U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia: The devil is getting 'wilier' and society is getting coarser

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The devil portrayed in the Bible has changed his ways, substituting wile for old-fashioned possession, according to Justice Antonin Scalia.

Scalia talks about his belief in the devil, his disdain for the F-word and Facebook friending, and one constitutional flaw in a lengthy interview with New York magazine.

Scalia tells interviewer Jennifer Senior that he guesses he was always an originalist, even though law professors teach the evolving Constitution. “I am something of a contrarian, I suppose,” he says. “I feel less comfortable when everybody agrees with me. I say, ‘I better re-examine my position!’ I probably believe that the worst opinions in my court have been unanimous. Because there’s nobody on the other side pointing out all the flaws.”

Scalia says laws can be stupid, but constitutional. And even the Constitution has a flaw, he says:

Scalia: “The one provision that I would amend is the amendment provision. And that was not originally a flaw. But the country has changed so much. With the divergence in size between California and Rhode Island—I figured it out once, I think if you picked the smallest number necessary for a majority in the least populous states, something like less than 2 percent of the population can prevent a constitutional amendment. But other than that, some things have not worked out the way the framers anticipated. But that’s been the fault of the courts, not the fault of the draftsmen.”

Scalia also reveals that he no longer reads the Washington Post because the newspaper coverage of conservative issues was “slanted and often nasty.” He and his wife now subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. He has watched the Sopranos and loves Seinfeld. He also said he uses the Internet, prompting a question about whether it has coarsened culture:

Scalia: “I’m nervous about our civic culture. I’m not sure the Internet is largely the cause of it. It’s certainly the cause of careless writing. People who get used to blurbing things on the Internet are never going to be good writers. And some things I don’t understand about it. For example, I don’t know why anyone would like to be ‘friended’ on the network. I mean, what kind of a narcissistic society is it that people want to put out there, This is my life, and this is what I did yesterday? I mean … good grief. Doesn’t that strike you as strange? I think it’s strange. …

“I am glad that I am not raising kids today. And I’m rather pessimistic that my grandchildren will enjoy the great society that I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime. I really think it’s coarsened. It’s coarsened in so many ways. …

“One of the things that upsets me about modern society is the coarseness of manners. You can’t go to a movie—or watch a television show for that matter—without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it. People that I know don’t talk like that! But if you portray it a lot, the society’s going to become that way. It’s very sad.

“And you can’t have a movie or a television show without a nude sex scene, very often having no relation to the plot. I don’t mind it when it is essential to the plot, as it sometimes is. But, my goodness! The society that watches that becomes a coarse society.”

Scalia also talks to the interviewer about heaven and hell, leaning over to confess in a stage whisper that he also believes in the devil:

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.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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