And I mean that most sincerely, folks

Penitents Compete

Rule Number One of blogging is never to lose an opportunity of reposting something that went down like pheasant drugged on aspirin, when you can tack it on to a sort-of-relevant news event. I learned this useful poaching technique from Roald Dahl, but please don’t try it at home. The news event is Dubai’s plan for an Islamic theme park. So without further ado here’s a Golden Oldie from 2009.

Well, it’s a funny old world. Just when you think it can’t get any more bizarre, it suddenly grows a weird new appendage. There’s a new gameshow on Turkish television called Penitents Compete. Catchy title. The show, airing in September on Kanal T, is recruiting 10 atheists who will agree to listen to the arguments of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Tag teams of monks, priests, imams, and rabbis are standing by to wrestle the sinner to the ground and beat the Devil out of him. Should an atheist convert, he or she will get an all expenses paid pilgrimage to the appropriate holy site. Muslims go to Mecca, Jews and Christians to Jerusalem, and Buddhists to Tibet. The atheists who don’t convert go the stake.

So, just to get this straight, the sweet reason and compassion of these fine religions is not enough? You have to add a little bribery?

I suspect that not many atheists would want to go to any of these places, even if the trip was free. There you are, waking up in your 5 star hotel room on the first morning and thinking, “What shall I do today? Sightseeing, shopping…” when the bedside phone rings. It’s the front desk to say that your Spiritual Tour Guide is waiting to take you to early prayers.

In all fairness, atheists should get their own gameshow. We should have the opportunity to subvert the illusions of the religious on prime-time television. The Big Prize would be problematic, though, since we don’t venerate either people or places. I suggest something in the nature of a release from religious strictures. Possibly a holiday in Ibiza for the young, Las Vegas for the middle-aged, and a nice afternoon tea with Richard Dawkins and his lovely wife, Lalla Ward (as was), for the elderly.

But no sneaking off for a surreptitious prayer, or you’re on the next flight home.

Some timely advice for Pope Francis

Now there’s a new bloke at the Vatican, I thought he should be introduced to American  comedian Sarah Silverman, who has some excellent advice for the new pontiff. The last pope, sadly, didn’t return her calls. But I’m hoping that someone with the humility to name himself after Francis of Assisi, and who pays his own hotel bills, will be fertile soil for Sarah’s humanitarian message.