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?


  1. #1 Greg Laden
    January 15, 2011

    The link to the Telegraph story may not be working. Until it comes back, here’s a link to some different reporting on it:

  2. #2 Felix
    January 15, 2011

    The Denmark version will not happen, I suppose. Remember, it’s rude to try to deconvert a religious person. Lying to, bribing or coercing atheists to join is perfectly fine, because everyone knows religion is good.

  3. #3 Ramel
    January 15, 2011

    That Guardian article is dated july 2009 and states that the show was due to go out in september that year, anyone know if they actually aired it and how it went?

  4. #4 Tor Bertin
    January 15, 2011

    Er, Buddhism is inherently atheistic. “Buddhist trying to convert an atheist” makes little sense, unless they are using “atheist” and “skeptic” interchangeably.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    January 15, 2011

    Actually, there are plenty of Buddhist skeptics.

  6. #6 John
    January 15, 2011

    Given religions’ track records, I’d guess you’d have a hard time convincing those rock star atheists to put themselves in danger like that. Even in moderate Turkey, the exposure to the Religion Of Peace would be just too dangerous. Some ideas are so much better in concept than in execution.

  7. #7 Schwa
    January 15, 2011

    Some schools of Buddhism are atheistic. Many others (e.g. Pure Land Buddhism) are decidedly not. Even some which deny the existence of a supreme being are filled to the brim with supernatural nonsense.

  8. #8 Phillip IV
    January 15, 2011

    Call me a stickler for tradition, but I think when a game show has one team of religious leaders, the other team should be made up of hungry lions, like they had on “Late Night with Emperor Diocletian”. Converting a lion to religion is a real achievement, at least, plus you’d get a lot more slapstick elements from such a show.

  9. #9 Garrett
    January 15, 2011

    I wish someone would try to convince me that an invisible man in the sky created everything.

  10. #10 Teg
    January 15, 2011

    Phillip IV: That’s a horribly unenlightened suggestion. Lions need and deserve our protection, not gratuitous cruelty.

  11. #11 Jeff Franklin
    January 16, 2011

    Atheism is a CULT! Just the ridicule and denigration of anyone who believes in God makes it so. China is the largest Cult of the world and it is strictly ATHEIST! The worst murderous personality Cults of Dictators, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot… were rabid Atheists. Their living fanatical followers are still persecuting believers in God today.

    There are tolerant Atheists who deserve respect for their non belief in God. But there are also the arrogant, intolerant, militant Atheists who daily display their Cult mentality and obnoxious recruiting efforts of innocents into their Cult!

    Libeling legitimate beliefs in God as being Cults is reckless disregard of the aberrations of theism that are truly Cults.

    Be rational truth seekers and dispense with irrational propaganda in order to falsely validate your personal non belief in God.

    If you don’t want to believe in a God then so be it. But stop being arrogant, obnoxious and militant toward those who chose to believe in God. It is possible to be an Atheist and be tolerant of other beliefs also. Try it!

    The truth is that there are Atheist Cults also. Whenever you recognize that fact then you can possibly be on the path to true rational thinking. If not then you just mock the true meaning of the term rationalism.

  12. #12 Samantha Vimes
    January 16, 2011

    Hey, Jeff, how comw the atheist blogs don’t try to convert or bully the folks who show up, mention their beliefs while staying on topic and not trying to justify it as anything other than a personal preference? I’m not an atheist, at least not by stricter definitions. I don’t hide it, but I also don’t *start* arguements. Don’t be an asshat to atheists and they won’t treat you like one.

  13. #13 Samantha Vimes
    January 16, 2011

    Oh, about the original post, I don’t really understand; do they follow up to see if the atheist is sticking with it before they are allowed to have their prize, or after? Do the religious respresentatives win prizes for conversion?

    because this game could be fun if the atheist gets their free trip to cement them into the religion, but the zealot doesn’t get their win unless the convert sticks around.

    The Buddhist tour– ahem, pilgrimage– sounds interesting.

  14. #14 PhillyChief
    January 16, 2011

    What if while trying to convert the atheists, any of the religious people end up questioning or losing their faith? Any prizes awarded then?

  15. #15 Tor Bertin
    January 16, 2011

    Right Greg, apologies.

  16. #16 toothfairy
    January 16, 2011

    An investor in a religious radio station brutally killed his wife. Comments about the murderer from the victim’s brother: “That monster…I don’t even consider him a Muslim. He’s an atheist. Our religion is not like that.”

    So, let’s be fair to theists, they don’t just try to transform atheists into theists, they also sometimes do the reverse =)

  17. #17 S.L.
    January 16, 2011

    Here’s the wiki article: I can’t seem to find any actual video though. Pity..

  18. #18 James Broderick II
    January 16, 2011

    Instant message me at JBroder873 on AIM, please. I’m Gnostic and have yet to have a conversation with any reasonable Atheists. I actually enjoy other people trying to “convert” me because it helps me see my own beliefs from outside myself.

    I’d like to try having a talk with someone who’s reasonable. Or if you think you’re reasonable and turn out to not be and I don’t do any convincing of my own, that’s cool. I believe in an incredibly large number of lifetimes for a person to attain understanding anyway.

  19. #19 Jeff Franklin
    January 20, 2011

    Hey Samantha.

    Thanks for your response. The atheist arguments, conversion, bullying and treating theists as “asshats” on this site was already done before I got here. Read the previous posts. Pure ridicule, denigration of believers in God and calling every belief in God “a cult”. So the point you are trying to make is irrational. Go to any atheist blog and counter their propaganda with theist positions and be instantly shot down by the Cult of Dawkins blind followers. Is this an Atheist Cult website? Your responses of further intolerance answer that question.

  20. #20 NJ
    January 20, 2011

    Jeff Franklin @ 19:

    the point you are I am trying to make is irrational