Are your pets Rapture-ready?
A new business promises to care for the pets of people who are transported suddenly to heaven in the Rapture, an event that some evangelical Christians believe will precede the Apocalypse as described in the Book of Revelation. Most Rapture experts say that when the faithful go to Jesus, their pets will stay on Earth with the non-believers.
That's where Bart Centre - pet lover and atheist - comes in. For $110 (U.S.), he and his network of pet rescuers, confirmed atheists all, will go to your house in the event of the Rapture, rescue your dog, cat or other pet, and care for it for the rest of its life or until the end of the world, whichever comes first.
The idea for his business, Eternal Earthbound Pets, began as a joke between friends, but Mr. Centre says he recognized a business opportunity and is now dead serious.
He just signed up his 100th client. Mr. Centre, author of a book on atheism called The Atheist Camel Chronicles, thinks the Rapture is bunk - which means the $11,000 he's collected so far is easy money. But he says he's not doing anything unethical by capitalizing on a belief he does not share.
"Lots of people say this is a scam, but I am not promoting the Rapture. I did not come up with Rapture doctrine," says Mr. Centre, 61, a retired retail executive who lives in New Hampshire. "If you believe in it, and you're concerned about your pets, I'm here to help you."
Since his website (eternal-earthbound-pets.com) went live in June, Mr. Centre says he has received about 4,000 e-mails.
Most (85 per cent) are from atheists who either think the idea is tremendously funny or want to sign up to be pet rescuers. (So far he has rescuers covering 22 U.S. states; though he's had many atheists contact him from Canada, he hasn't yet expanded here.) About 10 per cent of the e-mails are from Christians, Mr. Centre said; some don't believe in the Rapture and want to compliment him on his amusing business model, and some do believe and are angry with him. About 5 per cent of the e-mails are genuine inquiries.
Terry James, a writer and editor with the popular website RaptureReady.com, says most Christians don't want to think about leaving their pets behind when the Rapture comes. As a cat owner he finds this unfortunate. But he doesn't advise signing up with Mr. Centre.
"I presume he is coming from the perspective [of]a fool and his money is soon parted, and there's a sucker born every minute," Mr. James writes in an e-mail. "I find it hard to invest much confidence in such a business."
But the main problem with Mr. Centre's plan, Mr. James says, is that the Apocalypse is serious business, and he doubts that pet rescue is going to be high on the priority list of anyone who is "left behind."
"With possibly two-thirds of Earth's population prophetically scheduled to die during that last 7 years, because of all of the judgments that God will bring upon a rebellious, unbelieving planet of Earth-dwellers (as the Bible calls them), pets will be among the last matter with which anyone will be concerned," Mr. James says. "People will just be trying to live from moment to moment."
If the Rapture does unfold as Mr. James and other evangelicals believe it will, some animals will be better off than others. In his book The World Without Us, author Alan Weisman imagines what would happen if humans disappeared from the Earth. He describes a city 500 years after its human inhabitants depart: "Long before, the wild predators finished off the last descendants of pet dogs, but a wily population of feral house cats persists."
Perhaps the only thing that Mr. Centre and Mr. James have in common is that they are both animal lovers. Mr. James has several cats and was the proud papa of a beloved bulldog named Buckley who has passed on to that great off-leash park in the sky. (Despite believing that living pets will not be Raptured with their owners, he does believe that pets and their humans may be reunited in Heaven eventually.)
Mr. Centre has two dogs, a Staffordshire terrier named Ella and a pit bull named Maddie, both of whom, he says, are atheists.