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Vampires, devils, witches, and Antonin Scalia

October 13, 2013

Before modern times, the world was full of ghosts and loas and witches, and other things that now seem just stories for Halloween. These all were tangible to those who believed in them. The human mind naturally sees agency in a broad range of phenomena, and it takes a discipline to look at things with the kind of critical eye that looks to refute rather than just find explanation. The Ottomans would send soldiers to dispatch vampires, in remote villages. In Saudi Arabia and some African nations, witches are still hunted down and punished, sometimes executed. If these things are absent in developed nations today, it’s because of the modern eye, not because vampires lose their powers around electricity. Or because the devil is smart and hides from modern man. Though that last is Justice Antonin Scalia’s preferred explanation:

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.

I understand that being Catholic means believing in the Devil. In some sense. But I know not all Catholics have quite such a primitive understanding of that.

Update: Included the link to the article on witch prosecution in Saudi Arabia.

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