Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently gave an interview to New York magazine that touched on many topics, and that you can find here if you so desire. This is kind of old news to be honest. If you follow atheist blogs, or left leaning political blogs, you more than likely have already seen many of the choicest nuggets of batshit insanity from one of the nine most powerful judges in the United States. If you just want a small taste of the interview, The Salon has an article on it that you can find at this little linky. Let me say this up front: I have no idea how much of this shit Scalia actually believes and how much of it is pandering to his knuckle-dragging supporters. Since it is impossible to know what is real and what he just thinks his supporters want to hear him say, I am going to take the man at his word; I think we all deserve this. If Justice Scalia is going to go out of his way to tell an interviewer, an interviewer who was already moving on to the next subject, that he, a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, believes in an actual Fallen Angel that goes by the various names of Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer, amongst many others, then perhaps he really does. But you can find all those tidbits of crazy at the above links. I want to point out this exchange:
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.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.
There is so much wrong with that exchange that I honestly do not know what to say. Perhaps the belief in an actual Satan is mainstream in America. But this isn’t my plumber talking about his religious beliefs. It isn’t my doctor, my dentist, or the clerk at the grocery store. It is one of the supposed top legal minds in the nation, one of the most powerful people in America. He is highly educated. He is trained in logic. He is a fucking Judge.
If the average person in “mainstream” America believes in a literal Satan, a point I do not in anyway concede, they are excused to a certain extent. Most pastors do not make a habit out of telling people how the Bible came about. During my years attending Catholic Church, it was never explained to me that the Gospels were not written by people who actually knew Jesus. That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were names added to the Gospels later. That Luke and Matthew were largely reworkings of Mark designed to make specific points to specific audiences. That there are many, many more than four Gospels. That the virginity of Mary was unknown to the earliest followers of the new religion. That Matthew and Luke’s Christmas stories differ in very nearly every detail. That it is a historic impossibility that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great and the governorship of Quirinius. The average person who never studied the Bible except as a devotional text can be excused ignorance of these facts. They can be forgiven for believing that Jesus believed in Satan. At Scalia’s education level, it is a travesty to believe we can actually know what Jesus believed about Satan from the Bible.
He uses the argument from popularity and the argument from authority in rapid succession, two logical fallacies for the price of one. Most of mankind has believed in the Devil? While I won’t grant this point, since the Devil is a Judeo-Christian figure and most of mankind has not followed this specific religion, I will say that most of mankind also believed the Sun revolved around the Earth. It is only relatively recently in our history that we discovered that stars are similar to our sun, only far away, that the Universe is uncomprehendingly vast, that germs cause disease, that things fall to the earth because of gravity, that dinosaurs once walked the Earth, and so on until your fingers fall off from typing. The beliefs of our ancestors mean nothing in our scientific world. And then immediately after he states that many more intelligent people believed in the Devil. So fucking what? Many people, far more intelligent than I, believed in alchemy. People far more intelligent than Scalia have believed in contradicting religions, that there is no God, that the Earth is the center of the Universe, that it is turtles all the way down. It does not matter what the genius minds that came before us believed, because they formed their beliefs without the evidence and knowledge that we currently possess.
Scalia is offended? I am offended that a member of the Supreme Court would use two blatant logical fallacies in the span of two sentences.
Yes, I am an elitist.
I want my Judges to be educated. I do not want “mainstream” America, Joe Everyman, presiding on the Supreme Court. I do not want a Justice who follows astrology, who believes in psychics, who thinks UFO’s are alien spaceships that abduct people for anal probing, who believes the world is 6000 years old, or who believes in a entity known as Satan who serves as God’s foil in a cosmic game of Cops and Robbers. I am not asking that they all be atheist, but if Christian would a course in Biblical scholarship be too much to ask? The creation of the Bible isn’t rare, esoteric knowledge kept by a few and guarded from the public. Multiple authors write books from many different perspectives aimed at the layperson to teach a basic level of biblical knowledge.
Perhaps Jesus did believe in Satan. What Jesus actually believed on the subject is something we can not know from the Gospels. To claim that we can is to cite a religious belief, not a historical fact based on evidence. Just as belief in Satan is a religious belief, a belief I would argue is on the fringe, if not overall, then at least among those who are educated.
Far be it from me to go to the local church and try to dictate peoples beliefs to them. With the way this nation treats education as an afterthought, I am not surprised that pockets of the nation believe God will protect them from rattlesnake bites, heal their sick children as long as they stay away from doctors, and that the proper method of receiving communion for young boys is penis in mouth. Hell, how many people are willing to trust the health of their children to Jenny McCarthy rather than the entire medical establishment?
But in a secular nation, I expect something more from our leaders.