A man who claimed he owned a pet hotel called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, which was supposed to take care of the pets of believers who ascend into heaven during the Rapture, has admitted that his business was not real and he did not have any clients. The man, Bart Centre, claims he promoted the fake business in order to garner attention for his satirical atheist book, The Atheist Camel Chronicles.
"Sales benefited enormously from the media attention which brought atheists to the website. Without that media hype my self-published book would likely not have reached such a wide audience, an early top seller among Amazon's atheist themed books, and I would not have been encouraged to write my second, The Atheist Camel Rants Again," Centre said in a statement on his website.
His idea of taking in believer's pets was largely based on the predictions of Harold Camping, of nonprofit Christian organization Family Radio in Oakland, Calif. Camping, a Bible teacher, claimed that Jesus would return in May 2011 (and later in October) to "rapture" Christians with him into heaven, while unbelievers stayed behind to suffer God's judgement on Earth.
Several news organizations, such as ABC News and NPR, reported on Centre, who described himself as an atheist who did not believe in the Rapture, but wanted to provide the pet service to believers anyway. He was believed to have launched his business in 2009 and signed over 258 contracts, with each pet's stay at the hotel costing $135.
However, now that the State of New Hampshire's Insurance Department has called Centre to come in and discuss his insurance offerings for pets, he has come clean that his whole business is a hoax, and he never took in any pets, or had any employees or clients. It was all simply a "social experiment," he explained on his website, seeking to prove how willing pet owners who believe in the Rapture are to provide for their pets after they are gone.
"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," the businessman confessed.
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It turns out that the figures Centre gave to news agencies last year were false, and although he received tons of both positive and negative messages from people through email, no one was seriously taken in by his offer.
"I received approximately seven thousand emails from freethinkers all over the United States and the free world applying for pet rescuer positions or franchises. Many hundreds of letters from non-Rapture believing Christians, including ministers and priests, wishing me luck and congratulating me on a stroke of genius; a smaller number mildly chastising me for taking advantage of their misinformed and scripturally confused Rapture believing brethren [sic]," Centre shared.
"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," he added.