    Actually, dmcclean, humanity has believed in good vs. evil for “most of mankind”. The devil is simply a Christian re-imagining of Hades, if I recall correctly, himself likely a re-imagining of an earlier “evil”. So Scalia is sort of correct… you just have to remove the Christianity from it…

  7. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    My barber, Theodoric of York, shares Scalia’s beliefs. He also tells me that I’ll feel better after a good bleeding.

  8. dmcclean says

    It isn’t as clear cut as that. Illustratively, you don’t recall correctly. Hades was the god of the underworld, but not of evil. Quoth the wikipedia article thereupon: “Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. Hades was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was often maintaining relative balance.”

    Believing in the personification of all evil into one god (who isn’t a god, because there’s only one god, but wait, what were we talking about….) is probably (I’m no expert, but it stands to reason) almost as new as believing in the personification of all good into “one god, the father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”

    Lots of polytheistic traditions aren’t nearly as black and white on the good/evil distinction as western christianity has been.

    Scalia’s claim as stated is howlingly wrong. As you would modify it I would contend that it is still quite likely to be wrong, but obviously it is substantially more difficult to document and depends on intricacies of definition, especially the definition of “all of history”.

  9. says

    Sorry. I’m very very tired and have a migraine and not typing straight.

    I’ll do more research when I have more time and energy and brain-power, but I seem to recall that the modern Hell, devils, and Satan actually have a rich, shifting history going back much further than monotheism, even if them being the personification of evil is a decidedly Christian addition.

  10. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @Martha #10
    I agree. It’s tempting to laugh off lunatics like Scalia, but the fact of the matter is that ideas like that aren’t just some abstract, philosophical ponderings with no real-life implications. Scalia has personally defended the death penalty on the grounds that “for Christians death is no big deal”*, and he’s right. If you really believe (rather than just telling yourself you believe it) that “everyone is going one place or the other”, there is no possible downside to executing people. After all if they’re innocent, they will just go straight to paradise, and will thank you for it. If they’re guilty they will go to Hell, and deserve it. It’s a win-win situation. Muslim suicide bombers have given similar justifications when asked what would happen if they were to blow up some righteous Muslims along with all the infidels.
    ________________________________________________________________
    * Unless, of course, you’re a fertilized egg or an embryo. Then apparently having an immortal soul and going straight to paradise (do you still have the soul of an embryo in paradise?) doesn’t do you much good. But hey, who said Christian doctrine was consistent…

  11. sailor1031 says

    I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil!

    Yeah – well JC was wrong, as he was about a lot of things. But if this loathsome creature, scalia, thinks we need to believe in “the devil” he won’t mind if we pray to the devil to take scalia away and see what happens?
    Sorry no capital letter for scalia, by english rules they are only for proper names.

  12. Sili says

    Most of America distrusts Catholics and didn’t want to have one as president.

    That man really isn’t a clear thinker, is he.

  13. Scr... Archivist says

    screechymonkey @2 wrote:

    Frankly, I wish they’d gone into more detail, to nail down whether or not Scalia’s Devil is some vague metaphorical thing or an actual intelligent deity/demigod/whatever.

    They did, in the more complete transcript. Just how serious Scalia was is not clear to me, but here is the quote:

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

    http://nymag.com/news/features/antonin-scalia-2013-10/index3.html

    I will be glad when Scalia is out of office.

  14. JT says

    Maybe Scalia is the Devil and speaks like this to make us think he is nuts and the that the Devil isnt real. ;)
    Or maybe Scalia really is nuts. :)

  15. John Horstman says

    @dmcclean #8: Based on the extant records from the earliest human groups who left them, which all use animist/polytheistic explanations for unexplained natural phenomena, the idea of a good/evil binary and especially one where one or both aspects are embodied by a single god-figure was likely uncommon to nonexistent in prehistoric (pre-literate) societies (which still constitute most of the existence of human beings, though I suppose technically not human history, as “history” definitionally begins when we start having written records to examine; writing was invented around 10,000 years ago, while anatomically-modern humans have been around for a good 200,000 years). Considering any of these gods/spirit-figures not directly tied to the memetic evolution of the Christian Satan analogous to contemporary or recent Christian concepts is simply an act of cultural projection. The existence of a moral code doesn’t mean that moral code implicitly functions on Christian principles, though it’s understandable how someone who essentializes Christian concepts as Truth might think that ANY concept of morality necessarily has its roots in the same source as Christian morality (you may have heard Christian preachers claiming that any/all faith comes form Yahweh – same idea). We see similar acts of cultural projection when people claim that “every human society has had marriage”, essentializing ANY family arrangement system as “marriage” and then circularly using that projection to claim that marriage is essential to human societies. In fact, “marriage” is a culturally-historically specific system of structuring families; likewise, “the Devil” is a culturally-historically specific conceptualization of “evil” (itself a culturally-historically specific moral concept).

  16. theobromine says

    So it’s Catholic doctrine, so what? You can’t just assume that people believe in everything that’s “doctrine” even if they do belong to the church whose doctrine it is. “Doctrine” isn’t really something that rational adults should subscribe to in that way.

    Catholics are supposed to believe in Catholic doctrine. If a person considers that they are a rational adult, and therefore rejects the idea of subscribing to doctrine, the rational course of action is to realize that rejecting the doctrine means rejecting the church.

    It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it reasonable? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is it likely? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there evidence that it’s true? It’s Catholic doctrine, but is there any good reason to believe it?

    No, no, no, and no. Perhaps Scalia has done some Catholics a favour by pointing out that if one considers oneself to be a Catholic, it’s assumed that one accepts the doctrine. The corollary is that if the doctrine is unacceptable, so is the Holy Roman Catholic Church

    The other alternative is Karen Armstrong. I’d find it most interesting to see Armstrong and Scalia debate their versions of what “Catholicism” really is.

  17. says

    theobromine – well, true, and I wish people who stay in the church despite not believing most of its doctrine would just get out of it already…but I also think it’s worth pointing out the dogma-policing. Not entirely consistent, perhaps.

  18. theobromine says

    Yes, definitely worth pointing out the dogma-policing, and drawing attention to Scalia’s astonishing failure to realize that calling something “Catholic doctrine” might not be as meaningful to others as it is to him.

  19. says

    The thing about Catholic doctrine that makes Catholicism keep more of its heretics and dissidents than Protestant sects is that you only need to believe one item of it to stay in, and that’s that the Church was what Jesus intended as his primary legacy. The Catholic/Orthodox bits of Christianity both teach essentially that and therefore pretty much necessarily treats the Bible as secondary. I’m fairly sure it’s actually a heresy in Catholicism to insist on a literal reading of the Bible, for instance.

    Tangential, I know, but it does help explain the really variable approach of many individual Catholics to doctrine. (That said, my impression is that quite a few people who identify as Catholics have no idea about the core differences between Catholicism and traditional forms of Protestantism; they usually end up sounding like Protestants with a vague allegiances to Catholic institutions.)

  20. MyaR says

    OK, I’m very late to this post, but what I found most shocking in the Scalia interview wasn’t that he believes in the devil, it was this — “Words have meanings. And those meanings don’t change.” Probably his most damaging belief. Textualism is a scourge on our country, and unfortunately, there are more and more people who share this ridiculous belief teaching in law schools.

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