Could it be . . .

Can the prince of darkness thrive in Giulianified New York?

That question is repeatedly posed by Jim Knipfel in his cover story in the current issue of the New York Press. The question sets up an interview with Peter Gilmore, a mover in the Church of Satan who was involved in relocating the organization’s headquarters from San Francisco to New York in 2001.

My favorite bit is when Knipfel catches Gilmore out in a bit of Evil nostalgia:

“Times Square used to be the most potent vista for viewing this entire spectrum in one glance,” he said. “If one stood on Broadway and 42nd, simply by looking around you could see human passions embodied: base sexuality in the venues for all facets of pornography, the restless mind hungry for information in the endless electronic crawl of headlines and in the publications cramming the newsstands. Our need for fantasy was served by the many theaters showing every level of film being produced and a similar range of live performance from the splendid to the sordid. There were shops which sold exotic weaponry and tacky souvenirs. The cuisine ranged from street vendors of dubious cleanliness and the quintessentially American Howard Johnson’s to the second-floor exotica of the Chinese Republic.” . . .

As we all know, that symbolic, iconic Times Square is long gone, replaced with “retail boxes” catering, as he puts it, “to the bland needs of tasteless drones.” The supposed revitalization of the area, he further notes, “has slapped a sanitized mask on the true face of our Babylon.”

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  • Stephen A.

    While I hope nobody buys into this loon’s lame “anti-commercialization” argument, masking his love of depravity and pain, I bet someone will jump right onto that bandwagon.

    To pine for the “good old days” of dirty street vendors and sleazy films is somewhat amusing coming from a Satanist. But surely “The Disney Store” is far better than hookers with broken needles in their arms. Isn’t it?

    (Oh, please say it is, people. I already worry enough about the moral state of religion as it is.)

  • wildwest

    Well, OK. WalMart would be better, too, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. :-)

  • John Hetman

    Sin is one enormous boring activity and the old Times Square soon got tedious. Just how many porno films could anyone even watch? Better to have the commercially appealing gimmicks with rotating fashions and trendy delusions.

    The problem with Satan is that she quickly gets wearisome once a person steps back and looks at her real offerings.

  • luke

    Stephen, I know what you mean. It is ‘tempting’ to try and reduce this to a case of Moloch vs Mammon — and then conclude there is no ‘lesser evil’ — when of course any sane person can see this is an improvement.

  • Tom Breen

    Perhaps there would be less nostalgia for the bad old days from this journalist and his “Satanist” interviewee if they had actually lived through the crack epidemic in the 1980s with the mostly poor, mostly non-white population of New York, who bore the brunt of it. What’s that Johnny Rotten said about a cheap holiday in other people’s misery?

    All this article confirms for me is the total irrelevance of “LaVey”‘s little club and the New York Press.

  • Steve Nicoloso

    We’ve generated a bit of discussion on this topic over at The New “Friend of GetReligion” Pantagruel forums, here, wherein I proposed that folks like LaVey and Gilmore don’t really have Satan’s best interests at heart. To bring back the bad ol’ days of real, passionate, man-sized sins would work counter to his best and brightest plans, which are outlined pretty well by good ol’ Uncle Screwtape. I disagree that “any sane person” can see unbridled devotion to mammon as an “improvement” over the same devotion to Moloch–the latter is much more vile, much more bold, and therefore much more likely to pique the modern desensitized conscience, leading to a man-sized sense of remorse, and ultimately to repentance. Satan is quite well served, Gilmore’s nostalgia notwithstanding, when sin just stops seeming so sinful.

  • Stephen A.

    The only two choices here are NOT squallor, filth, rampant drug use and a crumbling concrete wasteland OR a “sanitized” landscape (added scare quotes, for emphasis) of family-oriented stores and theatres that somehow represents an “unbridled devotion to mammon.”

    I suppose Guiliani could have blown it all up, bulldozed Times Square and created a new park.

    But for those of us in the real world, we have to make do with the clean streets and the stores, even if they are in business to (gasp!) make money from families and tourists.

    Money’s only a sin if it’s an obsession or an object of worship.

  • Steve Nicoloso

    Money’s only a sin if it’s an obsession or an object of worship.

    I suppose that’s true, but ignoring for a moment the low probability that the West’s love affair with desiring and possessing things, and the means thereunto, fails to usually rise to obsession or object of worship, there are many other things beside money that obey such a dictum—-among them a whole plethora of innocent pagan pleasures that puritanical society wants to wash off the street (smoking, sex, drinking, &c.). Why are “retail” excesses so much more socially acceptable than other such excesses? I maintain it is only because we have trained ourselves not to “feel” such excesses are too terribly “sinful.” Tho’ I’ve no wish to see the “street” cluttered with either brand of excess, it is far from clear that one is particularly “safer” (from a spiritual standpoint) than another.


  • Stephen A.

    A “shop ’till you drop” mentality was implied in my anti-commercial argument, and that’s what I meant by obsession, which I agree, is unhealthy.

    While smoking, sex and drinking can be “innocent” in their proper measure, putting all three in shops and selling them in a tawdry manner – Commercializing them, in other words – is more likely to make them NO LONGER innocent pleasures. Instead, they easily become a curse, as they were apparently in Times Square in years past.