O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Interview with a Real, Live Atheist (Part 2)

posted by Jason Boyett

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 my earlier thoughts on Eternal Earthbound Pets.

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?

We
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.



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Marcus

posted August 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm


Great interviews. I totally agree with Bart's assessment that many end-times obsessors use eschatology as a reason to ignore things like the environment, Middle East peace and the like. It's always refreshing to hear a perspective of the Church from the outside. THanks, Jason!



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beyondtourism

posted August 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm


I found the whole interview extremely eye opening and interesting to read. Thanks for doing the interview and posting it for us to read.



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Thomas

posted August 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm


It's interesting that an atheist of all people feels that the one thing some Christians mostly do right is essentially 'loving our neighbor as ourselves'.Funny. Jesus fed the hungry without asking in return. He healed the sick in similar fashion.Kinda makes you question why most all missions trips involve so much 'witnessing' as compared to need-meeting.Good series Jason. I think you two should have arm-wrestled to determine once and for all who was right and who was wrong.



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Dromedary Hump

posted August 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm


Jason,I want to thank you for this opportunity. It is a rare thing when two people of opposing perspectives can calmly air their views on a subject that can often become volatile. Your willingness to allow me to openly express my thoughts without censorship, and with respect, speaks to a professionalism and gentility that I admire and can only hope to emulate.If you and your readership don't mind, I will pop in from time to time and offer my comments. I invite them to visit my blog, albeit, my readership may be a tad more militant than they are used to. Thats not an apology, just a cautionary advisory ;)Again, kudos to you for your masterful interviewing, hospitality, and courage. You'll always have an atheist friend on the internet. Yours truly,Bartaka Dromedary Hump



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amarlenea

posted August 27, 2009 at 9:04 am


I absolutely love it when non believers are always certain that religious figures were: mildy skitso, bi-polar, autistic, suffered from dementia, extremely depressed or flat out had the cooties…I love it…Again very good read:)



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Marni

posted August 27, 2009 at 9:21 am


I agree that is was so refreshing to read a dialogue with opposing views that didn't dwindle into name calling and finger pointing.



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Dromedary Hump

posted August 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm


amarlenea said; "… non believers are always certain that religious figures were…"Please allow me to correct an innaccurate and unfair characterization. No where in anything I proffered suggested "certainty."There are any number of Biblical scholars who have proposed that John suffered from an illness and thus gave rise to the bizarre imagry of Revelation. Others have sited the rye fungus, a derivative of ergot, which was common place back then that resulted in severe hallucinations / dementia. But equally logical is that much as the early priestly class of the Hebrews installed laws and controls that empowered them and sought to subjugate society to their patriarchial manipulation (in opposititon to the royalty class), so do most religions have foundation in societal control and manipulation. But the point is… to apply the term "cartainty" to anything I offered would be inacurate. I have no such certainty.Best regards,Bart aka dromedary hump



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amarlenea

posted August 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm


@Bart…I am very much aware that you did not indicate that you were "certain" of any religious figures being mentally ill. If I thought you were "certain" I would have quoted your comment. Your comment only made me THINK OF non believers who have brought up religious figures being mentally ill.I am also aware that Biblical scholars have mentioned mental illness among religious figures as well. I personally feel non believers love to use that to remind sceptics (non believers and Christians..y not everybody?) that since the authors of the Bible were a little crazy what they recorded can not make any possible sense making the Bible a big book of crazy fairy tales from a bunch of crazy people.Me saying that your comment only made me THINK OF what non believers say sounds like an easy cope out…buuut it's true:)



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Dromedary Hump

posted August 27, 2009 at 7:37 pm


Amar,ah..fair enough. It wasn't clear from your post.Thanks.Bart



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Max02

posted August 28, 2009 at 10:55 am


Bart,I have a question, and it's only meant as an honest question.In all the years that you've studied religions, did you ever consider their relational aspects? (Relationship between yourself and another believer and between yourself and the divine.)



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radosh

posted August 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm


Yeah, yeah, great to see everybody getting along so nicely. Now allow me to go off on a bit of a willfully pedantic tangent. Bart says, "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." I can't possibly see how those could all have the same odds. If the likelihood of there being any supernatural divinity of *any type* is 1 in 100 million, than the likelihood of a rapture of the Christian church (until recently a virtually unknown belief even among devout Christians) must be vastly, perhaps even infinitely, smaller, given the nearly infinite number of possible gods/plans of god(s). (I know there are theologians who would argue that logic can narrow down the nature of god considerably, but I suspect Bart would have none of that).But even if you could stipulate that there is 100% certainty of a rapture, that's not the same as saying there's a 100% chance that EEP will have to pay out. Indeed, the group states that the policy is good for 10 years, which means the gamble is not only that there will be a rapture but that it will come very, very soon. Another way to look at this is that if Bart believes the likelihood that he'll have to pay out is 1 in 100 million, meaning the rapture is coming within a decade, then the likelihood of there being any supernatural divinity at all must be vastly, perhaps infinitely larger. That is, his belief in the likelihood of rapture theology at all must be closer to 1 in 10 million, his belief in the God of the Bible is probably closer to 1 in 1 million, and his belief in the likelihood of any god(s) would have to be, like, 1 in 100. Statistics: the cure for atheism!**tongue firmly in cheek, obviously.



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Dromedary Hump

posted August 28, 2009 at 7:04 pm


Damn..you guys are fun!!First Radosh: Tongue in cheek or otherwise, lets play:Trying to estimate the miniscule percentage of possibiity I allow for God/gods existing and/or the rapture is akin to trying to estimate how many non-existant angels can dance on the head of a camel.I see no reason to push the probability of God/god's further out than the possibility of rapture happening at any time. They both share the same degree of probability to me as does the potenital reality of Russell's Teapot. Care to calculate that one?? :)Max… to your question:I'm sorry… but what you are asking, when one cuts thru the fluff is: do I / have i ever felt some "spiritual" connection with the divine or religiosity, et al. The answer is NO. I have studied comparitive religion, what they have in common, to anyone willing to pay attention, is the objective of establishing control of the clan, tribe, city state, culture, et al. They establish rules that have beneficial contributions to the whole (i.e. Thou shalt not kill), as well as insuring continuity of power to those who make and inforce those rules in actuality or by threat (no wearing of mixed fiber clothes…thats reserved for the priestly class only); rules/laws prohibitions and taboos based solely on ignorance (thou shalt not create hybrid cattle or plants; women are unclean for X days after their period, etc.); and finally rules meant to subjugate and exclude women and other racially and/or genetically different minorities. It's as true with the Hebrew Priestly class, as it was for the Priests of Baal, or Isis, or Moloch, and the 4th century codifiers of Christian canon. That some religions infuse a kinder gentler nature is well and good… but that evil seems to invariably be an off shoot or by product is common to all of them.Anyway..in my Book I have a chapter on "spirituality.' I reject that as well. Its a theist term in root. What I have is awe, amazement, respect for nature, the universe, as well as those things of beauty created by man be they art, music or scientific theory and discovery. My connection to the divine is non existent since I reject any of the thousands of divinities man has created in his image. Just like you do, except you have chosen to retain belief in one. My relation with my wife a "believer" has been pretty good for the 39 years we've been married, and the 43 years we've been together :). My relationship with my believer friends and family is un effected by what religious views they hold or how deep they are. But then, none of them are fundie crazies either :)Bart



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Max02

posted August 29, 2009 at 12:49 am


Bart,Actually, I never intended to ask if you have ever had any personal "spiritual" (as you choose to call it) connection/experience.I read your interview with Jason, and I'm sure you would have said something about it if that had been the case.However, I think I see where you might infer that, now. Instead of writing "yourself" I should have written "people" or "a person".I can see my mistake and I apologize for it.However, you did answer my question. So, thank you.



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Dromedary Hump

posted August 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm


Max,Sorry… I do tend to run on, don't I? But, I'm glad I answered it somewhere in there.Regards,Bart



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