Bart Centre does not believe in heaven, but he’s pretty sure that if there is a heaven, your pet is not going there.
After all, he points out, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” is the name of an animated movie, not a line from the Bible.
Not that Bart believes in the Bible. Or God. He is an atheist, and proudly so. But he knows that plenty of people do believe in God and do believe in heaven. And some of them believe in the Rapture, the day when true Christians will be called up to Jesus Christ. Some people — including a group that put ads on the backs of buses in our area — think the Rapture is coming May 21.
The Rapture could leave a lot of dogs and cats looking longingly at their food bowls after their owners have floated off to heaven. That’s where Bart comes in.
In 2009, he launched Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA. Bart guarantees that if or when the Rapture comes he or one of his 44 contractors in 26 states will drive to your home within 24 hours, collect your dog, cat, bird, rabbit or small caged mammal, and adopt it. (Rapture rescue services for horses, camels, llamas and donkeys are limited to New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho and Montana.)
The cost is $135, plus $20 per additional animal. Payable upfront, of course, and good for 10 years.
“Right now, we have over 250 clients,” said Bart, 62, who is retired from a major retailer and pens anti-religion books under the name Dromedary Hump. Most customers are in the Bible Belt. Bart said he can handle relatively secular western Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, where he lives, all by himself.
Bart says he has carefully screened all the rescuers. They have to love animals, of course, but just as important is that they don’t love Jesus. For obvious reasons, they’re all atheists.
“These are people not likely to be Raptured under any circumstances,” Bart said. “Not that we think anybody is going anywhere anyway, which we make perfectly clear on our Web site.”
After a background check, each rescuer must satisfy Bart by blaspheming in accordance with Mark 3:29, the part of the New Testament that reads: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
Said Bart: “We leave it up to the imagination of the rescuer to come up with a blasphemy that would be offensive to a Holy Spirit — if there were one.”
He wouldn’t tell me what sort of blasphemies his rescuers have committed. “I can tell you it involves language that most religious people would find hair-raisingly offensive. . . . If the Holy Spirit wants to beam people up who take Its name in vain, more power to Him, I say.”
Bart said all sorts of people contact him, mostly atheists who want to offer their services. (About 8,000 at last count.) He gets grief from people who say Jesus will make sure their pets are taken care of, come what may. (“God didn’t take care of the animals during the flood,” Bart tells them. Not that he thinks there was a flood.) He also hears from folks angry that he’s taking money from fundamentalist Christians under false pretences.
“Who’s providing the false pretences?” he said. “I do not promote the Rapture. If I were promoting it, then soliciting people to take my services, I could see that being a scam. I let the religious people promote it. I am offering them peace of mind. We can commit to you that we have the resources and infrastructure to rescue your pet from certain slow starvation or thirst, at just over a dollar a month. I do not feel like I’m taking advantage. I am satisfying a demand.”
Bart thinks it’s a pretty good deal.
“Who knows whether I’m taking advantage of them,” he asked, “or they’re taking advantage of me?”
He takes PayPal.