In Turkey, there is a game show in which representatives of several religious cults (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism) attempt to convert one or more of a group of ten atheists to their religion. The atheists are pre-certified by a panel of experts and any converts are traced for a period of time to ensure that the conversion was real. This is because any of the converted atheists get a really neat prize: A Haj to the pilgrimage site appropriate to the religion to which they convert. They don’t want people lying about being atheist in order to win a religious experience. (I guess that the figure you can’t really trust religious people.)
(As pointed out in the comment’s this is a “old” story but still a good one.)
A lot of atheists are upset about this, and for good reason. In an article describing the show, the author notes that “… the programme, which is scheduled to air in September, has been criticised by commentators and religious figures for trivialising God and faith.” That is rather astonishing. The criticism of the show is because the process of trying to hoodwink someone into joining a cult is that it trivializes the cult. That is very stupid, because all cults want to recruit members (though they bother to pretend not to varying degrees). A new recruitment technique is never trivial. Obviously, the real criticism of this show should be that it trivializes rational thinking and personal choice to not worship a guy in the sky.
But I don’t really care so much, for several reasons. Most likely this show will fall flat on its face because you can’t really organize five or six different religious representatives to work on one project without major problems that will eventually ruin said project. That would be a beneficial outcome. Alternatively, this could be very successful. If so someone, somewhere (probably Denmark), will think of the obverse: A show in which ten certified religious people are brought in and a half dozen atheists work on deprogramming them. The prize would be something like a lifetime supply of tickets to all the museums in the city they live in, or perhaps a year of tuition at the secular learning institution of their choice. Or, if they like, a Haj to one of the Mecca’s of atheism, of which there are many.
And, that would be a much more interesting show. The religious reps trying to convince an atheist to join them are going to be repeating the same thing over and over again, and unless they get into a big fight with each other (and they will) this will be extraordinarily boring. And even the fight will be boring unless it comes to fisticuffs. On the other hand, having various famous guest star atheists, like Richard Dawkins, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, or The Friendly Atheist speak rationally and in a challenging tone to the pre-certified cult members would be outstanding theater.
For fun, each week’s show could also have on one guest accomodationist for a special five minute spot. There would be rubber chickens. The possibilities are endless.
So, I’m all for this Turkish game show even though in and of itself is offensive. If you’ve watched a few game shows, a lot of them are pretty offensive anyway. The show’s failure may be fun to watch, and if it is successful, it could lead to the development of an entirely new arena in which to have the conversation we were having anyway, but with prizes and Vanna White.
What do you think?