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08/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Penitents Compete : Turkish Game Show's Religious Contestants Compete To Convert Atheists

In the tradition of a cliche genre of jokes, the forthcoming Turkish game show, Penitents Compete, will pit a Greek Orthodox priest, an imam, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk against one another with the task of winning over atheists to their respective faiths, Reuters reports. Penitents Compete will air on the Turkish TV channel, Kenal T this September and there are already 200 atheist applicants, 10 of whom will be selected next month, according to Reuters:

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.

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.

However the makers of the show insist that it is meant to spread awareness of other religious faiths, not mock them. From the Guardian:

"The project aims to turn disbelievers on to God," the station's deputy director, Ahmet Ozdemir, told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review.

That mission is attested to in the programme's advertising slogans, which include "We give you the biggest prize ever: we represent the belief in God" and "You will find serenity in this competition".

The show claims that it will contestants who claim to have actually been converted will be under much scrutiny to guarantee that it is indeed genuine and not simply an act to win a free vacation, the Guardian report notes; however, how this determination will actually be made remains vague.

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