Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it.Some might hear "standing athwart" homosexual rights and get an amusingly unintentionally sexual picture of Scalia straddling gay men. But I assume it's an allusion to William F. Buckley's famous 1955 mission statement for The National Review: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." The topic was history, you know. And who else says "standing athwart"?
Scalia has shifted from the topic of Kennedy's legacy to his own and — declining to guess what the people of the future will think — he says: "When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy."
That is, he pulls Senior back to the perhaps-more-comfortable topic of religion. She obliges, asking him if he believes in heaven and hell, which he does, and they go back and forth about who goes where, and then, as she proceeds to a new topic — "your drafting process" — he pulls her back again: "I even believe in the Devil."
You do?He's already connected his Catholicism to the accession to the authority of Catholic doctrine. The devil is in the doctrine, he's Catholic, and ergo, he believes in the Devil.
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Asked for evidence of the Devil lately, Scalia says:
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....Later, he asks Senior if she's read "The Screwtape Letters," and not having read "The Screwtape Letters" in decades, I'm not sure if he's lifting these nifty observations from C.S. Lewis or not.
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
Senior wants to know whether it's "terribly frightening to believe in the Devil." He says:
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.He seems to be trying to get a reaction out of her, because she defends with: "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." He says:
I was offended by that. I really was.She doesn't grasp his statement or at least what she says next indicates that she didn't. She says: "I’m sorry to have offended you," as if he was an ordinary person taking offense, when in fact, he's cracking a joke. The joke is to point at her surprise at his bold expression. It was a subtle way to say: Hey, I thought I was famous for bold expression! But he's not so bold — or so bad a comedian — as to redo a joke to drive it home. Either you get it or you don't. He moves forward. Here's where he brings up "The Screwtape Letters," which she says she's read. He says:
So, there you are. That’s a great book.That suggests all the interesting things he's throwing out about the Devil are ideas in or closely tracking that book he likes.
It really is, just as a study of human nature.And there you are. He believes in the Devil not just, perhaps, because he yields to the authority of a religion of dogma and authority, but he believes in the Devil because the Devil is a literary device for exploring human nature, and how can we not believe in human nature and literature?