Friday, March 16, 2012

The Camel comes clean: Confessions of a Post Rapture Pet Rescuing Spoofer

Three years ago this June the website known as Eternal Earth-Bound Pets was launched. Catering to the most religiously afflicted, it offered a pet recovery and rescue service that guarantees the pet’s adoption by earthbound atheists should the pet owner find himself suddenly Raptured and with Jesus.

Initially I enlisted the aid of a few internet acquaintances and relatives to come on board and represent their states as rescuer cadre to participate in interviews as the fame of this unprecedented offering became a hot topic with the media.

Radio, TV, bloggers, newspapers and magazines clamored for interviews. From Moscow Russia, to New Zealand, to Canada, Norway, South Africa and South America, it was a veritable feeding frenzy. NPR, CBS, BBC, CBC, Fox, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Business Week, Huffington Post, Religion News Service, The Associated Press and every local paper and 5,000 watt radio station across Middle America and Canada were beating down my phone and email address with requests for an interview.
The publicity spawned one or two clone pet rescue sites.

As poor old Harold Camping’s May 21, 2011 end times prediction approached, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets was such a hot media topic that I was giving interviews every thirty minutes for almost 36 hours straight. With every passing week, the number of states serviced, the number of rescuers I reported as employed, and the number of Rapture believing clients I claimed to have signed became larger and larger, adding to the excitement. It was like chumming the water for note taking / microphone bearing sharks.

The response from the public was over whelming. 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.

The hate mail from Rapture believers offended by me and my service, damning me to eternal torture, declaring me an animal rapist / dog eater, and threatening death and rape (in that order) for me and my wife was interesting to say the least, but not entirely unexpected. It was a confirmation of my long held perspective that extreme religiosity breeds extreme hate, or at least attracts extremist haters. Finally, there were emails from some believers who were actually interested in the service, others who feigned interest ... never to be heard from again.

The bottom line:
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.

Perhaps I underestimated the intelligence of these born again believers as I fully expected that out of the many millions of US Rapture aficionados I’d have received some significant number of takers. As it was, I had to turn away only two people who seemed genuinely ready to contract for my services. Perhaps Rapturists don’t believe their own hype. Or maybe it was, as I was often told in emails, that their belief that survival during the seven year Tribulation following the Rapture would be so tenuous that they had no confidence in my ability to meet the contract terms. But, more likely it is the inherent disdain theists hold for non-believers, oft vehemently expressed in all cap emails, which kept them away in droves. Atheist is still a dirty word in this country. .

Net result.
First, I learned a lot about Christians both Rapture believers and non-Rapture believers; their differing perspectives, attitudes, interpretation of doctrine, degrees of acceptance of freethinkers. I made some Christian pen pals with whom I maintain an on again/off again dialogue. I met a lot of atheists, many are now valued facebook friends; a number of them come from the ranks of freethinkers who sincerely wanted to help with the project.

Second, maybe, just maybe, the parody got religious people thinking about just how extreme the whole Rapture concept is; got them to realize that the often referenced “all dogs go to heaven” is just the name of a 1989 animated movie, not Biblical doctrine. Maybe they questioned their depth of devotion to their beloved pets, and wondered what will befall them and why their God would allow it? Maybe.

Third, the site generated Google advertising income that helped support food banks.

Last, but not at all least, EE-BP was a great marketing avenue for my first book, The Atheist Camel Chronicles, which had a chapter that was the genesis for the business concept and which came out almost at the same time EE-BP was launched. 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. Indeed, the Eternal Earth-Bound Pets experience may become the basis for a future tome, this time a novel.

Thanks and Mea Culpa.
To those internet friends, New Hampshire friends and neighbors, some very few well known atheist bloggers, and my family who knew about this all along and kept it under their hats, thank you.

To the media who were unconscious of, but eager accomplices to, this little experiment and flight of fantasy, sorry and thanks.

Most of all to all my readers, Facebook friends, fellow members of freethinker groups and organizations, and all compatriots in reason to whom this is coming as something of a surprise and perhaps a little disappointment ... my apologies for the deception; it was necessary to perpetuate the illusion.

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.

Why throw off the veil now?
It seems the 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.

The NH Insurance Department will be either disappointed or relieved to find out this is all a fantasy and that no clients exist except in my imagination and on the pages of many hundreds of publications.

I am proactively sharing this info with the media. It will likely inspire lively commentary. But, I wanted all of my friends and readers to hear it from the camel’s mouth first.

In the scheme of things, this entertaining little endeavor wasn’t even a blip on the radar screen when compared to the great spoofs/ hoaxes perpetrated by Saul of Tarsus (AKA St. Paul), Mohammed, Joseph Smith, L Ron Hubbard, and the many purveyors of the hoax of religious myth. Unfortunately, they aren’t around to expose their own spoofs. We have to do that for them. I’ll keep doing my part, you keep doing yours.

Your brother in reason,

Bart Centre
AKA Dromedary Hump, The Atheist Camel


NewEnglandBob said...

Laughing at the ingenious elaborate hoax. The media are the ones who look foolish for running with it, just like they do for the plethora of morons running for the Republican nomination. The media needs to call out the ridiculous but they rarely do anymore, because they are all business with no journalism.

Dromedary Hump said...

I wouldn't be too harsh on the media, Bob. In the excitement of the rapture, and the bizarre nature of the EE-BP offering, sometimes everything you learn and normally practice sort of gets set aside.

Only the NY Times,CBS "Sunday Morning"with Bill Geist, and perhaps one other source refused to run the story until I provided clients they could examine.

Hopefully none of the reporters who ran with it will get any fall out from this spoof. That's the only thing that concerns me.

Sue said...

I love it! Love all of it. Fun, fun. Congrats on pulling it off!

Rastifan said...

I so look forward to see the reaction to this. I read that you had no ethics, no moral and was a terrible person for exploiting gullible people. Very odd that they did not say the same about the religious leaders those gullible people where following^^

Helga said...

Dear Hump...thanks for the rapturous fun all these years. My biggest problem? I had a bet going with my husband regarding how much money you were raking in from the site .....I said 'some', hubby said 'none', you said that I won....My husband will be THRILLED now that the truth is out. Thanks for the entertainment and keep up the good work!

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Hump,
Yes good Christians who threaten death and rape (in that order) for you and your wife, reminds me of the Christian hymn…you can tell we are Christian’s by our love. What a hypocritical lot.

Chatpilot said...

Hump, I wasn't even aware of this scheme till now! I haven't been following you too long. In fact I had never heard of you till last summer when I bought your book on a whim.

I loved the book and then I sought you out here online. Your hoax just goes to prove one point. Christian fundamentalist don't think! They are not allowed to, faith trumps logic and reason.

Even though that the date of the rapture has been predicted countless time, they still continue to believe any clown who says he knows when it will occur.

BTW you can now read my latest post on my blog entitled 'Fear as a deterrent to apostasy' here:

Anonymous said...

I was beginning to wonder why I didn't receive annual tax statements as the Eternal Earth-Bound Pets rescuer for the Pacific NW

It was fun while it lasted! With Harold Camping admitting of being WRONG (and not just making some miscalculation) then there doesn’t appear to be further need (at least for the moment) for the Eternal Earth-Bound Pets rescue service catering North America.

- Fastthumbs

Dromedary Hump said...

Rec'd from "Joan" via email, posted here for all to enjoy:

a poem:

I figured as much but I hoped that at least A few people might sign up for this
Yet it seems that the reason was not really 'cause
They did not buy their own Rapture bliss.
I suspect after thinking real hard on this thing
They might well have been tempted and yet
Thought it better to let Rover die than (much worse)
Trust an Atheist to tend their pet.


Anonymous said...

Umm, you lied. And you lied to your fellow skeptics and atheists. As an atheist that heard you speak at the Granite State Skeptics, to be lied to...was well insulting. I remember laughing "oh how dumb are those fundies" only to find out you didn't really have SCORES of people signed up. You lied to us, and make fun of the fundies that had signed up with your program. When I offered to help out, and indeed said I liked "parrots", you began to backpeddle (probably thinking I would expect a cut of the money you would have taken). It wasn't a "oh we fooled those fundies" it was a "oh I fooled a lot of people". I guess you sold a lot of books. I guess any publicity is good publicity. I guess being an atheist only means you don't believe in any gods, not that like the other atheists I have met over the years, including Penn and Michael Shermer and even Richard Dawkins, you don't feel any moral concerns about your behavior. I always enjoyed the joke "Atheists are Good for Nothing" (meaning they are good because it's the right thing, not because of a fear of any gods). But in your case, you certainly weren't good, and all for shameless self promotion via a lie, and for monetary gain. Good lesson for atheists, just because someone calls himself an atheist doesn't mean he's trustworthy. For shame you lied to other atheists. And for self promotion only. You got caught out also, unlike other atheists and skeptics that have done "lies" they broke the story themselves. You were going to ride this lie gravy train as long as you could.

Anonymous said...

ohhh wow, just read your policy above, no wonder it's all kissy face replies on your blog! Live your fantasy dude.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks all..almost all...for your good natured acceptance of this little hoax.

To Anon (aka GraniteGirl/Gal):

Sorry you're so upset with me and that your husband Travis unfriended me on fb.

Your anger does cause me to wonder why my supposed talking advantage of deluded Christians, pocketing their money for something we know is a fake event, would have been more acceptable to you than the fact that I simply told a tall tail to you and your Granite State Skeptics Group.

You may want to mull that over.

As I said this was more than just a publicity stunt for my book. It was a "test of faith," and a poke in the eye of the fundies. I learned a lot from the experience, came away with new info and perspectives.

If all someone gleaned from this hoax was "he's a liar" then the point is missed on them. And for that I'm truly sorry.

best to you, and Travis.

Nomi said...

Oy vey.

Is it a New York Jewish thing:

it never crossed (haha) my mind, that there was any money arriving outside of from the ads...or book sales.

Jeez Louise.

Sc00ter said...

The person that posted above mentioning Granite State Skeptics is not my wife, it was a member.

Anonymous said...

Dude there were other women at the meeting and no I'm not married to Travis Roy, unless I'm quite the cougar! I asked about parrots, actually offered to help...(remember, you were "I don't need any help" and joking about me paying YOU if I wanted a parrot to take care of? Your details about the animals you had was quite well rehearsed or you are just good on the fly.

Anonymous said...

oh and my anger was that what you see as "performance art" was instead lying to people that asked you to speak. Honestly, take money from the Christians (and you were asked about the ethics of that at the meeting, by people that did not agree with you)...if that is what you are saying. Even Mike Daisey had more basis of truth than you did. Your answers more than once contained more than a hint of "arent' Christians DUMB to fall for this" ...and yet oddly they weren't. Which you failed to share. Remember you were "outed", you didn't "come clean" and didn't seem to have any plan to "come clean" I feel that you couldn't pass up such a good way to make fun of Christians "they are SO DUMB they fall for THIS" (when it was the media...and indeed skeptic groups that questioned you and accept your answers since you were so emphatic THIS IS REAL, and Christians are THIS DUMB... that were so DUMB to fall for your lie.) Were you ever planning on "coming clean"? When people speak at a TAM or even a small skeptic meeting, and openly lie, it's not something people are used to. And to build upon the lie and keep it up in such detail for question after question... when were you going to tell people "hey sorry, it was performance art, not a real talk."? You "had" to keep up the lie? No, you could have not answered questions about it, or fudged your answers or something. A non answer would have been way better than the performance, which seems to be Mike Daisey's excuse also. We thought it was crazy, but you assured us it wasn't. sigh.

Dromedary Hump said...

Nomi..LOL. it may well be a NY Jewish thing ;)

"Scooter"/Travis..sorry for the erroneous assumption. And sorry you are so upset as to have unfriended me. Wish you the best.

Anon..after many hundreds of interviews with the media, one learns to think on ones feet.
Sorry you're so upset with me as well. I meant no harm.
If I told every atheist group and every atheist friend and blog reader about the spoof it would have killed it's longevity years ago.

Dromedary Hump said...

Well, guys, the media is not happy with me. Can't say as I blame them. I guess this puts the kibosh on my next hoax.

Sorry you lost the bet. If I knew you had money riding on it I would have sworn you to secrecy and given you the inside dope.
I never saw that Xtian blog in 2009, thanks for the link. Funny comments, and almost a mix of the kind of comments i rec'd by email.. from the angtru and profane, to the distrusting of atheists, to the person who says she signed up her pet (i wonder if she was the early applicant i turned away? Nah, what are the odds)

Yeah, now lemme see , where did I put those annual tax statements? ;) Seriously, thanks for your support with this thing. I appreciated your enthusiasm being the first to help boost some media excitement, even though as i recall the interview never got taped or aired. I owe you just for the effort.(no, don't send me a bill, unless it's for a free signed copy of my book).

rasti... What surprises me the most is the reaction from a handful of atheists I know who, now that it's out in the open that i didn't rip people off, NOW I'm unethical for lying about it, especially to atheists. Peculiar reaction I can't even fully comprehend.

Engineer... those angry emails didnt surprise me as much as the emails from moderate/liberal Xtians who congratulated me on the game. That was a shocker.

Sue.. thanks ;)

I'm over due on my next blog posting, but because of media attention to this article I'm going to leave it as the top article for a while.
Regards all.