Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programmes.
These were the words thundered by Hamza Aktan, Chairman of the High Board of Religious Affairs in Turkey, after he learned details of a game show aimed at converting atheists into believers.
Those competing to lure 10 non-believers from the path of godlessness will be a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk.
In Penitents Compete (Tovbekarlar Yarisiyor in Turkish), the religious leaders will seek to convert at least one of tenÂ atheists to their respective faiths.
According to this report, those that crack will win a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of their newly-chosen faith; Muslims will go to Mecca, Jews and Christians will go to Jerusalem and Buddhists will go to Tibet.
Religious authorities in Turkey are not amused by this barmy twist on the reality game show format – and the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the show.
A team of theologians will ensure that the atheists are truly non-believers and are not just seeking fame or a free holiday.
Said spoil-sport Hamza Aktan:
Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions.
But the makers of the game show are unrepentant and reject claims that the contest, scheduled to begin broadcasting in September, will cheapen religion.
Kanal T TV chief executive Seyhan Soylu said:
We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God. 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.
Some 200 people have so far applied to take part in the show and the ten contestants will be chosen next month.