Thereâ€™s a famous Jewish text called the Kuzari, written by Judah HaLevi. In it, the king of the Khazars has a dream in which an angel comes to him and tells him that God approves of his way of thinking, but not his way of acting. So the king decides he probably needs to get religion, and calls in advocates for the worldâ€™s major religions to try to convince him to join their faith. He ends up choosing the Jews, and most of the book is a simulated conversation between the king and the rabbi who he debates with. Itâ€™s fascinating stuff, and beautifully written.
I was thinking about the Kuzari today because of a new Turkish game show in which atheists are challenged to reassess their views. BBC reports:
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.”
What happens if, at the end of the show, the atheists still donâ€™t believe? Do they get a free trip to Atheist summer camp?