ISTANBUL (Reuters) – What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?
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 will seek to convert a group of non-believers.
The prize for converts will be 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 just seems like a horrible setup for a gameshow. Theological debates just don’t make very good gameshows, nor do they fit into a 30-minute time slot. It would be interesting if the atheists could raise counterarguments, but based on the format (10 atheists) I doubt that could work.
There’s also something insulting about the idea that a handful of religious people could convert atheists so easily. It’s almost like they’re saying, “just give me 20 minutes to convince an atheist, and he’ll come out a believer”. Could you imagine the outrage if the format were reversed? If the setup was a gameshow where four atheists and agnostics tried to convince 10 religious people to give-up their faith?
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.
I’m not surprised at all. Afterall, the show will be in Turkey — where 99% of the population is Muslim. I can’t imagine that Muslim religious authorities would like the idea of a Muslim cleric being put on an even playing field with Christians, Jews, or Buddhists. Even worse, it would expose a lot of the Turkish population to other religions’ arguments. That can’t be a good thing because maybe Muslims would convert to one of the other three religions, or maybe it would convince Muslims that their religion isn’t self-evidently more true than others, leading to a kind of religious liberalism and tolerance.
In fact, another article says that the program’s creators are aiming to educate people about other religions:
The programme’s makers say they want to promote religious belief while educating Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population about other faiths.
I can certainly see why religious leaders would be opposed to this kind of thing.
“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.
Sounds like the chief executive is very liberal in her religious belief. I can’t say that I quite understand the idea that ‘belief’ is, in itself, a virtue. She seems to believe in a generic god and must think that most of what’s written in religious books is inaccurate.
There’s also something bizarre about the statement that “God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in” alongside the fact that a Buddhist in the the group of four. Buddhists don’t worship God; they’re agnostic about the existence of God. I guess that means that ‘belief in a religion is important, whether or not you believe in God’.