Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 12:13 UK

Faiths compete on Turkish TV show

Symbols of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam
Contestants will choose between one of four faiths - or stay with none

A Turkish game show is challenging atheists to reassess their views and win "the biggest prize ever".

Penitents Compete will bring together an Islamic imam, a Jewish rabbi, a Buddhist monk and a Greek Orthodox priest seeking to convert the atheists.

The prize for any converted contestants is an expenses-paid pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen faith.

But the producers say the show will also help contestants "find serenity" and raise awareness of the faiths.

Each episode of Penitents Compete will pitch 10 atheists - carefully vetted by a team of theologians to ensure their non-belief - against the four faith leaders.

The imam, rabbi, monk and priest will then seek to persuade the atheists of the merits and truth of their faith.

Adverts for the show promise: "We give you the biggest prize ever; we represent the belief in God. Believe, repent, God will forgive you."

Mixed reactions

The show's producers say they know there is a good chance that none of the atheists will be converted, reports Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper.

People are free to believe in anything they want. Our programme does not have a say
Ahmet Ozdemir, Kanal T

But if any are genuinely convinced by a faith, they will be sent on a pilgrimage - new Muslims to Mecca, Buddhists to Tibet and Jews and Christians to Jerusalem.

The TV cameras will follow the winning contestants as they go on their pilgrimage.

"They can't see this trip as a getaway, but as a religious experience," the deputy director of Kanal T, Ahmet Ozdemir, told Hurriyet.

The programme has prompted a mixed reaction in mainly Muslim Turkey, with some saying it would be good for interfaith relations and others saying such discussions were "inappropriate" for television.

Mr Ozdemir said that when people first heard about the show, it was "hard for them to see what it was all about", but that many people were now "waiting impatiently" for its launch.

"People are free to believe in anything they want. Our programme does not have a say," he said.

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