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. Quite the telling interview. Justice Scalia’s responses are a case-in-point examples of why lifetime appointments to positions of authority are dangerous. Especially in the case of delusional bible thumping meglomaniacs who forget that Jack Bauer/24 are fictional.

    The Globe and Mail reported that Scalia came to the defense of Jack Bauer and his torture tactics during an Ottawa conference of international jurists and national security officials last week. During a panel discussion about terrorism, torture and the law, a Canadian judge remarked, “Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra ‘What would Jack Bauer do?’ ”

    Justice Scalia responded with a defense of Agent Bauer, arguing that law enforcement officials deserve latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles . . . . He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia reportedly said. “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” He then posed a series of questions to his fellow judges: “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?”


  2. The concept of Satan provokes strong emotions, and sparks a series of fundamental questions about good and evil, about human nature, and about the nature of God.

    The question of whether Satan exists is one of the most contentious theological debates possible, and last week four fascinating, polarizing people from around the country convened in Seattle to tackle that topic in the third “Nightline” Face-Off.

    According to one poll, 70 percent of Americans believe Satan is real. Some believe he — and almost all believers say Satan is a “he” — is a fallen angel. Others believe Satan is a shapeless, malevolent force; the enemy of God. But there are also many people who believe that Satan is a myth, and a dangerous one, because his name is often invoked to justify unspeakable acts of violence.” (ABC news)

  3. I wish I could remember the name of the atheist who said this, but after looking at the eyes of the people who run things, he said he believed in demonic possession too! So do I.

    I am all for inquiry into things we call supernatural. I’m certain there are explanations for many, many things which we do not understand. What I don’t see in Scalia’s remarks is an openness to understanding anything intellectually. These are his unquestioning beliefs. As such, they are suitable for 1013, not 2013.

    Research points out that many of our overlords believe in religious absolutes and ideas which may not be questioned. That is scary. These statements are simply not evidence based: ““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.”

    It is quite disturbing to know that someone without an evidence based world view is making decisions in any court, let alone the SC. Court decisions are supposed to be evidence based. Obviously, that is not what is happening with Scalia.

  4. Mike S.,

    What you fear is what you worship … that’s why an institutionally, actualized Satan has control over certain religious people. Over those religious folk who have not actualized Satan and thus do not worship him, he has no control and, of course, no control at all over atheists.

    Tony C. likes to call it all “magical thinking”.

  5. Be afraid…….be very afraid. Not of the “Devil” but of men like Scalia who believes in its existence. The greatest cop out in human history is the various variations upon “the Devil made me do it”.

  6. He is indeed haughty, sanctimonious, and condescending. That’s what rankles so many of his counterparts on the left, believing those qualities to be theirs alone.

  7. Gumba Scalia might benefit from this bit of continental wisdom:

    There is a Devil,
    Of that, there is no doubt,
    But, is he trying to get in us?
    Or trying to get out?

    ~Spanish Proverb

    With his haughty attitude on display here, I think I know the answer.

  8. Scalia:
    “Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil.”
    I’m sure the interviewer was insulted by use of “you or me” in that sentence.
    There are, indeed, “many more intelligent people than…” Scalia.

    I’m sure that a very learned man [heavy sarcasm] like Scalia has read Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.”
    Shame that Mr. Paine has passed on. The look on Paine’s face, when Scalia schools him about the devil? Priceless!

  9. The Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded this morning.
    Two Non-Originalist thinkers way back in the 60s, thought outside the box and posited the existence of a particle that (gobbledygook)… this is my name for scientific truth that is way beyond me….. Anyways, their theory, (or hypothesis ?) has been supported by evidence. Mega Kudos to them.

    This particle has been named the Higgs Boson. It has been nicknamed the “God particle” …. because scientists searching for it became frustrated and exclaimed “where is this G-dam particle”

    Perhaps Scalia is now searching for the anti Higgs Boson, which may be nicknamed the “Devil” particle.
    If he is successful he qualifies for the “Dumbel Prize for Entropic Jurisprudence.

  10. After Citizens United, you had any doubts, Blouise?

    Scalia is a man so enthralled with fictions that he can’t tell what is real anymore.

  11. Un-frickin’-believable … a devil worshiper on the Supreme Court … though, when I think about it, that does explain a lot.

  12. I didn’t think this story would last till the weekend.

    That most Americans believe in the devil is an example of the Appeal to Popularity fallacy. Justifying your belief by appealing to the Gospels is an example of the Begging the Question fallacy.

    Isn’t it curious that when faced with sickness or death, believers in demons make a beeline to the nearest bastion of naturalism: modern medicine.

  13. Oro,

    That’s an astute observation and quite true. It’s a fine example of the irrationality of unquestioning belief over rational empirically derived ideas. Perhaps what is most offensive with Scalia is that on top of this, he’s a selective originalist. When an alleged originalist interpretation suits his political and religious ideology, he’ll twist and turn like a circus contortionist to rationalize it, but if the plain language of the Constitution goes against his beliefs, he has no problem throwing those legal precepts under the bus. It reminds me of the conversation in the movie Dogma between Rufus (the 13th Apostle) and Bethany (the Last Scion):

    Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name – wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.

    Bethany: Having beliefs isn’t good?

    Rufus: I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier…

    Scalia is no different.

  14. Being an self-exiled survivor of the conservative resurgence in the Southern baptist Convention (SBC), I not some parallels concerning conservative treatment of both the bible and the Constitution.

    The fisrt is obvious — both document seem to be worshipped more than the ideals they contain

    With respect to the Bible, it was written in a patriarchial age to serve a patriarchal society, and has been interpreted, implemented, and imposed to serve the partiarchial interests of each succeeding age. The response to the challenges of the Age of Reason and Science was to equip the battlements with an inerrant bible and a literal interpretation.

    Conservative justices have equipped themselves similarly in this post-civil rights era — a dead constitution and an originalist interpretation.

    In one the myth has bee substituted for the meaning of the myth, in the other, old legal practices for enlightened legal precepts.

    Poor Tony, doubly damned to self-deprivation in the land of promise.

  15. The Pirates will raise the Jolly Roger in St. Louis. Hurdle made a tough but wise decision, sitting Burnett and starting the kid Coles.

  16. Getting classier. How about a few “racist” ad hominems,? You folks need some java this morning.

  17. Two big thumbs way up Barking Dog. let’s not make too much of the “original” constitution. The American “Revolution” did little more than replace one group of elites with another, and the constitution did little more than create a kind of democracy among America’s aristocracy — the landed and wealthy white males.

    Let’s instead make a really big deal of the Bill of Rights, the Civil War Amendments, and the the 17th, 19th, and 24th amendments.

    Let’s make a really big deal that the constitution, as flawed as it may still be, was birthed in the Age or Reason — it is an “enlightened” document far beyond any sacred text and deserving of an interpretation and construction worthy of its heritage.

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