Should the Atheist Be Selling This Service? July 29, 2010

Should the Atheist Be Selling This Service?

Atheist Bart Centre began a business called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA some time ago. It’s a website that matches “responsible atheists with Christians concerned about the pets they will be leaving behind during the Rapture.” For $110, the atheists promise to take care of your pets after you are taken away by Jesus.

I know Christians are gullible, but surely no one would pay for this service… they know they’re never actually getting raptured, right? They know their contracts are never going to be needed… right?!

To date, they have collected 200 contracts…

*Hemant does mental math*


You know, I’m in a bit of a dilemma here. Maybe because I like Bart. The last time I posted about his site, it was soaking in publicity but not much cash (as far as I knew). That’s changed now.

One reason I loathe people like John Edward is because they knowingly dupe people into giving them money for a fake “service.”

Is this any different? Centre would honor the contracts, no doubt, but he really doesn’t have to because the Rapture will never happen. He knew that when he created the website. He knew (or hoped) that Christians who were emotionally attached to their pets could potentially give him money for the service.

So is this ethical?

Is it different from psychics or tarot card readers who know they have no real power but have no problem taking money from people who think they do?

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  • Kris

    Of course it’s different from what people like John Edward do. Right or wrong, his entire qualification to provide the service is that he doesn’t believe that it’s necessary. He’s not decieving anyone. Moreover, I don’t think that the service that he provides is that of sheltering pets during the Apocolypse, but more that he’s providing comfort to people in the present. Admittedly, the ethics are dubious, but it can’t really be compared to wonton charlatans the likes of John Edward.

  • TSC

    Does the fact that Centre would be the first to say “I personally do not think that the rapture will ever happen, and I would hope that no one else does either – anyone who does think it will happen believes in something ridiculous” change anything? John Edward would never say that contacting the dead is ridiculous. The difference between the two seems to be that people going to Centre are fully-informed (they know Centre does not claim the rapture will happen, but they believe it and act accordingly) while people going to Edward are actively lied to and manipulated.

    That’s how I see it, anyway… though it *is* a thorny issue that deserves thought. I’m more than willing to be convinced otherwise.

  • I remember this website! I thought it had to be a joke!

    A weird ethical question, huh?. No deception is involved (save for the self-deception of the believers). And essentially, this is a kind of insurance policy, right? In that sense, most insurance policies work the same way: You buy car insurance in case you get in a crash, but you hope that never happens. In fact, if you never drive your car, or drive it once-a -year, the odds of getting into an accident are anywhere from zero to, say, 1 percent. Is it still ethical for the insurance company to collect payments, even though the car is never driven or rarely driven?

    But, on the other hand, I would not feel ethical doing this. I would essentially be profiting from the self-deception of these people. In that sense, I would be no different from their huckster pastor, who feeds them fear-based fairy tales and watches the collection plate overflow week after week: we’d both be profiting from the stupidity of credulous people. I couldn’t take their money without throwing in some critical thinking lessons. I like dogs, though.

  • Amelia

    What makes it ethical, to me, is that he’s basically saying, “Hey, I’m admitting I could be wrong, and here’s how it’ll help you, and you know I don’t believe it’ll ever happen.” He’s not duping them with some idea that he believes it’s real (a la Edwards).

    If only Christians would admit that atheists could be right. I mean, fine, let’s agree to disagree, but at least have the humility to say, yeah, you there, with the lack of invisible god, you could end up being right and I’m not going to KNOW until we’re dead.

  • Revyloution

    No deception. Everyones cards are on the table. I don’t see anything wrong with this business. I just wish I had thought of it first, heck we even have the same first name.

  • Ethical? Of course! Like said above by Revyloution, all cards are on the table. From their FAQ:

    Q: Do YOU believe in the Rapture.
    A: As atheists we do not hold beliefs in the supernatural or a divine being. Thus, we do not believe in the Rapture. However, we respect the beliefs of others and are open to the possibility that our perspective could possibly be wrong.

  • DeafAtheist

    I always wondered how one becomes one of their representatives. Or if they actually even have representatives. An atheist running such a business would not believe the service would ever actually need to be provided so representatives would not actually be needed. I don’t think I’d become a representative even if they were accepting applicants for them, but I’m admittedly curious if they actually do have representatives how much of the subscription money would the representative get?

  • Rob

    I think he’s more like Penn and Teller. They refer to what they do as magic tricks and call themselves magicians, but at the same time they’re completely upfront about the fact that what they do isn’t real. Sometimes they show you how they did the trick, and for another trick Penn tells you how it’s done before Teller performs it.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’m sorry, I’m too busy laughing to contemplate the ethics of it.

  • Nordog

    I’m a Christian but I don’t believe in the Rapture. Can I sign up? I could use some extra cash. Can one sign up for more than one pet?

  • Aj

    It’s ethical as long as he makes it clear he doesn’t think that it will happen. That’s a big difference for me, and it’s also the difference between this and psychics. It’s also ethical for a magician to lie to you. I haven’t thought about it much though, it’s definitely not something I anticipated.

  • joesomebody

    No less ethical than cigarette companies … oh wait

  • Roxane

    I’m really stuck on the fact that 200 people have bought this. On the one hand, 200 people were, to my way of thinking, mighty stupid. On the other hand, given the multitudes of fundies–why only 200? My mind is in a time-wasting do-loop over this.

    I’d take care of several cats for free. Just saying.

  • ML

    I agree with just about everyone in this panel. You don’t get your money back at the end of the year for buying car insurance if you didn’t have a crash. Also we do not believe in the rapture, but the people that want the service do. If we are wrong, and there is a God then all of us will be left behind, and someone should care for all those unattended pets.

  • Alex

    Yeah I mean when it comes down to it, if the rapture DOES happen, you can sure as hell bet that these guys will definitely take care of the pets!

  • Rex

    I see absolutely no ethical issue with this. To me, the issue is a lack of deception and a willingness of people to purchase this type of “insurance”.

    The entire insurance industry is based on this exact concept: They are betting that you will pay your premiums and will never need their services (flood, fire, earthquake, etc.) en masse.

    I guess that he could always plan to do what the insurance companies do; if the rapture happens, declare bankruptcy and move to the Bahamas!

    The other thing to think about is these gullible lemmings are giving uncounted billions to snake oil salesmen (clergy) every year, why shouldn’t an honest man be able to skim a little of that honestly?

  • Nordog

    Has anyone mentioned that these people who’ve already ponied up cash are betting that the Rapture will happen within the lifespan of their pets?

    Oh, I don’t do cats.

  • I thought this was a great joke. But there are actually people who paid him?

    If people have enough spare money to pay atheists for post-Rapture pet care, I have to ask — what recession?

  • stephanie

    I’ve never heard Edward, or any other psychic FTM, say he doesn’t believe he’s actually talking to dead people, but will tell you what he thinks you want to hear anyway for a price.

    To me, that’s all the difference.

  • Caroline

    Absolutely ethical. No difference here than hawking those ridiculous miracle wrinkle creams bajillions of women are dumb enough to buy.

    The truth is the overwhelming majority of products and services on the market today are completely unnecessary, probably waaay overpriced, and most likely fall far short of the claims the merchant is making.

    Most purchases are emotional purchases.

    How is this any different?

  • Guru Dwara

    I want in on this! Either I collect some cash for nothing, or I get some more animals AND get the fundies raptured far, far away from me. Win-win!

  • Hermes

    Answer: Yes.

    Why? There’s absolutely no deception.

    The Christians who sign up for this believe that they are correct and are willing to put their money where it matters.

    They also know that the atheists don’t believe it will happen and thus the atheists aren’t promoting their services based on a deception.

    * * *

    The only questions I have are … can I be on their list for offering the service locally? I’m one of those people that dogs and cats gravitate towards. I know exactly how to give a scalp and ear massage. I also have a large house and ample areas to go walkies.

  • As long as his business plan can actually take care of the pets should the rapture occur, I don’t think there is any ethical problem.

    On the other hand, if he just put up a website without any plan to take care of the animals, then it would be fraudulent.

    As long as the people buying the service know that the service will be there, then it’s fine.

  • JD

    Sounds like an honest enterprise, if a business openly says they’re selling hot air and someone is willing to buy hot air at said price, it sounds like a fair trade.

    I think the service is unnecessary even if the Rapture was a real possibility.

    Something that will be a far better thing to do is arrange for someone to accept your pet and name them in your will next time you redo it.

  • I have no problem (as a Christian) with this service.

    But I have a counter proposal – I am willing, for a certain price, lets say $5, to put in a good word for you with God at judgment day.

    I’m not sure how much weight my word will carry – I’m no more or less moral than the rest of you – but I am entering Christian ministry (currently studying theology) so I assume by the end of my degree I’ll know what words to say should I have the opportunity to put your case forward.

    I will set up a page on my site for you in coming days. Stay tuned.

    For $10 I’ll even take a list of the good deeds you think ought to be put forward on your behalf. If you email five points to me at the time of payment I promise to learn them all by heart and then destroy the email.

  • Please note:

    I don’t actually believe that you will be saved as a result of your good deeds – I think, theologically speaking, that mercy from God comes as a result of believing that Jesus is Lord.

    I’m not sure how effective my business will be for you – but at such a bargain basement price it’s surely worth the risk.

  • Trace

    Wouldn’t it make more sense from a Christian perspective to have non-Christian theists take care of their pets?

    After all we all know that atheists are “totally” untrustworthy. 😉

  • If they called it “insurance”, I’m sure that an ethical argument could be considered for it. 😉

    I do have a problem with cashing in on superstition, though. It would make me ethically uncomfortable.

  • Kamaka

    No, there’s no ethical problem here at all, the guy is being upfront about it all.

    Unethical is all the clergy who peddle this bullshit. The better half of them know very well it’s nonsense. I doubt 1 in 10 actually buy into the fairy-tales. At best they believe in belief, which is not much excuse for being lying machines.


    Y’know, this reminds me of the guy who put his soul up for sale on eBay.

  • Nathan, will you also put in a good word to the devil for me just in case you pass before me and find yourself down there? Who knows, perhaps the Muslims were right all along.

  • @Nathan: HA HA HA HA HA HA…this is a joke right?

    I don’t see a problem with the business. The owner is being honest in saying he doesn’t believe in the rapture. If people are still dumb enough to give him their money, I think that’s cool. I mean, how many people buy lottery tickets? That’s not considered an unethical business. Or putting coins in a slot machine in Vegas? They’re all the same thing-a gamble.

  • Kamaka

    @ Nathan

    Nothing personal, you posted while I was typing.

  • Will you still pay me $10 if I tell you it’s a joke?

  • Trace

    “so I assume by the end of my degree I’ll know what words to say should I have the opportunity to put your case forward.”

    Such altruism, Nathan. My assumption is that by then you may have lost your faith, so I will wait and see…

    …and yes, $5 is a great deal 😉

  • “Such altruism, Nathan. My assumption is that by then you may have lost your faith, so I will wait and see…”

    I highly doubt that. I’m going to one of those colleges that reinforces belief through circular reasoning, confirmation bias and the like…

    I’ll probably come out as an intolerant fundamentalist – so you should take up this offer before I decide that atheists deserve death in this life, not just in the next…

    This could well be a limited time offer. Sign up today.

  • fracman

    The only thing bad about this idea is that I didn’t have it first.

  • Someone

    @Nathan – I wouldn’t pay you anything regardless of whether it’s a joke or not. Doesn’t seem like a worthwhile deal, as an atheist 🙂

  • Eric

    Nathan, isn’t God omniscient? Doesn’t he already know all of my sins/good deeds? Why would I need you? What could you possibly say to an omnipotent, all-knowing, transcendent being to sway his opinion of me? Sheesh I’d say your service is worthless. But ethical nonetheless.

  • Tim

    The business is essentially taking advantage of the mass delusion of Christians. Now, any other business which took advantage of, say, mentally challenged people (or anyone with any sort of disadvantage) would be deplorable. But this particular delusion is accepted as a part of Western society…it is viewed as a positive character trait, not the bunch of imaginary stories it is. I say, if the people are so proud of their disadvantage, it’s perfectly fine to profit from it.

  • Hermes

    Jeff P: “As long as his business plan can actually take care of the pets should the rapture occur, I don’t think there is any ethical problem.”

    That’s not what’s being offered, though.

    The $110 would not be enough for any pet for a year let alone for the rest of the life of the animal.

    It’s insurance; a bet.

    * The insurers are betting that the actual cost per pet will be 0 plus business overhead since it will never happen.

    * The insurees are betting that during the life of the pet that the rapture may happen.

    * If the insurees are correct, the insurer will be on the hook for massive costs. If the insuree has a method to distribute those costs — say through a profit sharing plan pre-rapture with people who will take the animals — then the cost impact is lessened to the company or may even be minimal.

  • I want to start a franchise in Canada!

  • I like what Kamaka says, that Christians might prefer non-christian theists to do this. OK, I’m an atheist, but I see good in the Zen Buddhism of Japan that isn’t exactly even theist. I could in good conscience perform a Buddhist post-rapture pet service for Christians. I would have perhaps a disclaimer that although my materialism does not exactly allow me to accept such nonsense, I would be willing to keep an open mind, and take their money. Jeff P. should be ashamed of himself for entertaining the possibility that the rapture might take place. Buhyach!

  • Jeff,

    Happy to put in such a word if the Muslims happen to be right. Though I suspect, having lived a fairly righteous life by the Qu’ran’s standards I might still fair ok…

    I could offer such a service as an auxiliary or premium service for $15. I’d suggest buying a package for $20.

    It shouldn’t be too hard for you atheists to come up with a short list of good deeds – I expect that package to be the most popular.

  • Darlene

    No ethical problem. I actually made an arrangement with a friend that should the rapture come I could have her house and I would take care of her dog.

    No one is pretending to have any special powers. In fact, it is precisely the absence of any special power or belief that makes me (or him) qualified. It is our denial of the supernatural that even allows this.

    Nope, no ethical issues.

  • You know what, for the only time ever on the Internet, I am not going to say something obnoxious. I think that shows I’m growing as a person.


  • @Hermes,

    You have a good point. The only way the insurance model will work here is if only a small percentage of the people (arrogantly) thinking that they will be raptured will indeed be beamed up.

    If they all go up, then the insurance model won’t work. The business plan will have to hope that the biblical passage about the narrow door to heaven is true. Therefore Baptists may think it’s a good insurance plan while UU would question whether it could be fulfilled even if the atheists stay

  • TSC

    I just realized something. Even if the rapture does come, the atheists might not need to do anything. They could beach all of their contracts with the insured. Normally, this would entitle the other party in the contract to sue for either specific performance or the equivalent value of the loss… but since the aggrieved parties will have been beamed up, no one can sue. There may be problems with estates suing, though…

    In any case *that* would be unethical. It’s an interesting legal hypothetical to look at, however. I’d actually like to see Brittany Meyer’s take on the issue. It’d be a good read, I think.

  • Tom Coward

    In all seriousness, the organizer of this scheme should watch out that he does not get investigated for insurance fraud. If he is promising to provide a service that he is not capable of providing in the event, then he may be guilty of fraud. The Attorney General of his state may take a dim view of someone soliciting contracts for a service that he is not capable of performing. How is this different in principle from an oil dealer taking money from customers now to deliver oil next winter at a fixed price in the belief that prices are “sure” to go down by then. Just because he believes that they will go down will not be amdefense in the absence of proof of the ability to perform.

  • Elena Villarreal

    @ Nordog

    No! What if you’re holy enough to be raptured?

  • john locke

    The way I look at it, he is gambling. He is basically betting these Christians that the Rapture won’t happen. He is clear up front that he does not think the rapture will happen and is willing to bet any Christian who believes in the rapture that it won’t. If he loses, he has to insure their pets are taken care of. My only concern is that he is taking advantage of mentally incompetent people, but then I know plenty of competent people who do believe in the rapture. So I am fine with this.

  • Terry

    Yes, Yes they should be selling this. If I can’t buy alcohol or a car or appliances on Sunday. Maybe I should have some compensation for my rights being violated by someone’s religion.

  • Siamang

    It is a moral obligation to separate a sucker from his money.

  • Richard P.

    Way to go Bart, take every penny you can get.

    Do you have an extension fee for them to pay after each failed prophecy?

  • Hermes

    Jeff P, actually it doesn’t require any of that. The calculation as a business risk should be 100.00% or 000.00% not some fraction between the two, and then a calculation based on the likelihood of either coming to pass.

    For example, let’s talk unusual but actual disasters. Businesses with very high assets often buy insurance for them.

    Let’s say you are an executive of a division of a large company that provides a critical service. You go out of your way to make sure that you have redundant systems just in case something bad happens. Yet, there is a small chance that multiple simultaneous disasters may happen.

    For example, let’s say your company provides ATM (bank card) service for tens of thousands of ATMs. You have two redundant data centers that each can handle a full load from all of those ATMs.

    One, you place up north away from any tropical disasters.

    The other, you place down south away from any blizzards.

    You’re happy, since blizzard season happens in winter, and hurricanes happen during the warmer months. If one of your centers get taken off line, you can get it repaired before the other one is in danger.

    There’s no way that you can have any problems. Your customers will be happy, and you will not spend extra on yet another redundant system that won’t really be used. Perfect!

    But, just in case, you take out insurance. That way, if your customers (the banks) aren’t happy, you are covered and you can pay out the law suits. The insurer also is happy since it’s easy money. Your boss in the home office is happy since they aren’t under any risk at all since they have you taking care of thousands of such nagging details that each have a very slight chance of ever happening. (Boss thinks — rightly — that if there are enough very rare but potential disasters, some of them will actually happen.)

    You do your work, life goes on, and part of your job is to authorize various insurance payments and make sure the contracts are kept in a secure location. Life is dull, but it is good on the weekends.

    Then, a few yeas in, a blizzard actually hits and takes out your northern data center. That’s a problem for you, but service is not impacted since the southern data center is still up. Your disaster recover plan is put into effect, and you schedule when the northern center will be back in production again.

    Then a freak hail storm caves in the roof of the southern data center, taking it out too. Oops!

    The insurance model has losers in this case; the insurer. It’s still a bet, though.

    In the case of the rapture, the insurer is betting that 0 will be the number. Personally, I can show how that 0 number is a safe bet. The only risk is that something that ‘looks like’ the rapture happens and the insurance contract is activated even though no actual rapture occurs. As I don’t know of a single incidence of a rapture-like event being recorded, I’m not too worried about 200+ contracts being activated all at once. If one or two are activated, it’s still a good business to be in.

    Does that make sense? Do you see why Bible passages don’t even come into the calculation? It’s a business. The risk is too low to be a concern. Blizzards and hail storms happen, raptures don’t and won’t.

  • Hermes

    TSC, if ownership of the animals transfers on rapture to the company and/or a representative, they would be liable for the animals.

    That said, if the foster homes are chosen by the company with reasonable diligence then the contracts could be fulfilled.

    Then again, the rapture, like monkeys flying out of my butt, isn’t something that is a credible event let alone a possible one. We’re talking fiction, extra-biblical even, invented in the mid 1800s. If I were a Christian I would have to reject such nonsense even if I thought Jesus was about to descend on a moon beam.

  • Mej

    Absolutely ethical. The website openly admits a skeptical viewpoint of the rapture. No palm reader will ever tell you he thinks fortune-telling is bull as he takes your dollar.

  • TSC

    @ Hermes: I’m not sure that’s true. I understand the arrangement as a contract that provides for the exchange of a fee on the part of the customer for the transfer of animal ownership upon rapture on the part of the company. The company could thus, upon rapture, simply refuse to fulfill their part of the contract – it would be efficient breach. They would refuse to take on the pets, and thus be liable in contract law for breach, but there would be no one to sue them.

    I suppose it all depends on how the agreement is structured, though. If the contract is instead something like the exchange of a fee for the alteration of the customer’s will to provide for the transfer, then the contract is already concluded and cannot be breached – the animal *will* transfer upon rapture. Though any requirement for the company to actually care for the animals beyond that required by animal cruelty laws would probably need to be laid out in contract, and thus could also be breached.

    Or so is my 1L understanding… again, set me straight if I’m missing something.

  • Dan W

    I personally don’t have any ethical problems with this. If these people really believe this rapture will happen, I’d think they’d be willing to wager some of their money on it. It’s their loss if the rapture doesn’t happen. As long as Eternal Earthbound Pets does the service it says it will do in the unlikely event that the rapture does happen. I don’t think this is the same as the claims made by psychics and other woo-pushers at all.

    I notice from the website that they currently don’t cover Iowa. If they did, and if I thought I’d still be living in Iowa in ten years, I might subscribe to be one of their people who’d look after people’s pets in the event that the rapture happens.

  • Jagyr

    I would like to offer my services as well.

    For the next 5 years, if you shoot and kill an intruder in your home on Christmas Eve, only to discover that he was actually Santa Claus, my representatives and I will personally take on the responsibility of visiting every single home and delivering the presents to the children.

    Only if you pay me $1,000 of course – reindeer feed costs money.

  • 5ive

    so my brother and I came up with this same idea about 6 years ago. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because I did feel it was unethical. To charge someone for a service I see as having super-extreme-high improbability of ever being needed is unethical. It is taking advantage of another human’s ignorance and gullibility for personal financial gain. Not to mention it is encouraging likely delusion. It is all squidgy to me.

  • Hermes

    TSC, the company officer(s) could do — or fail to do — anything. True. Contract law might be obliterated if such an event happens. Yet, knowing human nature and motivations, I would bet that contract law will recover and the corporate motivations will be to keep it in force.

    For example, during hurricane season in coastal areas hardware stores could jack up the price on various commodities and necessities like plywood, generators, and fuel. Consumers (aka humans), though, have a keen sense of fairness and a long memory.

    While it’s total hooey, even the Christians who have a belief in some kind of rapture event see 1,000 years before the final curtain call. (Last bit is from memory — corrections appreciated.) Why piss off your customers for a few guilty bucks?

  • “A fool and his money are soon parted.” ! Thomas Tusser

  • Hermes

    5ive, I frequently have these types of ideas — mostly much more profitable.

    My recommendation: Take more time to think through the ethical implications, and who is responsible at each stage. If it all lines up, do it. If it doesn’t on strictly ethical grounds, don’t.

    I stand by my claim that this idea is entirely ethical as long as everyone is aware of the position of the others in the arrangement. Consider Coke or Pepsi; both are entirely useless and don’t deliver what they promise in the form of happiness or sex or whatever — only sweet caffeine.

    In this situation, there is no hype and quite a bit to dissuade the potential customer.

  • Jon Moles

    @Tim actually used the analogy that I was going to use, but my point was going to be that it is unethical to run this business. It seems that a fair number of commenters are rationalizing this dilemma by stating that the service in question is up front about not believing that the Rapture will happen. I don’t see how that bears upon the ethical consequences of knowingly taking money from someone when there is no chance of the event taking place. Another example would be someone who sells flood insurance to monks who live on top of a mountain and believe that a world-ending deluge is coming to drown them at 25,000 feet above sea level. The monks would be deluded but willing to pay, how does that make it OK? Rationalizing by stating that they should know better doesn’t mitigate the overt act. I’m not saying that I feel sorry for them, but it’s not ethical.

  • 5ive

    but Hermes… I see coke and pepsi ads (and the majority of advertising in general) to be unethical 🙂

  • Hermes

    Jon, people do these types of things every day based on fantasy. Nobody is forcing the pet owners to pay, and $110usd is cheap for peace of mind.

    Have conversations with people who insist that the rapture is about to happen. Try and talk them out of it. It rarely works. They are serious. They are committed.

    If you want to criticise this service, then there are many many more you should also criticise because they are no better or even worse in real world terms as they don’t even offer direct honesty (from company to client) and personal peace (for the service being purchased).

  • CJ :)

    Unethical? Probably not, depending on the agreement. Unrealistic? Definitely. These guys apparently haven’t priced veterinary care and pet food prices.

    I agree that it is more in the realm of “taking advantage” rather than “ethical/unethical.” However, I suspect your average state insurance board may see it differently.

  • Hermes

    5ive, of course. 🙂 They promise what they don’t deliver, like healthy cigarettes and sexy cheap beer.

    In this case, there’s the seller is explicit that there will be no delivery. It all hinges on hope that the seller isn’t selling. (That’s refreshing for business. I can’t tell you how many times I had to blow past managers BSing me about the wonders of the project I am dealing with.)

    The customer comes with that hope and is told that the seller doesn’t agree — and that scepticism ironically is a selling point.

  • Hermes

    Cj: “These guys apparently haven’t priced veterinary care and pet food prices.”

    Times zero? How much is that? 🙂

    There isn’t any taking advantage here, though. This is like selling World of Warcraft items, but it is much less serious as WOW items actually exist and the rapture is entirely fiction.

  • There’s no deception, but it still feels wrong to me. I would feel bad about profiting off those poor people’s delusions. Sure, it’s not my fault they’ve been brainwashed, but taking their money strikes me as opportunistic. I’d be taking advantage of them, knowing full well that I would never need to provide the services that they’ve paid for.

  • Theresa

    It feels like taking advantage. Customers may feel coerced into buying, because *they* believe and they don’t have other options. Imagine you offered your nightmare-prone little brother a bottle of “monster repellent” … for a price. You could even say “I don’t believe in monsters, but some people say this stuff really works.” Sure, you’d both be happy with the transaction, but I don’t think many parents would be pleased.

    Or is the business just satisfying an ordinary emotional need through consumerism?

    What I *really* don’t get is why the customers think that the unraptured will be in any position to care for pets. We will obviously have to eat them as soon as the famine gets bad.

  • Hermes

    Theresa: “What I *really* don’t get is why the customers think that the unraptured will be in any position to care for pets. We will obviously have to eat them as soon as the famine gets bad.”

    With so few ‘true Christians’? 😛

    The population dip will surely be minimal, resulting in very little impact.

  • What’s the theological basis of this anyway? Is there some Christian doctrine to the effect that the difference between humans and (other) animals is one of kind rather than degree? My understanding is that as animals are assumed naturally innocent, Original Sin doesn’t apply to them, and so neither do Salvation or Damnation. So why would a Christian get emotionally attached to an animal, at least to the degree where it affects their preparation for Eternity? How is it that animals go to Heaven, but don’t get caught up in the Rapture?

  • ash

    Thanx to Nathan and Bing for making this one of the funniest threads in a while…

  • medussa

    I came across this site a while ago. And I am still FURIOUS I didn’t think of it first.

    There is an aspect of it that makes me think it’s like taking money from mentally disabled kids, and makes me slightly uncomfortable. But then, I just remind myself that the “clients” in question are of legal age, allowed to vote on my right to marry, allowed to get involved in politics and start thinly veiled holy wars, allowed to sit in church and judge me and mine. And they encourage and incite others to do the same.

    And that brings me back to the actual ethical issue, which is that if they truly believe they will be raptured in the lifetime of their beloved pets, they damned well better make sure those pets are cared for. Every time I leave on vacation, I make sure someone feels responsible for my pets and will take them in case I have a motorcycle accident and die. Christians should feel obligated to do the same.

  • Eliza

    This is brilliant.

    To those who raised questions, look at the website (esp FAQs). At least one lawyer has looked over the contract, I’d stake my soul (ha). This is not presented as an insurance policy. It’s a “sale”. The price covers administrative costs like upkeep of the website, travel to/from the rapturee’s home to pick up the animal, and profit (it says that right up front). The people adopting the unraptured pets are doing just that, adopting them (and assuming all future costs).

    All sales are final. The contract expires exactly 10 years after it is signed & paid, and there are no refunds, including for loss, death, transfer in ownership of the pet, and including: “If subscriber loses his/her faith and/or the Rapture occurs and subscriber is not Raptured (aka is “left behind”) EE-BP disclaims any liability; no refund will be tendered.”

    Just brilliant.

    The most manipulative part of the whole thing, IMO, is the cuuuuuute photo of the puppy at the top of their home page. Awwww!

  • Liokae

    I’ve known people that objected to this service not because the rapture will never happen, but because they think pets will be included in it.

  • The interesting bit is that I was certain this was rapture-related as soon as I saw the title. I’ve seen a similar website, about people taking messages from the “saved” for their loved ones in case they get left behind.

    I really don’t see anything unethical about this.
    If I was a believer however, I might have to ask the question of the possibility of the atheists in charge of this finding Jesus between now and the rapture.
    Consider this: they are essentially paying someone to ensure that they are decent people (so that they will uphold their contracts) but no so decent that they go to heaven with them.
    (I can imagine that awkward discussion: “-Bart? What are you doing here in Heaven? -I found Jesus two weeks before the Rapture! -But what about Snookums?! You #$%^!, we had a contract!”
    I can just see it animated by Seth McFarlane)

  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    Actually, he is providing INSURANCE which is regulated by the state.

    Has he taken all the necessary steps to comply with state regulations for providing insurance?

    I am sure no one will mind if I bring this to the attention of the Insurance Commissioners Office in his state to find out.

    They don’t look to kindly on worthless polices being sold to old ladies.

  • Greg

    If these guys were to get in trouble with the law for insurance fraud, then surely all churches would have the same problem? (You know, all the work and money some people put into the church to save their immortal souls and all that jazz! ;))

    I don’t find anything about this unethical at all. Well, maybe the idea of a rapture is unethical, but nothing to do with Bart Centre. He’s not doing anything to promulgate the concept of the rapture, or to coerce someone into doing something, he’s just offering a service.

  • Hermes

    Go ahead, though they don’t promote themselves as providing insurance — just a service. The FAQ covers how the service is structured and funded. (I should have read that first myself.)

  • ihedenius

    I listened to an podcast interview with him a year ago. It must have the infidelguy:

    From what I remember (without hearing it again). They are serious about it. The $110 only covers the travel to get the pets. The atheists are petlovers. They live within reasonable distance of their potential charges. If they don’t he refuses to take the business.

    Theists may not apply. It is very important for the customers to be assured they really are atheists so they can’t be accidentally raptured (lol).

  • Emma

    OMG – sign me up, I will happily take care of a few thousand!Payment up front please… cash.

  • The difference between this and what Nathan said, of course, is that these people are catering to something that their customers actually believe in…

  • I do not believe that it is ethical. Despite the fact that that no false claims have been made and that the site is very open and honest about their expectations it is still the case that people who are suffering from a delusion (I use the term loosely) are losing money as a result through the actions of Bart Centre.

    OK, the stupid Christians who pay for this service really should expect to lose their money but I still see it as wrong to take it from them. It is exploiting their stupidity for personal gain. Granted lots of businesses do this but I wouldn’t invest in them or work for them. If you took their money would you feel guilty? I would.

  • This is a voluntary idiot-tax. If these fools want to pay it would be wrong not to separate them from their money. It would only be going to their pastor’s Lexus payment otherwise.

  • It’s a Rapture-insurance policy. I don’t see anything unethical about it.

    If the rapture did happen and he failed to live up to his end of the bargain, that would be unethical – but on the plus side, all his clients would be gone, so no one could sue him.

  • Kevin


    Your post is clearly joking, but if you think, for a moment, that an atheist would actually pay any amount, no matter how litte, to you, to an imam, or to the pope, for anything resembling that service, then I’d put that you don’t “get it”.

    For the record, I would “sell my soul” for a nickle. Not a penny, mind you, because they’re not accepted in vending machines and I tend to toss them in the trash more often than I make use of them. But yes, for a nickle. For the same nickle, I’ll happily sign any “deal with the devil” put to me; and I’d happily sign off the souls of my wife and children (if that “made sense” to the recipient’s brand of superstition) for the same. Furthermore, I wouldn’t give that nickle back for the promise of 4 billion simultaneous prayers from every living theist of every stripe to every divine being currently living in the imaginations of said believers. These decisions wouldn’t even give me pause: the chance that that nickle might make the difference in having one nickle more than $.70 in pocket change in face of a vending machine bag of M&Ms priced at $.75 is *infinitely* more valuable to me.

    Not sure if I speak for other atheists out there, but just wanted to make my own personal rejection of your offer clear and unambiguous.

  • If only psychics offered a $110 premium as an insurance policy to protect the customer in case their predictions were wrong. That’s really all this is. In fact this is more ethical, because Bart isn’t giving anyone any false hopes. He’s merely saying, “I don’t believe you’re right, but if I’m wrong, there’s a service I can provide.” Nothing wrong with that.

  • Hermes

    Hoverfrog, consider the lottery or donations to a church. This service gives peace of mind that is both limited and specific as opposed to unlimited and continual — even if it is like the others largely fictional.

  • sil-chan

    I find it interesting that everyone is saying that this business is a 0% or 100% gamble. There are a lot of contingencies:

    1) The rapture doesn’t happen (0% payout)
    2) The rapture happens, Islam is right (0% payout)
    3) The rapture happens, 7th-day Adventists are right (percentage of 7DA contracts are fulfilled)
    4) The rapture happens, only the most righteous Christians go to heaven (percentage of righteous Christians contracts are fulfilled)

    et cetera.

    In fact, I honestly cannot see a case where 100% of the contracts would be fulfilled if the rapture did happen.

  • muggle

    I just think it’s funny as hell.

  • Hermes

    All contracts are held by people of the ‘correct’ religion, and they are thus all raptured; 100.00%.

    Chance of that happening; 000.00%.

  • I love it.

  • Angel

    I’m a little surprised at the reaction here, because it is the complete opposite I had. I find this extremely unethical. His entire business plan hinges on taking advantage of people.

    I personally view people who believe in the rapture as mentally brutalized. It takes a lot of time to be so indoctrinated to believe something as outlandish like that, and many hucksters along the way have skillfully ripped away the logic and reasoning from them. They are members of a cult, for all intents and purposes.

    If preying on the weak-minded for monetary profit is considered ethical, my definition of the word is much much different.

  • NorDog

    @Elena Villarreal

    “No! What if you’re holy enough to be raptured?”

    Never happen. Even if Rapture were true (it’s not), fundies like these would likely say, “You can’t join us because you’re a Catholic. You’re going to Hell for worshipping the Whore of Rome! But please be good to Fido, he loves Kibbles and Bits.”

  • NorDog

    Too many comments to get through here, so this may have been mentioned.

    As silly as paying for this service is, look on the bright side.

    At least these folks think that atheists have enough morality to care for pets of departed strangers in what I assume will be Hell on Earth.

  • Hermes

    Angel, cult members — I’d agree with that. Yet, I’ve had detailed intellectual discussions with many theists who would chew you out for calling them weak minded.

    They’d be right to be offended, but not for the reason they think; cult indoctrination requires some intellectual engagement and that’s what makes it scary. Dumb people don’t tend to have complex imaginations that can be abused and as such don’t make good followers or recruiters.

    That said, if you can figure out effective ways to deprogram them, I’m all ears. Till then they have needs that they want served. The price is high enough to be taken seriously as a credible service, but is not so high as to be abusive. If you think it is, then you must also consider many other consumer goods to be abuses as well. Do you point those abuses out also when appropriate?

  • Silent Service

    It is definitely different from psychic frauds, but I can certainly see the moral dilemma. I’d be more accepting if I’d thought of it first or if all the money was going to charity. If it’s a good enough charity I’ll pay for my cats just in case god is willing to rapture this bisexual atheist. You know, just in case. 🙂

  • Ideally, i think Bart should take a small percentage of the fees collected to cover his costs for website administration, his time etc. and then donate the rest to worthy charities. The obvious one i think would be animal shelters with no religious affiliation. It is an interesting ethical dilemma and also a model of Poe’s Law.

    In the interest of full disclosure, when i first heard about this i contacted Bart about becoming a franchisee; Northern Arizona is full of religious nuts and i do like animals. He politely declined saying there were no franchising plans at this time.

  • Alt+3

    I can’t believe he’s targeting such a small market (rapture ready kooks that ALSO believe atheists are fit to look after their pets). He needs to find a way to widen his net to include the whole rapture community. But that’s just the business side of me talking.

  • sailor

    Taking care of the pets should not be too much of a problem. Let us suppose there IS a rapture, How many of his customers would be raptured? My guess is not many.

  • Angel

    I find it difficult to believe that if one can’t convince them (those that believe in the rapture) of the error of their beliefs, then it is open season to take their money.

    I don’t see how this is any different than someone pulling a long con. The deception becomes (or doesn’t become, as the case is) apparent at the point of death, which makes for a really exceptional guarantee of satisfaction of service.

    It is also completely irrelevant if I take issue and speak out when I come across other businesses with ethics that I find dubious.

    As I further stated on the FB entry, which I’ll cut and paste here..

    For myself, I could not in good conscience take money from them for this service. I don’t believe it, I know it isn’t going to happen, and while taking a hundred dollars from these people might pad my bank account, I know it is nothing more than taking money from fools. At least a tarot card reader provides a little entertainment.

    A better service might be to tweak his business to actually provide literature to help pet owners plan for “un-rapture events”. An actual useful service that could be tied with the little bit of “you are a chump giving me money” nonsense.

  • For it to be a viable business model, potential customers would have to be convinced that if the rapture did occur, then the pets would be taken care of. Otherwise no one who believed in the rapture would sign up for it. Even of the atheists providing the service were convinced that the probability of needing to actually provide for the pets was less than 1×10^-200%, they still must put a viable plan forward. Otherwise no-one would buy a policy.

  • Raven

    Simply put, it’s genius. Unethical, I think not. If someone wants to believe in something and they are willing to pay for a service to guarantee that their pets are cared for, you have put their mind at ease and you make $ too. Whatever floats your boat. Pure and simple entrepreneurial genius.

  • Jeff


    There is a profound difference between what you propose and what these young men are doing (of which I’ve been aware for some time, and of which I don’t really approve). You think we’re going to be tormented forever and ever (probably while you get to watch). It’s completely inappropriate for you to make light of it, let alone make a joke about it.

    Frankly, I’m annoyed I’m the only one saying this to you.

  • Rieux

    I’m not convinced that this whole gag is ethical, but not for the reasons people have been contemplating.

    I think it’s ethically questionable because I seriously doubt the sellers of this “insurance” can honestly say they’ll hold up their end of the bargain. If the Rapture does occur, I can’t believe that taking care of a bunch of other (disappeared) people’s pets is something any of these “insurers” will have any interest in doing. Surely, presuming it actually occurs, we nonbelievers will all have other matters to attend to.

    “You pay me Premium P, and if Condition Y occurs I’ll perform Action X” seems to me ethically untroubling, even if the promisor doubts that Y will ever obtain. It’s a bigger problem if the promisor won’t ever perform X, even if Y happens, though.

    There’s also the practical problem of why any buyer of this “insurance” would ever trust the seller to follow through on his/her promise. Leaving aside that we atheists are all “corrupt” and incapable of doing good (Psalm 14:1), it’s not as if the buyer will be around to enforce the contract anyway….

  • First off – Nathan, I like the way you think. Let’s you and me do business. We’ll make a bet on something concrete that will manifest based on your and my differing beliefs (I’m an atheist). You seem like an enterprising fellow so why don’t you make the first suggestion and we’ll go from there?

    The fact is, every time people exchange goods or services for money, there’s a different valuation of the goods and services in question. Your plumber must think that his time and effort to unclog your drain is worth less than $99 of your dollars, or he wouldn’t do it. Who are YOU to decide for him whether he’s being rational? What’s more, if he’s not, is it up to you to protect him? Most of us would agree that it’s immoral to take money from a mumbling homeless person who’s convinced that your scarf has magic powers and wants to buy it for $50, but isn’t there a cut-off for people who are actually responsible for their actions? Don’t atheists believe that there is better living to be had through rationality, that there is a *cost* to having irrational beliefs? For example, $110 for the aforementioned Pet Rapture service. And crucially – does it matter at all whether the Pet Rapture guy thinks it’s a joke? That doesn’t mean it’s not true – he might be wrong! If you’re Amish and you think internal combustion engines are a joke but you’re willing to sell me real high-test for $1.50 a gallon, I’ll be happy to do business with you! I don’t care how much you disbelieve in it.

  • Also – as to Hemant’s objection that this is unethical possibly because Pet Rapture guy will never have to honor these contracts – a large fraction (maybe the majority?) of car insurance policies never have to pay out. The only difference is that the beliefs of the car insurers and insurees regarding the business proposition (i.e. the possibility of the event) are more similar. Is this at all relevant to the morality of the situation? Keep in mind insurance used to be regarded as a form of gambling and immoral.

    There IS the problem that when people start making money on something, they like to keep making money, so they might suddenly stop being quite so vocally critical about the particular irrational belief that has become profitable to them. If Pet Rapture guy continues being open that he’s an atheist who thinks he’ll never have to honor the contracts, he’s not being deceptive. If he starts telling people out of one side of his mouth that he believes in the Rapture (because he wants to keep making money) then he’s being immoral.

  • sixtyseven

    Maybe he’s just doing it for the lulz

  • JSug

    Well, if it were me, I would offer to refund their money if they ever change their minds, or if their pets pass away. Otherwise, the service he’s offering can at least be realistically provided, should the need arise. That’s more than I can say for John Edward.

  • Here you go friends – please sign up for my bargain basement post-rapture services, more details at this site.

  • Pseudonym

    I did the mental math, too. A whopping 0.00007% of the population of the United States have signed up for it. You’re two times more likely to die from a meteor impact or drown in a bathtub than you are to have signed up for this service.

    I would like to think that most atheists are sufficiently reality-based that they wouldn’t fall for elementary statistical fallacies. But there you go.

  • Eliza

    To those who have asked how purchasers can be sure the pet-adopters won’t be raptured too, LOOK AT THE WEBSITE. It specifically says that they are all asked to be sure they are atheists AND have blasphemed (the unforgivable sin). (The site quotes scripture to back up some of its selling points, including this one.)

    To those who say that he won’t follow through, or that only a small percentage of believers have signed up, LOOK AT THE WEBSITE. It specifically says that they will only accept applications from people whose pet-needs they can accommodate, including requiring that a volunteer reside within 24 hr travel time of the pet’s location. It specifically says that they reserve the right to turn down applications if they cannot meet the need.


    If preying on the weak-minded for monetary profit is considered ethical, my definition of the word is much much different.

    I am shocked at the condescending attitude toward rapture-believers being expressed by some in this discussion. Calling them “weak-minded” is really insulting and ratio-centric, in my mind. Sure, they believe things that you think are nutso, but then the reverse is true, too. They firmly believe that the rapture is going to happen, and that they are going to be raptured. Offering to help with the practical ramifications of that is actually a kind thing to do. It helps relieve their anxiety about what will happen to Fido and Fluffy. Golden rule, and so on.

    What I don’t get is not whether the atheists might actually get raptured. It’s why the rapture-believers think the atheists will be able to care for their left-behind pets when the horror story version of Jesus comes back for all the sinners, since JC will be chasing the atheist pet-adopters down by horse, slaying them with his sword-tongue, and somehow also throwing them alive into a lake of fire. Gets sorta hard to walk the dog twice a day when that kind of stuff is going on.

    Now, the lottery. That’s a prime example of preying on teh stoopid…as in, teh stoopid taxpayers who let their state governments institute a lottery, so they can be taxed twice.

  • Chakolate

    No, they should not be offering this service, simply because they cannot fulfill their contract. No ‘moral/ethical person’ would agree to take money for this, so they can’t keep their promise.

  • Hermes

    Hoverfrog, consider the lottery or donations to a church. This service gives peace of mind that is both limited and specific as opposed to unlimited and continual — even if it is like the others largely fictional.

    Neither of which I would consider ethical. The former is gambling and the latter a culturally accepted scam on the gullible.

  • muggle

    His entire business plan hinges on taking advantage of people.

    You mean like Hershey’s takes advantage of my love of chocolate. More power to them, may they continue to do such a fine job of it!

    Jeff, I was thinking the same thing but trying to point that out to the childish, immature bigot Nathan is rather like banging your head against a brick wall. I gave up on having any discourse with him long ago. His conversation always runs like this: I am Christian; therefore, I am right. You are Atheist; therefore, you are mean and hateful (which is exactly what I find him).

  • Jeff

    I gave up on having any discourse with him long ago. His conversation always runs like this: I am Christian; therefore, I am right. You are Atheist; therefore, you are mean and hateful (which is exactly what I find him).

    Yeah, I went over to his blog and tried to explain it to him there. He wouldn’t back down. Banging one’s head against a brick wall is precisely what it’s like – which I knew already, so I don’t know why I bothered. I told him it was offensive; he actually tried to counter by saying he finds our opinion that he’s wasting his life offensive. You can go over and see how it devolved from there.

    This is really about taking a swipe at the mean old atheists who hurt his feelings and/or made him feel insecure about his beliefs. I wouldn’t say this about liberal theists, but I don’t think it’s possible to be a fundamentalist, or a subscriber to any kind of conservative theology, unless one’s development has been arrested. It would seem to be a prerequisite. In developmental terms, they’re operating at the level of children.

  • Angel

    By all means, get hung up on one term rather than address the sentiment.

    You are shocked that atheists find that believing in the rapture is/could be indicative of a mental condition? Are you serious? I’d advise against reading most books written by those coined as New Atheists – you’ll be traumatized.

    The gist of what I believe is this. Evangelicals are mentally lacking in critical thinking skills due to continual and long term brainwashing, which, in my opinion, results in a brain that has been stunted from growing into its full potential. So if you prefer, use that terminology instead when you read my sentence again.

    And as nice as it would be to think that Hershey is evil by supporting a chocolate need, the comparison is not similar. I suppose you might have been attempting to state that there are a lot of businesses that provide services to people who are, in some way, in need of them. There is a giant difference between providing a needed service, and providing a service that takes advantage of them in this kind of manner.

    The business being discussed crosses an ethical line to me, and I’ve already laid out my reasoning for why I believe what I do. If you don’t find issue with it, that is acceptable. We have different definitions of some pretty important words and concepts.

  • Jeff

    The gist of what I believe is this. Evangelicals are mentally lacking in critical thinking skills due to continual and long term brainwashing, which, in my opinion, results in a brain that has been stunted from growing into its full potential.

    I don’t think it’s solely a matter of indoctrination. There’s a nascent but slowly growing body of evidence indicating a neurological foundation. That’s what my money’s on.

  • staceyjw

    I agree that believing in the rapture is crazy, but to call every true believer delusional or mentally incompetent is both condescending and incorrect.

    Remember, there are LOTS of people that believe this stuff that run our nation! If they can be senators, I think they are capable enough to decide if they want to spend #110 on their pets! If they are smart enough to care for their pets, and with it enough to bother with this, I think they are competent to spend their own money. Even if I think they are wrong.


    It IS a xtians responsibility to find care for their pets if they truly believe they will be raptured! Who better to do it? What if you were a strong believer with pets and no where for them to go? It would be horrible to think of your pet starving alone at home- wouldn’t you want this service?

    They are basically a transport and adoption service, NOT insurance. Their plan would work just fine if there was a rapture (HA HA), I am confident that the animals would have good atheist homes to go to. Read the website if you are unclear on the concept, $110 is plenty for what they cover.

    There is nothing unethical about selling to other peoples beliefs. I would sell statues of Mary if I could make $, even though I don’t believe she is holy or special. If the people that bought them thought they were magical, but I said I didn’t, no harm done. It’s only wrong if you offer a service you wouldn’t provide (this goes for any business venture), or if you misrepresent your service/product (more than mere advertising).

  • Ahh, Muggle,

    “I am Christian; therefore, I am right. You are Atheist; therefore, you are mean and hateful (which is exactly what I find him).”

    If you could point me to any place where I’ve said atheists (in general) are mean and hateful, I’d love to repent.

    This is really about taking a swipe at the mean old atheists who hurt his feelings and/or made him feel insecure about his beliefs. I wouldn’t say this about liberal theists, but I don’t think it’s possible to be a fundamentalist, or a subscriber to any kind of conservative theology, unless one’s development has been arrested.

    It’s really not. It’s just a response to the question raised by this post – is it ethical to run a service on the basis of beliefs other people hold to but I disagree with? I think it can be, provided you disclose the disagreement.

  • Angel

    I agree that believing in the rapture is crazy, but to call every true believer delusional or mentally incompetent is both condescending and incorrect.

    I made it clear what I think, as well as why I do so. If you disagree, fine. But merely stating that it is incorrect doesn’t make it so. I can live with my opinion being condescending, should it be viewed as such.

    What if you were a strong believer with pets and no where for them to go? It would be horrible to think of your pet starving alone at home- wouldn’t you want this service?

    I’m not a “strong believer”, or a “true believer” or even a “believer on high holidays”. So asking me to essentially put myself in their place in order to see the service from their point of view is a very odd suggestion. I’ve not spent decades being brainwashed by dogma, nor have I been subjected to the intense levels of peer pressure on the issue of evangelicalism. Nor do I wish to. Now as a human being with pets? I’d want a service that allowed me a way to ensure that the creatures I love are taken care of in the event that something should happen.

    I suggested in an earlier comment that tweaking this “rapture” service to include this contingency would make the concept more palatable to me. You know, by actually taking care of the animals in some way. As it stands, it is a hypothetical service that takes in real money. And as much as I’d like to use your comparison of selling religious statuettes, it is comparing apples and oranges. One provides an actual service. The other provides nothing.

    As I see it, it is a con. A con that many people seem to be able to justify to themselves as perfectly reasonable for various reasons. For myself “because they are asking for it” is not a good enough justification to throw my ethics out the window.

  • japanther

    There is a new variation out there about BABIES, instead of pets.

  • Jeff

    Really, if they think the Rapture is imminent, they shouldn’t own pets in the first place.

    Re: Rapture Orphan Rescue – there are just no words.

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