Saving the cat

by John Quiggin on August 28, 2009

Quite a while ago, I raised a question about the practical implications of the “rapture” doctrine, held by large numbers of evangelicals.

Do they install automatic watering systems for their gardens and arrange for unsaved neighbours to feed the cat? Or do they just pay into their IRAs as if they expect the world to last forever?

Now it appears, some enterprising atheists have set up a service addressing one of the problems I raised. In the event of rapture, they guarantee that , assured of being left behind, they will look after the pets of those who are taken up. (video here)

{ 41 comments }

1

nolo 08.28.09 at 11:01 pm

Reminds me of the great bumpersticker I once saw — “When the Rapture Comes, Can I Have Your Stuff?”

2

zic 08.29.09 at 12:47 am

Reminds me of another cat conundrum. . .the cat in the box with a vial of cyanide beneath a hammer attached to an atomic switch.

Only this time the question isn’t “is the cat dead or alive,” it’s “has the evangelical raptured yet?”

And the answer is a fool and his money are soon parted. Don’t they know the hammer falls during the rapture, and all good kitties go to kitty heaven?

3

Ben 08.29.09 at 3:02 am

It’s likely to be a confusing time, so it’s important to plan ahead. You could seek information at http://www.postrapturepets.com/ which has helpful advice, such as,

“You should arrange with as many of your friends as you can to have them adopt your pets when you are taken. You should agree to take theirs if they are taken up and you are not, just in case.”

And there is an index to help decide who are the least likely to be ‘raptured’ and therefore a good bet for looking after your pet. However, the site warns that you “should try to get several people lined up with high Suitability Indexes, but for different reasons. For example, you could get an Atheist and a Baptist”.

And there is also information on automatic feeding and watering products, such as John mentions, and a service that will email your unsaved friends to let them know where you have gone (which is into the clouds, apparently – http://www.raptureletters.com/).

4

Henry (not the famous one) 08.29.09 at 3:15 am

On the subject of bumperstickers, my favorite is “Honk if you ARE Jesus.”

By the way, a shorter link to the actual video, bypassing the kidnapped blonde girl news items, is http://media.theage.com.au/national/breaking-news/atheists-armageddon-pet-rescue-702350.html?.

5

Donald A. Coffin 08.29.09 at 3:28 am

I continue to be unable to decide if this is a hoax or for real. Assuming it’s for real…

There are a lot of practical problems, such as who’s going to press for the enforcement of the contracts following the (hypothetical) raputre.

And, here’s a puzzle for you: Which would be more surprising, again on the assumption that this is real: That these insurance policies have buyers, or that none are being sold? Explain your answer.

6

nickhayw 08.29.09 at 3:44 am

Such disdain for animal rights. Why can’t the pets be rapt up to St. Peter, too? Are they that unworthy of salvation? tsk tsk

7

Guest 08.29.09 at 4:24 am

my favorite part of this joke is the bit about swearing that they would under no circumstances have carnal knowledge of yer little guy after you leave.

8

ogmb 08.29.09 at 10:14 am

There are a lot of practical problems, such as who’s going to press for the enforcement of the contracts following the (hypothetical) raputre.

Organized religion has the same enforcement problems, but it doesn’t seem to hurt their business model…

9

Peter 08.29.09 at 2:47 pm

What if the cats arise to Heaven when the Rapture comes, and all humans burn in Hell?

10

CK Dexter 08.29.09 at 3:44 pm

This phony gotcha question seems to be in bad faith. Obviously, those who think their doggies have souls believe they’ll go to heaven during the rapture, those who don’t, don’t care if they’re non-soul having doggies die.

You clearly don’t get the concept, here: the rapture’s _all about_ the attitude of “Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home!” The point is to leave your troubles behind. That’s the cynical side: our cats and abandoned houses are now _your_ problem, sinners.

The less cynical side, which you’re also overlooking: the point of most religions is to establish some sort of set of values that demarcate priorities and thus organize human life. Most include the broad category of spirit > matter. So, it’s the height of irreligiosity to ask: when I enter the sphere of true existence to escape from a world of illusion and lies about to be destroyed, who will take care of my stuff?

There’s a great parody of Bergman’s Seventh Sign (Seal?) in Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life. A bourgeois dinner party dies en masse from bad salmon mousse. When death comes to escort them away, they ask if they can take their cars.

11

MR Bill 08.29.09 at 4:10 pm

My current favorite bumper-sticker involves Jesus, also: “I bet Jesus would use HIS turn signals…”

12

Ceri B. 08.29.09 at 4:57 pm

Back when I was in the evangelical world – this was 25-30 years ago – there was actually a mild but active debate about animal souls, as part of the larger debate about the issues that can be summed up as “stewardship”. That is, what do people in general and Christian in particular owe to the world at large and to all its non-human parts? As I recall, nobody involved wanted to claim outright that animals had full-fledged souls of their own on a morally and spiritually equal footing to human souls. The spread of possibilities given interested discussion ranged at least from “none at all, the world is ours to use as we see fit” to something like C.S. Lewis’ speculation that whatever we love picks up some ensoulment by virtue of our love and may endure too, and others I’m not thinking of at the moment.

In practical terms, I’m guessing it all got settled long ago with the ascent of movement conservatism as a power within the evangelical world. But I wonder what’s being written now by the philosophical and ecological counterparts of genuinely honest scholars like Mark Noll and George Marsden.

13

djw 08.29.09 at 5:09 pm

This phony gotcha question seems to be in bad faith. Obviously, those who think their doggies have souls believe they’ll go to heaven during the rapture, those who don’t, don’t care if they’re non-soul having doggies die.

This may be a gotcha in bad faith, but it’s not phony. I don’t believe my cat has a soul, and I care a great deal about what would happen to my cat should I suddenly vanish. Many people give strong evidence of caring a great deal for pets who they don’t believe have souls, including many people who beleive in souls for some beings.

14

engels 08.29.09 at 5:33 pm

In other news

A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.

The suit was launched by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers, who said he might appeal against the ruling.

He sought a permanent injunction to prevent the “death, destruction and terrorisation” caused by God. …

15

Aaron Baker 08.29.09 at 6:07 pm

I hope the atheists in question are demanding payment upfront.

16

Henri Vieuxtemps 08.29.09 at 6:12 pm

I don’t believe my cat has a soul, and I care a great deal about what would happen to my cat should I suddenly vanish.

But aren’t most cats usually quite self-sufficient? I imagine there will be much less traffic and other man-made hazards in the areas previously populated by evangelicals, so, one could argue that the cats and dogs left behind will find themselves in their own little paradise. The goldfish will perish, though.

17

engels 08.29.09 at 6:27 pm

18

lemuel pitkin 08.29.09 at 7:24 pm

A similar site is here. This one lets you record various messages for friends, family, pet-caregivers, etc. If the proprietors fail to log in for six days — which given their probity, can only mean they’ve been raptured — the messages will be sent automatically…

19

Gary Hamilton 08.29.09 at 8:23 pm

All I know is that I love my cat. If I should die today, I’m sure family members would take care of him. As for the Rapture, I question the concept.

20

Glen Tomkins 08.29.09 at 8:59 pm

Nobody ever went broke selling indulgences to the believers either, even if that practice ended up breaking the Church.

Look, if you insist on taking literally something obviously meant to be poetry, the question of what happens to your cat after the Rapture is the least of the totally manufactured dilemmas you’re going to find yourself in.

If any of these people ever bothers you with this literalist nonsense, you should, assuming you want to risk entering in any way into their delusional system, just ask them what they make of Rev 17: 9-11. We are told there point-blank exactly what the literal reference is for the key figures in the Apocalypse narrative, that they are the first eight Roman emperors. The eighth is the Anti-Christ. There is absolutely no way around the fact that that narrative is presented as happening two millenia ago. It was in no way a “prophecy” in the sense of foretelling the future. There had already been at least nine emperors by the time the book appeared. The Rapture, whatever is meant to be conveyed by that story, has already happened. It’s gone. Go home. Your cat is safe from the threat of bereavement, at least by the Rapture.
Now, there is the escape clause, if you are bound and determined to rip Revelations out of context and imagine it as fortune-telling a la Nostradamus, of the recurrence theme. The Beast, after being defeated in the first Battle at the End of History, the one that most of the narrative recounts, and which includes the Rapture episode, is actually just thrown into the Abyss for a thousand years, after which he escapes, only to be again defeated in a Really Final Battle at the End of Time. You could interpolate, so to speak, that perhaps many of the episodes that preceded the first Final Battle, would also recur just before the Really Final Battle, even if the Revelations narrative doesn’t mention them happening again the second time. This is the theory that the original Millenarians ginned themselves up with as 1000 AD neared, then 1033 AD, then whatever date they could project as being a thousand years after the defeat of the eighth emperor. But these people were just ignorant medieval fanatics, so they still had some intellectual fastidiousness in their delusional constructions. Not so our latter-day Holy Rollers.

21

Alex 08.29.09 at 10:15 pm

who’s going to press for the enforcement of the contracts following the (hypothetical) rapture?

Has anyone else noticed the comparison with the Golgafrinchan solution? Somebody sabotaged the texts, clearly out of fear of what their efforts to bring about heaven on earth would do. Clearly, only God could be responsible.

Old joke: What happens to all the commercial aircraft if the Rapture arrives?

Answer: You think the aircrew aren’t sinners?

22

John Quiggin 08.30.09 at 1:43 am

@CK Dexter

It may be a “gotcha”, but it’s meant in good faith. If you believe in a more-or-less imminent rapture, shouldn’t your life look a lot different from that of your unbelieving neighbours?

23

Shawn Crowley 08.30.09 at 7:30 am

As a sensitive child in the Deep South of America I struggled with the question of animals having souls. Being repeatedly told by Christian Authority that they did not I reached the conclusion that people didn’t either. And so ended my brief entanglement with Christianity.

24

Francis Xavier Holden 08.30.09 at 7:52 am

I have a concern about what sort of health (and I guess healthcare to make it USA topical) one can assume in heaven.
Does one ascend to heaven with the current body and aches and pains and disease?

Does any disease or defect become cured in ascension? Does one revert to a previous healthy age, say 22 or 23, but with older wiser brains?

If one reverts to an earlier age – are accumulated skills lost? ( so one could be physically attractive and fit but stupid about money and relationships, and maybe even still think Bachman Turner Overdrive is a great band)

Would hair and toenails continue to grow and need cutting?

Is there any need for clothes in heaven?

25

Ted 08.30.09 at 2:31 pm

Re: 23 – since clothes were invented to cover the shame of nakedness, and there’s no shame in heaven, I think the answer to that one is “no”.

Also, if I can’t listen to BTO play “Takin’ Care of Business” whenever I want, then it’s not heaven as far as I’m concerned.

26

Greg Shenaut 08.30.09 at 7:43 pm

I think the rapture already happened, during the 1st Century. This would accord best with certain New Testament passages, and it would explain why bad things keep happening, like the Black Death, the Inquisition, the death of over 50 million New World Indians, the H-bomb, Naziism, the Soviet Union, and Dick Cheney.

27

Agent420 08.30.09 at 7:46 pm

I’m moving into one of those big houses along the Columbia River. Thanks for leaving! Hahahahahahahahahahahahah!

28

LysergicAsset 08.30.09 at 8:07 pm

@lemuel pitkin: This has already been covered in an episode of Law & Order!

29

Karl Steel 08.30.09 at 8:09 pm

Fascinating stuff, and good for the atheists. I’ve actually dealt with some of this stuff in a history of ideas sort of context: see here (although I’m refined some of these points since then). As for the q. of nonhuman animals having souls: mainstream medieval Xian thought granted animals souls, namely, animal souls, as opposed to vegetative souls and rational souls, but, barring a few outliers (Adelard of Bath, for example), no medieval Xian thinkers thought animal souls were immortal.

==
Would hair and toenails continue to grow and need cutting? (etc.)
Augustine deals with these questions in City of God and Enchiridion (and prob. other places): the answer is no. I think you can find the core of most mainstream medieval Xian resurrection doctrine in City of God XXII.

30

Brian CB 08.30.09 at 8:19 pm

As a Muslim, I’m cheated of the rapture, but totally down with the idea of Rapture Insurance. I’ll insure the upbringing of your demon spawn and take care of your worldly goods. For a price.

31

goatchowder 08.30.09 at 9:34 pm

Schroedinger’s Wingnut?

32

ban 08.30.09 at 9:37 pm

Wow, I never thought of this. You could make alot of money off this. Think of it – to deny buying ‘rapture insurance’ is to doubt or deny it will happen, then what kind of believer are you?

33

Ken 08.30.09 at 10:46 pm

We are told that heaven is a place of pure joy.

We are also told that our loved ones, in heaven, look down upon us and watch over us.

We know, without having to be told, that there is much pain, suffering, and general anguish among those of us still alive on Earth.

The conclusion is obvious and inescapable: go to heaven and become a Sadist, who enjoys the suffering of those left behind.

34

Joshua Holmes 08.31.09 at 12:51 am

Holden,

I Corinthians 15 answers most of your questions, I think.

35

JSG 08.31.09 at 3:16 am

engels 08.29.09 at 5:33 pm
A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.

I guess that means you can’t file suit against homeless people. Imagine, Bernie Madoff would be untouchable, if only he had no address.

No wonder Dick Cheney is maintaining so many “secure undisclose locations”.

36

rea 08.31.09 at 11:09 am

We are told there point-blank exactly what the literal reference is for the key figures in the Apocalypse narrative, that they are the first eight Roman emperors. The eighth is the Anti-Christ.

Vitellius (emperor April 17, 69 AD – December 20, 69 AD) was the antichrist? If so, he was something of a flop . . .

37

roac 08.31.09 at 3:55 pm

27: You can file suit against anyone or anything, homeless or not, existent or not. But at some point, in order to go forward, you have to document the fact that someone acting on your behalf found the defendant and officially notified him or her of the suit.

I don’t know exactly what happened in the Nebraska case. But society obviously has an interest in limiting the amount of judicial time that can be wasted by lunatics. (Good smart hard-working judges are pearls beyond price — for an illustration that will be familiar to many here, see Judge Jones’s decision in the Dover creationism case — and their time is a scarce resource if there ever was one.)

38

roac 08.31.09 at 4:07 pm

As a footnote to 29: This Chambers may not actually be certifiable, but just one of those people who enjoy hearing their names spoken on TV so much they don’t care why. All the more reason for giving him short shrift when he messes with people who have work to do.

(Incidentally, no. 19 by Glen Tomkins is of course utterly correct, but the short title for the last book of the New Testament is “Revelation”; “Revelations” though common is a Vulgar Error.)

39

mg56 08.31.09 at 6:13 pm

There’s a great parody of Bergman’s Seventh Sign (Seal?) in Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life. A bourgeois dinner party dies en masse from bad salmon mousse. When death comes to escort them away, they ask if they can take their cars.

And they *were* allowed to take their cars. The salmon was left behind though.

40

James Wimberley 08.31.09 at 8:38 pm

Peter in # 9:

“What if the cats arise to Heaven when the Rapture comes, and all humans burn in Hell?”

Remember the kdaptist heresy among Larry Niven’s kzin which held that “Man was made in the image of God”. Man, not kzin (because men kept winning the wars). One of the nice features about the Plotinist “great chain of being” was that it put humans in a merely privileged, not exclusive, place in the creation. There were amoebae and turtles below and angels above, indeed several grades of angels. For a serious discussion of dinosaur pain in theodicy, see John Hicks, Evil and the God of Love.

41

Henry (not the famous one) 09.03.09 at 2:57 am

To roac at 37

By now means the first time courts have relied on lack of service in cases of this sort. See Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:NbGkLDroUA0J:kevinunderhill.typepad.com/Documents/Mayo_v_Satan.pdf+satan+and+his+staff+class+action&hl=en&gl=us, which has some erudite discussion of defendant classes.

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