Proposed game show should be called “Who Wants To Be A Believer?”

Mecca. Photograph: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters

There’s a new game show which is causing controversy in Turkey. The basic premise of the game, "Penitents Compete", is trying to convert an atheists by offering them a prize to the holy site of whatever religion they are converted to. It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. From Yahoo! News:

Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a gameshow where spiritual guides from the four faiths [Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism] will seek to convert a group of non-believers. […]

But religious authorities in Muslim but secular Turkey are not amused by the twist on the popular reality game show format and the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the show.

"Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions. Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs," High Board of Religious Affairs Chairman Hamza Aktan told state news agency Anatolian […]

"We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God," Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters.

"We don’t approve of anyone being an atheist. God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in. The important thing is to believe," Soylu said.

My guess would be that the last quote by Soylu is the problem: Turkey is officially Islamic, and this show would appear to put Islam as on equal footing with 3 other religions. I guess this goes to show that people from different religions, who fight over just about everything, can agree on one thing: atheists are bad and need to be converted. Even converting them to a religion you don’t believe in is apparently better than them just not believing in any God. If I find any updates on this, I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: Here from the Guardian’s website is an audio discussion of the new show. In it, it is claimed that 3 out of 4 Turks say they would not want to live next to an atheist. Sounds like similar polls I’ve read in the US (such as this one from Gallup ) where people would be willing to elect pretty much anyone over an atheist to public office.