GateHouse — To the best of my memory, I have not been in that many cults.
Yes, I’ve been drinking at the Knights of Columbus a few times. Yes, I apparently joined something during my brief internship in Eric Massa’s office, but I don’t remember anything about it except being chained to a water heater in a basement as part of my “purification.” Also, I spent most of 2007 totally into “The Secret,” which was a giant waste of time because you don’t see Naomi Watts here serving me pina coladas, now do you? Also, it is possible that I joined the Def Leppard Fan Club in 1988 but in my defense at the time I found “Hysteria” devastatingly awesome and they promised to send me a patch I could sew on my jean jacket, but they never did, which is why I hate Def Leppard to this day, that’s right, Joe Elliott, YOU ARE DEAD TO ME. Also, I briefly subscribed to O Magazine and own a Mac. But that’s it. With the cults, I mean.
This is not because of any objection to honoring false gods and icons — I am all for that. It’s more of a time-management situation. Most cults, at least from what I’ve learned from TV shows, are bigger drains on your personal time than having children; there are all these meetings and ceremonies and self-abusive albinos and every week you have to go see Tom Cruise and act all excited — oooooh, it’s Tom Maverick Cruise, 2001 Box Office Superstar, like he’s not here every Tuesday night. And that’s not even counting the expenses of robes and vestments and hallucinogenic drugs, none of which, incidentally, can be written off, despite what all those quote-fingers professional tax preparers tell you (yeah, thanks again, Aaron).
Yet I do know this: If I were to join a cult, I would want it to be one of those awesome cults, one with snappy matching track suits and the promise of spaceships and some irrevocable invisible superbeing destroying anyone who disagrees with my opinions. I do not think I am a man whose belief structure is easily broken, but I will say that if my cult leader, for instance, told me that my path to eternal salvation lie in the purposeful ingestion of snail mucus, I would absolutely, positively, think about finding a new false idol in an entirely different poorly lit one-bedroom apartment.
But indeed that is what happened to a cult in Florida, which is a phrase rife with redundancy but we only have room for one comic thesis. According to a particularly delicious story by the AP, “Devotees of a Miami man who claims to practice a traditional African religion say they were sickened when they drank the mucus of a giant African snail.” Really? That made you sick? The slurping down of the golden mucus produced an animal whose name includes the word “giant?”
First, the good news: When I first read this I thought the people had to use a spoon, so the drinking news seemed like a total time-saver. Also, the story says authorities raided Charles L. Stewart’s home after receiving complains about the practice, although it’s unclear as to whether the complaints came from the cult members or the snails. Probably both, now that I think about it, although one imagines the snails’ complaints probably took much longer to arrive.
But the news is all bad for people who enjoy swallowing snail mucus, whether as part of a cult ritual or for the flavor crystals, because it turns out the giant African snail is prohibited in the U.S. without special approval, like Roman Polanski or selling 50 Cent records at Wal-Mart. That is because the snail is apparently a fearsome and devastating predator, although not one that’s terribly difficult to beat in a foot race, and it has been known to grow up to 10 inches long, reproduce on its own (not requiring, one imagines, special approval from the U.S.) and eat plaster, all of which add up to make it both an ecosystem-ravaging disaster and also the most MOST AWESOME SNAIL IN THE WORLD. Seriously, I kind of want to pray to this thing a little bit now. (The snails I encountered growing up didn’t do anything nearly that awesome; they mostly sat there being slimy, and it took them forever to come inside when you took them out to play fetch.)
So, though I am not a terribly religious person and can only legally marry you in New Jersey or Turks and Caicos, I do have this small piece of advice: If your spiritual leader tries to involve you in a shady ritual regarding the things you find in the noses of plaster-eating-snails, you march right out of that repurposed movie theater and you go find your comfort in something more traditional and logical, like eating the body and blood of your resurrected Lord.