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Here we go again. About a year ago, I learned of an atheist named Bart who was offering a service to Christians: Bart figured he’d be left behind by the rapture, should it actually occur, even though he didn’t believe in it at all. And if it did occur, wouldn’t it leave behind a bunch of unfed pets? An animal lover, Bart created a service called Eternal Earthbound Pets and turned it into a legitimate business. For a contractual fee, he and his team of fellow nontheistic animal lovers promise to care for your pets after you get raptured.
No doubt inspired by the pets thing, another anonymous atheist has worked out a plan that pulls even harder on “left behind” fears: what about my kids? Rapture Orphan Rescue promises not only to feed and clothe your unraptured children but to share the plan of salvation with them so you can see them again in Heaven.
I am not making this up.
Thoughts and comments:
• Like Eternal Earthbound Pets, this service is being provided by atheists, which is what really complicates the business. If the rapture happens, these nonbelievers will most assuredly be left behind. But they don’t believe there will be a rapture, so they are asking you to pay up front for a service they expect to never have to perform. These entrepreneurs make it clear that they think “you are about to waste your money.” They write:
Rapture Orphan Rescue would like to directly confront the potential
customer’s beliefs. We think that you should not pay anyone for any
faith-based service. This includes faith-healing, intercessory prayer,
potions, televangelism, tithes for whatever purpose including THIS WEBSITE. By even considering our website’s service, you are implicitly making a bet with us: that you are right and we are wrong.
This bet is actually more like an insurance-policy, but before you go
forward with any monetary transaction, we would like to at least make
the case as to why we think you are wrong in your worldview…
Then they go on to attempt to disprove the rapture on biblical grounds (regardless of your beliefs about the existence or non-existence of God). I’m all kinds of conflicted about this business, but I appreciate their honesty here. And for what it’s worth, they do a nice job with a quick but logical debunking of rapture theology.
• I thought the pets thing was sorta funny, because if you really do believe in the rapture and it really does happen, your dogs and cats and fish will most certainly be left behind. And that might be enough cause for a pet owner to worry. It’s not a business I would ever engage in, but I can see it providing actual peace of mind for end-times enthusiasts. But promising to care for human children goes beyond the cleverness of the pet-protection scenario and pings my ick radar. Because we’re not talking about pets anymore, but people.
• There’s another dilemma here — a pretty significant flaw in the reasoning behind the business: Most rapture-believing Christians expect their children to be raptured along with them. Whether the kids are officially “saved” or not, their parents likely believe in an “age of accountability” at which point children will be responsible for their own beliefs and relationship with God — but infants and young children most certainly have not yet reached this theoretical age. Which means they expect the grace of God to “cover” them, in terms of salvation. Thus, a loving God wouldn’t leave any babies or young children behind in the event of a rapture. God’s already in the business of rescuing orphans, it seems, and he does it for free.
• And while I’m certainly a capitalist and rarely fault anyone for finding a way to make money by meeting a legitimate need, the ethics of this kind of thing leave me cold. Yes, life insurance companies make money by betting against the odds that you won’t die in the next 20 years. And Rapture Orphan Rescue is betting that the rapture won’t happen and they won’t have to perform their promised services. The difference is that the insurance companies know that people actually will die — their services will eventually be needed, at some point, by someone who is paying them. On the contrary, the Rapture Orphan Rescue folks expect they won’t have to do anything. Ever. But having tried to talk you out of it on their website, if you’re still interested, they will take your money anyway.
Think of it this way: It’s as if we lived in a world where people were all immortal — a world without death — but a life insurance company sprung up and started writing policies for deluded people who thought they were about to die, even though the company knew they were wrong.
So I’ll ask the same question that Hemant Mehta asked his readers:
Religious beliefs aside, is this ethical?
Update: I’ve been in touch today with the guy behind the business and we’re planning an interview. What should I ask? Feel free to submit any question…