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Here’s the rest of my interview with Dromedary Hump, author of the Atheist Camel Chronicles and the guy behind Eternal Earthbound Pets, a very real business that promises to care for your dog or cat or fish or birds should you be raptured. (As avowed atheists, the pet-minders with EEP figure they will definitely be left behind in a post-rapture world…because someone’s got to feed little Buster, right?)
Read Part 1 of this interview, in which we talked about atheists in foxholes, misconceptions about the godless, and the business of self-publishing.
In Part 2 below, we discuss the “Rule of Reciprocity,” and what it really means to provide “peace of mind,” and whether or not Christian premillennialists are no better than jihadists. Oy.
Jason: How did the idea for Eternal Earthbound Pets come about? How long have you been in business?
Dromedary Hump: Started it in late June, coincidentally, right after my book came out. My partner in the website emailed me a site from the UK which offered a similar service. He thought it was funny. I thought it was a gold mine opportunity. We have wayyy more fundie/evangelical rapture believers here than the UK.
So, I wrote all the copy for the site, recruited people I know to be atheists — acquaintances of mine — to be pet rescuers. The rest is history. We were amazed at the international publicity it has received. I’ve done interviews with radio stations here in the US, web news services in Australia, the Huffington Post, and newspapers.
How many pets are currently in your (potential) care?
Sorry, Jason…we don’t divulge financial info. We keep all proprietary info about our business confidential. Let it be said we have service contracts active.
As I mentioned on my blog post, it seems to me that the real service you’re providing is peace of mind for your clients. I’m guessing you don’t have any intent of actually having to care for pets post-rapture. Is that an accurate statement to make? How do you respond to the criticism that you’re getting paid for a service you won’t have to perform?
Yes, we are selling peace of mind…insurance as it were. While we have the cadre to execute the rescues should the rapture occur — which is why we are only active in the 20 states where we have confirmed atheists, known to me as reliable atheist pet rescuers and animal lovers — [the answer is] NO, we do not expect to ever have to execute those rescue contracts.
But insurance companies sell insurance to people with the expectation that they will never have to perform/payout to the majority of their policy holders. If they did have to, there would be no motive for them to exist. The fact that we estimate the likelihood of god, gods, or rapture being real and that we’d have to execute our contracts to be a probability of 1 in 100 million doesn’t negate the validity of our offering. It’s not our belief that’s important, it’s the belief of our clients.
In your Eternal Earthbound Pets FAQs, you mention your endorsement of the “Rule of Reciprocity,” which Christians know as the Golden Rule. How does your business arrangement fit within that Rule?
It was simply explaining that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” isn’t peculiar to the Judeo-Christian ethic. It is embraced by religions and philosophies that both preceded and followed the Abrahamic god. It doesn’t relate to our business per se, just a confirmation of our atheists’ internalization of a principle and basic standards of ethics we all share…believer and non-believer alike.
I guess the direction I was headed with that question regarded what I see as a potential critique of your business model: that you are making an easy buck by taking advantage of someone’s fears. Yes, this is definitely the life insurance approach, offering peace of mind in hopes that you won’t ever have to execute the agreement. However, the death rate for humans is 100 percent. You calculate the potential for the rapture occurring at a 00.0000001 percent chance. From your perspective, isn’t this sort of like (to pick an off-the-wall, non-religious example) asking an insane person to pay you $110 so you’ll protect him from the flying purple cheese monster? He gets peace of mind because he truly believes the cheese monster exists and is after him, but of course you know otherwise. You just get money for nothing. In my opinion, that conflicts with the Rule of Reciprocity. Your thoughts?
Jason, good challenge. First, I didn’t invent the rapture. It was implied by scripture and then reworked by 19th century Christians. One has the option of accepting those stories in the Book of Daniel and Revelation, and subsequent embellished interpretations of them, as either real things that are bound to happen or the ravings of lunatic cultists. I opt for the latter.
If you are equating believers in the rapture to “insane people” then yes… I would be taking advantage of the mentally incompetent, it would be wrong. But I don’t think you want to make that statement.
[Note from Jason: Well, no, I certainly didn't want to imply that rapture-believers are insane. Just trying to come up with a metaphor unconnected to religion. I'll admit the flying purple cheese monster comparison is a bad one. Anyway...]
Thus your example of the insane person buying protection from a purple monster is not a good one. I view believers of the rapture pretty much like any believers who take things on faith. They aren’t insane; they are usually capable of running their lives, making decisions on their own, dealing with daily trials and tribulations, making judgments, etc. I treat them as adults capable of making their own determinations in life. To that extent I am treating those people exactly how I would like to be treated. That I believe they have been mislead, are naïve about what scripture is and why it was written… that they are pawns of a mind virus that has pervaded men’s minds for thousands of years is 100% true.
But I will not afford them “victim status.” They have choices. They made them. I am servicing their need, a need that has been artificially created by nonsensical ancient writings, that has been fostered by the church for 1700 years. The genesis of any “scam” one may perceive of my service isn’t with my service. It’s with the scam of religious teachings. Religion itself makes my “scam” (if one wishes to define it as such) pale in comparison.
I think it’s always healthy for Christians occasionally to look at our faith and traditions from an outside perspective. What is your opinion about our cultural fascination with the Rapture and the End Times?
ll, what scares the hell out of me are the “Christian Zionists,” those people who warn against anyone seeking to bring peace to the Middle East as being the “anti-Christ”; people who support Israel not because they love Jews, but because getting them to rebuild the Temple is a harbinger of the second coming. They see this as helping support a prophesy that will bring the end times. The fact is it’s nonsense and delusion yet here they are trying to instigate Israel’s destruction of the Dome of the Rock mosque which stands upon the Temple ruins. It’s a recipe for death and disaster which we should have had enough of in that region by now. These people fuel unrest, hatred, and continued violence in a volatile area. I see anyone who embraces this concept as dangerous, or more dangerous than Islamic fundamentalist jihadists. There is this –
Wait a second. I agree that such a mindset among Christians is pretty ridiculous — as if Jesus waiting for us to engineer something in the Middle East so he can come back — and certainly a roadblock to Middle East peace. Any attempt to delay peace in that region, in my mind, goes against the clear teachings of Jesus.
But I can’t say such people are “as dangerous or more dangerous” than jihadists. I don’t know any Christian End-Times fanatics who would ever kill anyone in support of those beliefs, especially the killing-innocents-by-suicide-bomber approach. I would condemn them just like many Muslims condemn the jihadists. Again, seems like a bit of a straw-man condemnation.
Google “George W. Bush Gog and Magog.” Start with this result. Then read them all. After that, tell me again how Christian fanaticism about End Times prophesy, this religious delusion, Bush’s buy-on to end times, didn’t shape his decision making in the Middle East. He was doing “God’s will’ and with God’s blessing he sent 3,000+ young American soldiers to their deaths in Iraq for no reason. He is not an isolated example.
There are others who think this way. Some of them are in positions of power, others are influenced by Christian ministries who’s PAC groups put pressure on them. Jihadists in every sense of the word. I encourage you to read Rev Lynn’s book: Piety and Politics, and Peter Irons’ “God on Trial.” There’s some genuinely scary stuff out there among the religiously afflicted. We should all be concerned.
Let’s agree to disagree on equating fundamentalists with pro-Israel, end-times beliefs with Islamic jihadists. I still think that’s too extreme of a comparison. Also, I don’t have time to read all those Google hits. Anyway, I interrupted you. You were saying?
There is this fatalistic mentality that the end times [hysteria] promotes. Why worry about the environment or global warming when its “all part of god’s plan” and “the rapture will happen before then anyway”? It’s counter-productive to civilization and a sick and despicable mindset, stemming from ignorance, fed by scripture written by ancient, possibly psychotic cultists, and interpreted and embraced by unthinking adherents to fable.
This is the 21st century. People locked into bronze-aged thru 3rd century prophesy and myth — originally intended to manipulate and control the early adherents — are as much throwbacks as are people who today sacrifice chickens to their god/gods. Only thing is, these end-times believers and Christian Zionist activists are dangerous to humanity, our planet, our survival. The chicken killing religionists are only dangerous to chicken.
Other than no longer sacrificing chickens, what is one thing Christians are doing right?
Those who use their personal belief for good and to aid their fellow man WITHOUT proselytizing and expecting belief in return exemplify what their religious figurehead stood for. I respect, admire, and appreciate that. Albeit, the “Rule of Reciprocity” should be part of all of our lives and doesn’t necessitate belief in magic/supernaturalism/divine beings/reward and punishment to do those things.
What is one thing Christians need to do better?
That’s not for me to say.
But I do wish Christians could separate their personal beliefs that they embrace and practice in their own lives from having this need to force those beliefs — their interpretation of biblical expectations for behavior — on others in our schools, and into our laws.
I don’t care what people believe until it is forced on me, truncates my freedom, or the freedoms of others who don’t share their scripturally interpreted perspective/belief. They have no more right than do Hindus, Muslims, or Wiccans to insist their doctrine, their beliefs and their interpretations of divine will be codified by law and forced upon everyone.
Thanks, Bart, for the discussion and your openness to address a challenge or two to your business model. Thanks also for your willingness to take care of our pets. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the friendly dialogue.
Now, comment away. I haven’t asked Bart this, but I imagine if you ask a question or two of him, there’s a chance he’ll jump in and respond. Again, keep it civil and friendly. No name-calling. Don’t be a jerk or I’ll let loose the flying purple cheese monster on you.