Most reality game shows offer fame and fortune for victory. One Turkish program plans to offer a much bigger reward: Eternal salvation.
Turkish television Kanal T is launching a game show where a Muslim imam, a Christian Priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk try to convert 10 atheists, reports Reuters. Converts win the pilgrimage of their chosen faith: Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists.
While Turkey is technically secular, Muslim groups are not amused, so much so that the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to allow an imam on the show.
"Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions," says High Board of Religious Affairs Chairman Hamza Aktan, "Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs."
Producers for the show titled, "Penitents Compete," disagree with Aktan's claim and say their show won't cheapen religion, it will strengthen it.
"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."
This is not the first time religion in Turkey has been under the spotlight. In the past religious rights groups have raised concerns over freedom of religion for non-Muslim minorities.They claim the ruling party in Turkey has a hidden Islamist agenda -- a charge it denies.
Thus far, 200 people have offered to be one of the first 10 atheists on the show, slated to air in September. Before they are chosen, a team of theologians will make sure the atheists are truly non-believers and not just seeking money or fame.