Back in 2009, Bart Centre created a website called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA. The way the business worked was that if you were a Christian, and you got Raptured, Bart promised to take care of your pets. That is, if you paid him $110…
We (atheists) already knew it was just Fundie Bait. No one was ever going to get Raptured, so Bart would never have to actually do anything. But the bigger story turned out to be how many people were actually getting suckered into this:
Right now Eternal Earth-Bound Pets has contracts with 259 clients — that means roughly $35,000 in contracts — and is set to rescue dogs, cats, a cockatoo and even a horse in Montana in the event of the Rapture.
Centre assures potential clients that his staff will still be on Earth after doomsday by testing employees to confirm that they are Atheists. How does he do that? Well, he just asks them to commit blasphemy.
“They are all very willing to do that. And that confirms that even in the absurdly remote chance that we are wrong and the believers are right, our rescuers are going nowhere.” (NPR)
Bart Centre of New Hampshire, co-owner of the pet business, launched it in June 2009. He has zero belief in Judgment Day, but began to see an increase in sales inquiries in December, which, he believes, is related to Family Radio’s heavy marketing campaign around the May 21 date.
The retired retail executive said he has sold 258 contracts so far. (ABC News)
At the time, I questioned the ethics of the business — was it right to take money from people knowing that you would never have to deliver on your promise? Wasn’t that the sort of thing televangelists and con-artists did?
But Bart was always honest with the press in that regard. He openly said he didn’t think the Rapture was going to happen and he only wanted to make some money.
Turns out he never made any money.
All the cash, all the contracts, all the employees — the numbers the media loved to report on were entirely fictional.
Eternal Earth-Bound Pets employs no paid rescuers. It has no clients. It has never issued a service certificate. It has accepted no service contract applications nor received any payments — not a single dollar — in the almost three years of its existence. If I had received a payment my conscience and ethics would have prohibited me from keeping it, as would my Episcopal wife’s ire.
EE-BP is and always has been a poe, a satire, a spoof, a poke at absurd religious belief — a statement and a challenge to believers to belly up to the bar to prove their compassion and genuine commitment to one of their most outlandish interpretations of the bible. And guess what … they didn’t.
While it was fun to think we were hoisting the religiously extreme on their own petard of belief, my friends and followers and ethical Humanists will find it something of a relief to learn that this was a spoof, that no one was hurt, and no one is profiting from the “least among us,” by taking money from those who very likely could least afford it.
So why come clean now? Because the State of New Hampshire’s Insurance Department is looking into his practice…:
State of New Hampshire’s Insurance Department has asked me to come and discuss my “insurance offering” (which, by definition, it is not) and provide them with the names of New Hampshire residents who have signed on and paid for the service. After three years of broad publicity the timing of this action is highly suspect.
This “coming clean” is basically his way of avoiding any potential lawsuits.
Meanwhile, over the course of three years, his website made who-knows-how-much money off of Google Ads and his book sales were pretty impressive on Amazon.
So, what do you make of it? Brilliant publicity stunt or a dick move?
Right now, I’m leaning toward brilliant publicity stunt. Bart exposed the silly beliefs of millions of Americans without actually taking advantage of any of them. He got in the media and spoke honestly about why he was doing this (and dishonestly about how many people were dumb enough to take him up on it).
I guess it should make me feel good that no one bought into the deception, but I’m probably more surprised than anything.