My pun muscles are letting me down if that’s the best I can come up with. The New Humanist’s “Zeal or no Zeal?” is perfect, and there must be other religion/game-show wordplay possibilities out there. I’ll keep trying.
The point is, people in Turkey are going to be trying to convert some atheists on a TV panel show, by the clever application of flawless logic and the careful presentation of substantial evidence to support their beliefs. Well, probably not. I don’t know how they’re going to try doing it (though I haven’t actually looked any further than this article, so maybe there’s more info out there). But it seems like a weird idea.
I mean, a game-show format implies that it’s going to take place over the course of an hour or so, in a studio somewhere. Which sounds like a curious setting for a soul-shattering revelation. Can a decision like this really be settled that quickly? Are they expecting really useful conclusions to be reached in between commercial breaks? Maybe once they’re done with the TV show, we ought to send this team over to the Middle East, to clear up some of the uncertainties and loose ends that have been bothering them there for the past few centuries.
I wonder if there’s a lightning round. “Okay, heathens, fingers on buzzers. You will have sixty seconds to be convinced of the absolute truth on one of these subjects: the transubstantiation of the host wafer, the divinity of Muhammad’s revelation, or that only through Nirvana can true peace of mind and freedom from suffering by attained. You may confer. Unfounded claims and fallacious reasoning are permitted. Your time starts… now!”
Although it doesn’t look like they’re using this as a selling point at all, there’s also an extra layer of gambling built in – obviously not all the faiths the contestants might be converted to can be true, so if they get the wrong one they’re risking eternal damnation by angering the real god. It’s like you finally open the box in front of you, but instead of £250,000, it contains a horde of demons to drag you down to the pits of Hell.
They’re playing to win a holiday, too. Well, they call it a “pilgrimage”, but come on. “Mecca for Muslims, Jerusalem for Christians and Jews, and Tibet for Buddhists.” I wonder how many of the potential converts would admit to being swayed more by the prospect of where they’ll have to take a trip, than by the actual arguments made in support of the religions.
Given that the criteria for counting the show as a “win” seem to boil down to “Were they an atheist at the beginning?” and “Are they a Christian/Muslim/Jew/Buddhist at the end?”… well, I have two fairly obvious questions:
1. How will you know? and
2. How will you know?
I’m an atheist, but I’d abandon my unfaith and worship whatever god you care to name if it gets me a free flight. Hell, I’d do it for a Klondike bar, and I don’t even know what one of those is. I’ve heard of them, and apparently people often perform unlikely feats to acquire them, and if pushed I’d guess there’s chocolate involved, but I’ve no idea whether I’d even like it. And yet, I’m hungry, so hail Thor. That’s how unprincipled I am.
We’re told: “Converts will be monitored to ensure their religious transformation is genuine and not simply a ruse to gain a free foreign trip.” Well, I can’t imagine anyone finding a cunning scheme to work around that kind of security.
And as for how the godless prove themselves as such beforehand: “An eight-strong commission of theologians will assess the atheist credentials of would-be contestants”. Wait, we have credentials? Am I supposed to have been sent a welcome pack with a badge and some papers notarised by Richard Dawkins? How is this assessment going to work? I don’t think atheism shows up on any medical screenings you can do. It’s not something you can disinfect.
Maybe they go through something like the Blasphemy Challenge… but then what if they end up genuinely converting to Christianity?
“I deny the Holy Spirit.” *half an hour later* “…Oh, fuck, I’m screwed.”
The name of the show is “Penitents Compete”. I’m not sure exactly how perfectly nuanced a translation that is from the Turkish, but a “penitent”, according to dictionary.com, is characteristed by “feeling or expressing sorrow for sin or wrongdoing and disposed to atonement and amendment”. Now, maybe in Turkey this is a fair assessment of the state of the godless community, but it doesn’t describe many atheists I know. We don’t seem to be a typically sorrowful bunch. What are they supposed to be penitent about? If you don’t believe that God exists, who is there to atone to? Maybe it’s more that they’re competing to become penitent, because it only kicks in once you’ve realised how abhorrent your previous existence was before you accepted Jesus/Yahweh/Allah/Xenu/whoever.
Anyway, that’s about all I got. Not sure why this particular subject provoked me to such lengthy sounding off, but hey, words are good.