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Scalia’s religious views

In the widely publicized interview with New York magazine’s Jennifer Senior, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia talks, among other things, about his religious beliefs and they turn out to be pretty orthodox.

Scalia’s beliefs are not surprising. After all, it is well known that he is a practicing Catholic. Scalia believes in heaven and hell. He goes further, saying” I even believe in the Devil… Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person.”

What was interesting to me is how the interviewer feels so comfortable telling him she’s an atheist (this is more commonplace now but I suspect would have been much harder to do even just a decade ago) and clearly shows surprise that he believes in such things, as can be seen by Scalia’s reaction to what must have been her visible incredulity.

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.

Scalia is right, of course. But what he does not seem to realize is that sophisticated religionists are moving rapidly away from older understandings of heaven and hell as actual spaces and the devil as an anthropomorphic entity, seeing such views as primitive and unworthy of serious consideration. I can understand people who seem otherwise rational believing in a god of some kind and even a heaven. It can be a comforting delusion if not probed too closely. But I find it harder to understand people who believe in a real devil who presides over an actual hell.

He adds that he was really offended by her incredulity. He also asks her whether she has read The Screwtape Letters written by the religious apologist C. S. Lewis. It took the form of letters written by a high-level bureaucrat in hell giving advice to his nephew, a junior cog in the structure, on how to subvert believers. I read it way back when I was much younger, still in high school, and even though I was very religious at that time, I did not think much of it. It seemed to me to be a bit childish.

Scalia is truly an anachronism.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    But what he does not seem to realize is that sophisticated religionists are moving rapidly away from older understandings of heaven and hell as actual spaces and the devil as an anthropomorphic entity, seeing such views as primitive and unworthy of serious consideration.

    Heh. Well, if there is one word that is inappropriate to use to describe Scalia, I would say it’s “sophisticated.”

    Since his court rulings seem to show so little “sophistication,” I guess it’s should be no surprise that it’s lacking in his theological beliefs as well.

  2. deepak shetty says

    But I find it harder to understand people who believe in a real devil who presides over an actual hell.
    I find that easier to understand. Its one of the few ways a theist can make some sort of argument for the existence of evil.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Maybe he is applying the same ‘original intent’ thinking he says he applies to the constitution.

  4. sailor1031 says

    The existence of evil is accounted for in christian theology by stating that mankind is inherently evil having fallen from grace in the garden of eden at the behest of a talking snake. No satan was in evidence. Christians like to conflate satan and the talking snake but they are separate entities. Satan doesn’t appear until much later in the bible. By xtian theology mankind is evil with or without satan…as for scalia I’m offended that that ass is offended by someone’s rational atheism. And I find his insults unbecoming a rational human being – which of course scalia isn’t.

  5. Nathair says

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

    If you add up all the people who have ever lived the majority of them were Abrahamic theists? Can we see the math on that?

    Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

    Isaac Newton (along with lots of other intelligent people through the years) was a believer in alchemy and a hunter for The Philosopher’s Stone so, clearly, modern chemistry is just so much bullshit. Right?

  6. Chiroptera says

    According to Job, Satan was some kind of drinking buddy of Yahweh. (I can’t figure out how else to explain the pissing match they got into.)

  7. says

    The Job Jews wrote has Satan as, more or less, God’s Prosecuting Attorney. He’s not doubting Job just to make him suffer. He’s doubting Job’s faith because it is his divine mandate to ensure that YHWH’s flock properly worships him. He got mixed in with the rebelling angel Lucifer through means I don’t immediately recall.

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