Scalia’s Inner and Outer Demons

scalia200px-Codex_Gigas_devilIn a recent interview, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia holds forth on the usual subjects such as originalism and repeats his view that “if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional.” However, the most interesting part of the New York Magazine piece came with Scalia’s discussion of the supernatural. Scalia warns that the Devil has become much more “wilier” and harder to spot in society. It appears in both constitutional text and spiritual life the devil is in the details.

Scalia states that he believes that there is a Devil that continues to roam around doing mischief:

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. … It’s because he’s smart. … What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way. … He got wilier.”

Interviewer: “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.”

It is not clear when the Devil shifted from “making pigs run off cliffs, . . . possessing people and whatnot” to more “wilier” devices, but he appears much more menacing. One could even wonder why he killed all those pigs to begin with. However, Scalia’s biblical reference may be slightly misplaced. Matthew 8:28-34 describes “demons” possessing pigs, which drown themselves rather than run off a cliff. Moreover, it was Jesus who sent the demons into the pigs at the request of the demons and as a result the town asked Jesus to leave:

“When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

For the herders, the decision not to simply drive out the demons as opposed to agreeing to allow them to possess the local food supply might have seemed a curious bargain. However, Satan appears to have moved on himself from pig possessions and “whatnot.”

It is simply unclear what the modern version of a pig stampede is. Miley Cyrus comes to mind, but I again end up with the Green Bay Packers. As a Bears fan, I have warned for years how Aaron Rodgers and his spawn of Satan reveal themselves in their many game “possessions.” (It also explains why the Bears seem to run off a cliff whenever we play in Lambeau Field). After all, the dark anagrams for Lambeau Field include “Baleful Made I.” (I am ignoring the anagram for Antonin Scalia of “Satanical In No” as any reference to the jurist’s work on rejecting such things as cruel and unusual punishment claims).

Wilier indeed, Mr. Justice, wilier indeed.

95 thoughts on “Scalia’s Inner and Outer Demons”

  1. 10 computer programmers walk into a bar.

    Bartender looks up, “What is this, a binary joke?”

  2. Gene,
    Ya beat me two it. I was just thinking, “Should I tell that lame binary joke? I guess I should.”
    Two late.

  3. Oro,

    There is only one dichotomy I’ve ever found that is axiomatic: what is something in and of itself, what is it not in and of itself. And I have Marcus Aurelius to thank for that. It is also simply an analytical tool, a constructed dichotomy with purpose – interrogating the nature of reality. The reality it reveals though is almost never “either/or”. There is almost always a third (or fourth or fifth etc.) option. That’s one of the beauties of the Eastern method of dealing with philosophy and religion. They’ve never had the “either/or” mindset about those two topics in their culture, instead picking and choosing elements from diverse works based on functionality. This is in stark contrast to the Western tradition which in general eschews that kind of syncretic approach. For example, I know people who consider themselves Christian Buddhists with no cognitive dissonance whatsoever, but when they tell more traditional sectarian Westerners this, they often get a look much like the look you get from a dog when you show them a card trick. It just doesn’t register that a person can “play for more than one team” despite the fact that the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus have a lot of common ground. And on that note, I leave you with a joke (not mine):

    There are 10 types of people in the world.

    Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

  4. Gene, there are two types of people in this world: those who say there are two types of people and those who don’t. The latter are called enlightened; the former, of which I am obviously numbered, have a ways to go. I’ve at least moved beyond the denial stage.

  5. A ways back on the comment about someone shooting at Jehovah Witnesses in his driveway, the following was posited, “Where shall you find your precious ethics, indeed your objective standards, AND logic, AND reason if there is no God to assure you you have the ability to do so?”

    Maybe on the campus of Havard.

  6. Almost all the religions and societies that have ever existed reject the following dogma: “Just about anyone will acknowledge that there is indeed a presence of evil. There is good and there is evil. To deny such is ridiculous.” The biggest proponents of the dogma are the three monotheistic religions and Western society.

    Good v. evil, true v. false, wise v. foolish, heaven v. hell, tastes great v. less filling, all are dualities; where there is duality, there is friction leading to strife and conflict. There are no dulaities in the universe, only in the human brain. One must seek enlightenment — moving beyond dualities — to see the whole, that the whole is One. Dualities are created in the brain due to its imperfect ability to appreciate reality and thus resulting in action based on false premises –sin, to miss the mark, to disrupt the balance and harmony in nature, to be in the world but not of it.

    Check out the latest edition of The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, especially the chapter on primal religions, and The Hero with a Thousand Masks by Joseph Campbell.

  7. Hubert Cucumber –

    Evil is an adjective, it’s not a thing. It’s only a descriptor of people’s actions. And your religious fictions have no place outside your home or church.

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