It's a Saturday Night Live skit waiting to happen, right? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets: A service that promises to care for your pet after you have ascended to heaven to join The Almighty. Like the company's co-founder, Bart Centre, I laughed at first. Surely, this can't be for real. But after speaking with Bart, and a few close friends who believe in the Rapture, I stopped laughing and started thinking.
First, let's review: The Rapture, also known as Judgment Day, is the basic belief (with varying tribulational differences) that Jesus is coming back and only taking His devout followers back up the Holy Elevator with Him. Evidently, the heathen losers "left behind" will be screwed, and the end of the world as we know it will follow soon thereafter. Many believe, along with Family Radio President Harold Camping, that The Rapture will take place this Saturday, May 21, with the world's end to follow on October 21.
When I began my interview with Bart, he asked up front, "Are you a believer?" I responded in the negative (to the Rapture, specifically) and we begin to chat. After hanging up, I realized the conversation would have been very different if I had answered in the affirmative.
Bart Centre is a devout atheist and is, in fact, the author of "The Atheist Camel Chronicles: Debate Themes & Arguments for the Non-Believer (and those who think they might be)" under the pseudonym Dromedary Hump.
The book published in June 2009. A month later, his buddy, Brad, sent Bart a news link about a UK woman who promises to care for cats post-Rapture. They both had a good chuckle over it, but it got Bart to thinking.
One of his book chapters talks about the End Times and that looming Mayan calendar date of 2012 (the next one we need to worry about should we live through May 21). "I realized a lot of Christians are jumping on that boat," said Bart, "and asked myself, ‘What can I do that can help ease the concerns of Christians and make some money?'”
And so, Bart and Brad teamed up to launch Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA in July 2009. Their tagline: "The next best thing to salvation in a post-Rapture world." (Brad, a Minnesotan who doesn't want to use his last name, handles the Western U.S., while Bart oversees the East.) Bart believes it comes down to a Christian asking themselves a few questions: "'Do I believe in the Rapture?' 'Do I believe my pets won’t go to heaven?' And 'Can I trust these atheists?' If the answer to these three things is yes, then this will help."
Here's how it works: A prospective customer submits a contract via the site and pays $135, which covers one animal for a 10-year period. (An additional animal in the same household is an additional $15.) Bart and Brad review the contract and determine if they can truly execute the contract within 18-24 hours of the Rapture.
The company has 40 representatives located through 26 states in the U.S., committed atheists who have actively blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29: "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.") and therefore, won't be going anywhere on Rapture Day. Bart or Brad will confirm with the reps in the region whether or not they would be able to adopt and care for the animal listed in the new contract. (Both customers and reps remain anonymous; no contact is allowed.)
Let's face it, for many of us heathen types, the concept is ripe for comedy. In fact, the first question on the site's FAQ page asks, "Is this a joke?" Bart confirmed that this usually the initial reaction:
"We’ve gotten about 4,000 emails through the site. The largest percent are atheists who think this is the funniest thing they’ve ever seen and also, they want to be pet rescuers. Then, there are about 10 percent Christians who also think it is funny but don’t believe in Rapture and wish us well. We also get a few Christians who are really, really angry and use some rough language ... Then, there is a small percentage, about 1 percent, who take us seriously and confess that this has been on their minds. They explore it with us and see that we are for real. Considering that most Christians don’t trust atheists far as they can throw us, these are people who recognize that we will to exercise our contracts should the Rapture occur."
"It doesn’t make a difference what we think. Do we have the resources to take care of the pets? That’s what matters. What we believe is superfluous. In fact, just because we don’t believe the Rapture won’t happen, doesn’t mean it won’t. I’m not an absolutist on anything.
I am not 100 percent set in my non-belief. I reserve approx. 0.000000000001 percent possibility that my non-belief is wrong, that a god may exist. That’s about the same percentage of possibility I reserve for Evolution being wrong and Creationism being right. It's the same degree of doubt I'll save for Big Foot, and alien abductions existing.
It is the fundamentalist religionists who are absolutists. They put 100 percent belief in a God; 100 percent belief in anything is absolutism and is indicative of unyielding commitment to a single thought with no room for evidence or input that could devalue it."
--Bart Centre, co-founder, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA
It's worth noting that Bart's wife is Christian ("more like Episcopal Light going on agnostic") and that he resides in New Hampshire, the second least-religious state.(Vermont is #1).
In an effort to humanize this story and bring it back to Earth, I interviewed two close friends on the matter, women I trust implicitly and love wholeheartedly. These are not acquaintances -- they have either seen me drunk, sick, crying or actively playing with Barbies. As animal lovers, devout Christians and believers of the Rapture, I asked if they would consider using this service:
From my sister-like pal, Diane Drake-Laing:
"No. Absolutely not. God loves Kimba (her late kitty) but she’s an animal. Lots of people are upset about the idea of pets not being in heaven. Some people love their pets like children, it’s just that animals don’t have a spirit like humans do.
Someone is going to make a lot of money off of this. I’m not saying it’s not legitimate but what are the chances of it happening? Only God knows. If Heaven is our idea of perfection, then maybe our pets will be there.
It’s going to be Hell on Earth - they’re only going to be worried about their own survival. You think they’re going to be worried about their own pets? Let alone somebody else's? There’s not going to be food and water. There are going to be different priorities.
If it buys someone piece of mind, then I guess it’s worth it. People want to believe that they are going to see their animal in heaven. I hope I see Kimba in heaven, I really do."
From my very First Friend, Cindy Russell:
"I think it’s a crock. It’s a way to steal money from gullible people. Because for me, if I’m in heaven, I’m not too concerned about where my dog is. I love my dog but I just don’t think it’s that important of a thing. It kind of sounds cold-hearted doesn’t it?
It's an ingenuous idea for people that are trying to make money off of people that are heaven-bound. I wouldn’t pay for it. I guess I don’t believe that they have souls like us.
If they do have souls, they don’t have capability of sinning. They can’t lie. The only sin they could commit would be stealing food, but that's survival. They couldn’t confess. They couldn’t repent …Wow, I never really thought about it!
I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible that talks about animals, other than a sacrifice as a tool for atonement, like an unblemished a lamb. You don’t see animals as pets in the Bible.
The people who are left behind are not going to care whether the dogs are eating ... 'Hey, where did all the people go? Oh my gosh, what I didn’t believe has come true, now what?' They will be more concerned about their own eternal soul rather than worrying about animal care."
I also corresponded with Terry James, editor of RaptureReady.com and author of "The American Apocalypse: Is the United States in Bible prophecy?", who offered his perspective on the post-Rapture pet service:
"Pets will stay behind when the Rapture occurs, because they are not human, and only humans -- those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior -- will go to be with Christ when He calls them in the Rapture. This is found in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-55, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, and is implied in other passages in the Bible.
It's understandable that those who love their pets would feel sad, worried, even panicked about their pets being left behind on a world that will be Judged with the very Wrath of God. This 'service,' as presented in the website to which you directed me, however, is, I believe, a sham. It is actually a tongue-in-cheek mockery of those who believe that Christ will Rapture His believers. It is a scam at best, and a scam cleverly laced with scathing sarcasm intended to bilk the gullible at worst.
When the people of the Rapture are gone the Bible says in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 that God the Holy Spirit will remove as Restrainer of evil. That means that mankind will lose its conscience -- individually and collectively. The most horrendous kinds of vile activity will take place. With absolute chaos and fear causing panic around the world, the last thing the people who offer this so-called 'service' will want to do is go around rounding up 'insured' pets left behind. They will just be trying to take care of themselves as best they can. My advice: don't be a sucker.
The other thing --the most important advice anyone can take: Accept Christ for Salvation now, while there is opportunity. One does that by confessing sin to God, asking forgiveness, and asking that Jesus come in to save one's soul."
Bart made an important counter-point about this:
"Some of those irate Christians say, ‘You are taking advantage or making fun.’ We did not invent the concept of Rapture. We do not promote the Rapture. The people that promote it are Christians themselves. All I’m saying is, ‘If you’re right, what’s going to happen to your pet?' If your wrong, we’ll never know. I’m only offering something to people who believe it already."
I keep thinking about what my pal, Gins, said when I described the business model: “Hmmm. That’s religion right there, accepting things that are unacceptable.”
Honestly, I got way in over my head on this one but ultimately, it doesn't come down to belief or non-belief in the Rapture but the question of whether or not animals have souls. And that, my friends, is a blog post for another day...
Canadian Pastoral Minister Murray Lincoln posted a meaty think-through on his blog and ended up engaging Bart in the comments sections -- verrrry interesting:
"When the Rapture takes place the people go and the animals stay behind. In one quick twinkling of an eye the people that are ‘Born Agains’ are exiting earth… and their little puppy will be staying behind in that big old lonely house. The thought of that happening almost makes me choke up with sadness. Worse yet -– isn’t it almost animal cruelty for a ‘Born Again’ to own a pet if they all are not going to be looked after when they are gone?"
Daniel Florien opines on his blog, Unreasonable Faith:
"It’s very similar to the church business model -- take people’s money on the basis of a future promise that’s most likely bunk."
Finally, Max Pearson over at The Progressive Puppy has a few thoughts relating to the business venture above but most of all, he's concerned for his own dog:
"I raised Little Brother, pictured above, in the Unitarian Universalist Church. But then last year he converted to Buddhism, hoping in the next life to be reincarnated as a show dog. Kids. They always break your heart."
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