By Matthew Moore
It's a question that all animal-loving Christian evangelicals must address: who will look after their pets on Earth when the Rapture comes and they are taken up to heaven?
Now a group of atheists in the US have come up with a tongue-in-cheek solution, offering to take in the cats and dogs of "saved" believers in return for a small fee.
All the atheists signed up by Eternal Earth-Bound Pets are self-confessed sinners and blasphemers, guaranteeing they will be left behind when the chosen are selected.
The business idea is an irreverent attempt to cash in on the belief – widespread among US Christians – that the pious will be carried up to heaven by God in a sudden swoop, leaving unbelievers to endure the seven-year reign of the anti-Christ on Earth.
According to some polls, as many as 55 per cent of Americans believe in the notion of the Rapture.
"You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind?" the group's website asks.
"Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind."
For $110, the firm promises lifetime care for almost all domestic pets if their owners are transported to heaven within the next ten years.
The offer may sound far-fetched, and even a little provocative, but the group insists it is not joking.
It claims to have a network of pet-loving atheists spread across 20 states to ensure speedy, local animal care wherever the Rapture occurs, and has established a PayPal account to take subscriptions.
The founders also assure believers that their animals will enjoy an excellent quality of life: "All pets will live in loving homes, not in animal shelters or pet 'mills'."
And while the company promises that all its atheist carers are moral people with no criminal records, it stresses that they are not too saintly.
"Each of our representatives has stated to us in writing that they are atheists, do not believe in God / Jesus, and that they have blasphemed in accordance with Mark 3:29, negating any chance of salvation," the website states.
But potential customers would be advised to read the terms and conditions before forking out their $110; if the subscriber loses their faith or is not Raputered in the next 10 years, they are not entitled to a refund.
The venture follows the launch last year of a new internet service designed to allow Christian subscribers to send emails to non-believing friends and relatives after the Rapture.
I'm not sure if this counts as a con or not, or if I'm a bad person since it amuses me.
ETA: Found the group's website. Sadly can't find any information on signing up to be one of the atheist pet care providers.