It certainly has been a surreal week in news land. Today it just got even stranger. I came across a news article about a “game show”, as it’s being called, to be aired on a Turkish television station called Kanal T. Reuters in Istanbul broke this story under the catch line “What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?”
Sounds like the opening of a great joke. That this will end up being a joke is almost certain, but apparently it’s not intended to be. No mention of the name of the bright spark that came up with this, but apparently the aim is to put these religious figures on a stage with avowed atheists, who have all been vetted in advance, we’re assured, to be certain they really are atheists. This, of course raises the question of how exactly one goes about discovering if someone is really an atheist or merely claiming to be one. Is the claimant required to blasphemy? Urinate on some holy books? Draw pentagrams? Don’t know, but I’ll leave such matters to those who care.
At any rate, the religious figures will then attempt to convert the avowed atheists to their particular brand of religion, with the one successfully converted being awarded a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion — Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists. This raises the next question: how do they determine the person has actually been converted? The whole thing is mind-boggling. The potential for fraud here is almost beyond calculation. Who wouldn’t want a free trip to any of those places? Well, all right, maybe Mecca wouldn’t be so hot, so to speak, but I’ve been to the Vatican, and that’s well worth seeing if only for St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel. Jerusalem is breathtaking from what I understand, and Tibet, well, I think many people would gladly fake a conversion for a free trip to Tibet.
Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu also assured Reuters that they were giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God. I nearly lost my breakfast when I read that line. Already there is wailing and lamentation in Turkey over all this. While it has a secular government, it is an overwhelmingly Muslim country and the thought of people being converted to any religion other than Islam is not going down well. I can imagine the hell that will break loose if someone is “converted” to Judaism on public television in a Muslim country.
But the makers of the show, to be called “Penitents Compete” are unrepentant over all this and reject claims that the show will cheapen religion. It is scheduled to begin broadcasting in September. I find the name of the show intriguing. Penitents? I thought they were avowed atheists. Chief executive Soylu has also stated “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.”
Yeah, right. Some 200 people have so far applied to take part in the show and the 10 contestants will be chosen next month. Elsewhere today I came across an expression being used for attempting to convert people to one’s religion: Ramming light down the throat of darkness. As Alice exclaimed in Through The Looking Glass: Curiouser and curiouser!