Eschatology raises many troubling questions, but my immediate concern is what happens to the pets of the righteous? Bart Centre, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, has concocted a plan to address this issue, and make a buck off the apocalypse to boot. Last June he started Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA -- “The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World,” says the Web site -- a service that promises to rescue and care for the animals left behind by raptured Christians.
“If you love your pets, I can’t understand how you could not consider this,” said Centre, 61, in a telephone interview. Crazy, right? Well, to date he has more than 100 clients, each paying $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes -- with atheists. Centre and a partner have set up a national network of godless humans to take on this mission.
Centre told me he came up with the idea while working on his book, “The Atheist Camel Chronicles,” in which he says many unkind things about theists in general and Christians in particular. In a chapter on End Times and the encroaching Rapture, he writes: “With the economic downturn we’re in, I’m trying to figure out how to cash in on this hysteria to supplement my income ...
Given the intellectual capacity of believers this could be a
Not familiar with Rapture theology myself, I called Todd Strandberg, founder in 1987 of raptureready.com. His clearinghouse Web site for Bible prophecy and God’s endgame draws 250,000 unique visitors each month.
Strandberg agreed that Fido and Mittens are doomed -- to remain on Earth. “Pets don’t have souls, so they’ll remain on Earth,” he said. “I don’t see how they can be taken with you. A lot of persons are concerned about their pets, but I don’t know if they should necessarily trust atheists to take care of them.” Centre has addressed that tricky issue. He needs to assure the Rapture crowd that his pet rescuers are wicked enough to be
left behind, but good enough to take proper care of the abandoned pets. To resolve that paradox he vets the atheists on two grounds: They must sign an affidavit to affirm their disbelief in God, but they must also clear a criminal background check.
Laura in Oklahoma
“We want people who have pets and are animal lovers,” Centre said. He also insists that they have the means to rescue and transport the animals in their charge, and the network he has in place now comprises 26 rescuers covering 22 states. “They take this very seriously,” Centre said. I spoke by telephone with one of the rescuers. Laura, who didn’t want her surname published, is in her 30s and lives near the buckle of the Bible Belt in Oklahoma. She has two dogs of her own and has made a commitment to rescue four dogs and two cats when -- if -- the time comes.
“If it happens, my first thought will be, ‘I’ve got work to do,’” Laura said. “The first thing I’ll do is find out where I need to go exactly.” The atheist-rescuers won’t know the exact location of the animals until the end of the world, at which time they will contact Centre for instructions. I expected to hear some hint of derision, but Laura is dead serious. “We’re all really into pets,” she said. “I’ve got to get to them within a maximum of 18 to 24 hours. We really don’t want them to wait more than a day.” A day she assumes will never come.
While Centre’s infrastructure seems real enough, of course there’ll be no one around to check that he honors his contracts. Still, there’s evidence of the essential goodness of the enterprise at his Web site, which directs proceeds from Google Ads to food banks in Minnesota and New Hampshire. Lately there has been more than $200 a month sent to those causes. He doesn’t believe he will ever have to follow through on the service he offers, but in a way he already has delivered something of great value: peace of mind, and for only 92 cents a
month. “If we thought the Rapture was really going to happen,” Centre said, “obviously our rate structure would be much higher.”