Can We Throw a Couple Atheists in the Mix for This TV Show?

My former soul-owner Jim Henderson is developing a reality TV show called “Save Me!” It’s kind of like The Real World except all the people living in the house have different religious beliefs that they’re all very passionate about — and their goal is to convince everyone they’re right.

We want true believers who will go to any length to spread their message, whether that’s saving people from hell, warning people about the end of the world or simply “saving” people from religion altogether.

Actors need not apply! We want real practitioners — people who are willing and able to spend several weeks living in close quarters with others for no pay while spreading a personal faith message to millions of people.

Contestants will play for the opportunity to have their message heard and possibly win converts, as well as the chance to win a significant cash prize that will be donated to the cause or organization of the winner’s choice.

He talks about it a little more here:

I can’t vouch for how this will go, but it’s an intriguing idea, and some of you might savor the chance to live in a house full of theists where debating religious beliefs is fully expected. (Some of you are probably in that scenario on a daily basis already…)

I’m not sure how many different beliefs will be represented in that house. Right now, the website mentions a lot of flavors of Christianity, but little diversity outside of that. I want to see Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in that house.

Also, I hope there’s a psychological test in store for everyone who is cast for the show. When passions are stirred this high, you want to be sure you’re dealing with people who know how to handle conflict properly.

Anyway, more information is here.

Personally, I think the show would be even better if one false belief was kicked out of the house each week until the atheist was left standing… but if we’re going by popular vote, the Christian would win every time.

Religion is so damn complicated…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeCascio Joe Cascio

    Sometimes I think it’s better to stay out of a mud-slinging fight. I wouldn’t want people to have a reason to think that atheism is “just another religion” as the theists would have it. Why get pulled down into the hole that they’re in? Why play their game? Would you participate in a show where people debated Santa vs Elvis? I’d say, don’t go there. You can only lose.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    Yeah I don’t know if I would “militant athiests” on this as they say.

  • Josh

    Did you read his bio? It looks like the ending will be predictable:
    http://jimhendersonpresents.com/people/jim-hendersons-bio/

  • Flawedprefect

    I must admit, outside of evangelical Christianity and Islam, I don’t quite know of another religious group that has as part of their dogma to go out and proselytize, or convert people to their faith. The most extreme buddhists I am aware of sparked the Vietnam war by setting themselves on fire, for instance – don’t really wanna see that on TV again. Jews? Don’t you have to marry into Judaism? I don’t really think I’ve ever been approached by a Hindu who’s tried to tell me theirs is the one true faith. Oldest, maybe, but they’ve never tried to convert me, or tell me that I’m wrong.

    I can’t help but feel that atheists going around trying to deconvert people will play right into the stereotypes people have about us: we’re bullying dicks who believe in nothing and belittle people for holding personal beliefs. This is really trying to get extreme cases for maximum drama.

    Not really a fan of this. :|

    • Rich Wilson

      LDS and Jehovah’s Witnesses are some of the most proselytizing groups out there.  And it’s not so much an issue now, but the “Hare Krishnas” used to be pretty bad in California.  I’m not sure what they were exactly, other than that I know Krishna is Hindu- but I don’t think the people giving out flowers at airports were strictly Hindu.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

        I remember when I was in High School the Hare Krisnas would give out free food at music festivals. I think they asked you to say “gouranga” but the real cost was that the whole time they were singing their mantra song -but in different musical styles – so after a weekend of free food the mantra was stuck in your head for days.

        Free, vegetarian, hot food while camping! Most people seemed to figure it was worth it.

    • http://twitter.com/Grikmeer Rob Grikmeer

      The combat in Sri Lanka had some pretty aggressive Buddhists in it…

  • http://mygodlesslife.com Tris Stock

    If you could fit it in to your schedule, and it didn’t mean your losing your job, I sincerely recommend your good self.

    I thought about other semi-celebrity atheists – Atheist Experience, Aron Ra, JT Eberhart, Jen McCreight, Greta Christina and a good many others – but your measured approach and experience of educating the countries youth wins it for me.

    You simply MUST do it!

    • Tripoli1109

      Holy crap. Can you imagine AronRa doing this kind of thing? Not only would he slice and dice every one of their arguments, but they’d probably be intimidated just from the sheer size of the guy. Heheheh

    • http://evolutionguide.blogspot.com/ William

      Thunderf00t all the way.

    • Rabid

      AronRa or Matt Dillahunty would be epic.

  • Trina

    I doubt that a ‘reality tv’ show wants people who can handle conflict properly – but I do hope they screen out those with violent tendencies!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mujica.alex Alejandro Mujica

    Might as well call it “There Will Be Blood.”

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    So, he failed to convince you, Hemant, to be a Christian. Is this an attempt to convince people through a different method?

  • Taodeinsane

    That would be very fun, to be an atheist sitting on the couch, and just tossing out the logical fallacies, the debunking, the counter-verses, the holes in the stories, etc, as if you were a sports commentator calling a wrestling match.

    “My god’s son rose from the grave after 3 days…”

    “And how many people were there? Did they show up before or after the stone was rolled away?”

    “The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wrote down the Koran as he recieved it as the word of Allah speaking to him”

    “Then why didn’t he bother to mark the vowels? And which of the 7 canonical Korans are we talking about?”

  • Sleeps With Boots On

    “Personally, I think the show would be even better if one false belief
    was kicked out of the house each week until the atheist was left
    standing”

    That made me laugh out loud.

  • Dan W

    This reality show just sounds like a bad idea to me. I doubt any of these devout believers will manage to convince the others that  theirs is the One True Faith(TM). And throwing a couple atheists into the mix would give theists another excuse to claim that atheism is a religion. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic here, but I don’t see how this will make anybody who goes and this show (and their religious views) look good.

  • http://twitter.com/TortugaSkeptic A secret red slider

    Too bad I don’t have the time because it would be interesting to see if you could be an Evangelical Non-Tribalist Atheist.     

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    I highly doubt they’d allow any atheist on the show that could really, logically argue their point.  They’ll pick from the bottom of the barrel somehow.

  • Carmen Zepp

    I like the premise. But judging by the application questions, atheists seriously need to apply. Why is that? Any idea Hemant? I think this guy is missing out on some serious marketing opportunity by omitting non-believers from the house.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

    This show would only serve to show there is a hell, and it is indeed for atheists.   Imagine being stuck in a house with a bunch of theists whose  “goal is to convince everyone they’re right.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

    TV shows in general, and ‘reality shows’ in particular, are aimed at the lowest common denominator. I couldn’t see this one ending with someone other than a Christian as the ‘winner’ … forgive my cynicism!
    Now, resituate this show is India, Israel or … err … Malaysia … and the ‘winner’ would be different, I daresay…

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I’m pretty sure this show is meant to only have godbots on it.  The questions that he has you answer in an audition tape really only allow for devoutly religious people who believe that if people don’t convert to their religion they will go to hell (or something similar).  Its implied that if you don’t think non believers get punished that you are not a devout enough believer and are not a good candidate.  This seems more like a Mormon vs Catholic vs Baptist vs JW vs Muslim vs Baptist… etc.  
    http://jimhendersonpresents.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/SaveMe-audition-questions.pdf

    In short, I am sure it will be perhaps an amusing series of Christians arguing with eachother, but maddeningly one dimensional as far as beliefs or religions go.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Atheists shouldn’t come within a thousand yards of this freak show. It will be painfully boring and dangerous to your IQ just to watch.  Talk talk talk. “I’m right.” Nuh uh, I’m right.” “Are not.” “Am too.” etc. etc. 

    They’ll definitely need to spice it up with some action. Let the reality-challenged “reality” show  contestants do their prattle proselytizing and belief bickering while engaged in physical stunts like those we all enjoyed on the best television ever, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c9kaJksn9Q

  • Kurt

    > people who know how to handle conflict properly.

    For a reality TV show, proper conflict handling includes drinking too much, swearing a lot in the one-person interviews, crying at any slight, being as hot as a supermodel (or having a big complex about your obvious physical flaws) and hopping into bed for same-sex argument-partner hate-sex and backstabbing pillow talk about your other flatmates.

    Yes, if they can dig up the right sorts of True Believers, I think we can count on this being first-rate entertainment.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    Surly this is the best idea ever for promoting atheism….. Unless the producers have some kind of twisted agenda.  I would love to go in for this, but being from the UK I don’t suppose it is possible.

    What better way to force exposure to all the other types of religious beliefs.  Die hard Christians tuning in to watch their candidate spread their message, but also being exposed to all the other candidates spreading their message with the same conviction.  Of course no one in the show will change their mind, but for the people watching, this could really show that all religions are equally expressing absolute certainty in things they can not know.

    I think the biggest reason for the rise in Christianity is the insular nature of it, and lack of exposure to the arguments from other religions.

    There can be no evidence on any side to score any points, it can only show the futility of it all.

    Unless there pick a complete dick for an atheist, I can see how they would not come off on top.  In any group discussion on religion, it will always be the believer against all the other faiths…. and the atheist.  The if the atheist plays it right he can’t not come out on top.  All the 10 contestants are atheist with regard to each others believes.  The atheist has all the allies.

    • Josh

      Prediction: For the token atheist, they are going to pick someone who is uncharismatic, has bad judgement, and will be too aggressive without being able to explain atheist arguments well. Even worse: since reality shows are scripted to some extent, they could have the “atheist” convert.

  • Anonymous

    It is mentioned on Jim Henderson’s bio. that he “bought an atheist’s soul on Ebay”. So, if this show gets on TV,  I am guessing more people will find their way here.
     OK. I was about to say that would be a ‘win’. Maybe not. But I will try to be optimistic. :)

  • Anonymous

    Being locked in a house with crazy people isn’t my idea of fun

  • http://camelswithhammers.com Camels With Hammers

    Also, I hope there’s a psychological test in store for everyone who is cast for the show. When passions are stirred this high, you want to be sure you’re dealing with people who know how to handle conflict properly.

    Wait, I thought this was supposed to be about religious people.

    (just kidding, I’m not really that rude and prejudicial)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    Also, I hope there’s a psychological test in store for everyone who is cast for the show. When passions are stirred this high, you want to be sure you’re dealing with people who know how to handle conflict properly

    Hemant, I don’t think you really understand how reality show casting works…  When passions are stirred this high, they want to be sure they’re dealing with people who will completely lose their shit!

  • Anonymous

    I went to YouTube to see if any applications had been posted yet, to see what kind of people were interested in signing up.  I found exactly one that’s been posted so far – from a Pastafarian!  Yay!  I’m not sure if he’s devout enough for Jim, after all he was not dresssed as a Pirate in the video.  But kudos to him, for jumping in with the expectation that our nonsense should be entitled to just as much respect as their nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    if you want to do this the civilized way, go to divinity school. it was a lot of fun. my school had one of everything, including atheists and minority religion believers, and every wednesday we’d come together in the common dining hall for a lunch and a talk by a person with a different belief or focus. i particularly enjoy xtians arguing with other xtians about their (to my mind) ridiculous differences in doctrine. “Synod of 1857? Heretic!!!” lol.

    i hate reality tv. it’s not really real, it’s completely edited to reflect the producer’s desires, and the shaming and humiliation that are emphasized make me ashamed to be an american, living in a country where this sort of thing is so popular. but i’m as militantly anti-TV as i am an atheist. i do like the basic premise; like Hemant i agree what would be interesting is if there were super-devout folk of every religion they could fit in that house. i know some Wiccans and Santerians who are pretty sure their god(dess)(e)s are real, and the previous comment about the literally militant Buddhists is correct. if the show were created by someone with an open mind and an eye for interested drama, it could work. doesn’t sound like that is going to happen here. and i agree that in a carnival environment like this one is probably going to be, it would be a mistake for an atheist to go on it. i highly doubt rational or logical arguments about faith will be highlighted. this will be all about who can babble religious nonsense the most loudly. boring and pathetic after a few minutes, i have no doubt. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/CypherAlmasy Matthew Weir

    It wouldn’t work out, I think.   Too easy to fake out  the system, thanks to Poe’s Law. 

  • Pooks

    I can see many religious people commenting against this idea for 3 main reasons:
    1) not only is it giving publicity to other religions it’s allowing them to state what their beliefs actually are (as aposed to the biased stereotypes people what to think)
    2) during the debates it’s likely the negative points of their own religion will be criticised
    3) a general ‘faith is sacred and shouldn’t be a game show’ arguement

  • Anonymous

    I preferred Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” show which aired on FX ( I think) some years back. It was basically where someone went to live with someone else for 30 days. A woman who was against same-sex couples adopting/having children lived with a gay couple who had a son. A Christian lived with Muslims. I’d much rather see shows like this and see the day-to-day or week to week evolution in people’s views.
    I certainly won’t be tuning into this show if it makes it on the air. 1) I don’t watch a lot of tv 2) Seeing people trying to argue over which superstition is right is a waste of time.

    • Rich Wilson

      There was an episode in which an atheist lived with Evangelical Christians for 30 days.  I haven’t been able to find a copy online.  Looks like Hemant wrote about it though http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2006/08/11/30-days-part-2-of-2-and-more/
      I recall feeling like the atheist did a pretty good job, but of course kept seeing places where I would do ‘better’ (probably wouldn’t, I don’t do well in verbal discourse).

      • Anonymous

        I remember that episode. =]

  • Anonymous

    In reality shows, all that matters is the editing. If this person is the one in the editing room, there can be no good result for the freethinker / humanist / atheist community.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Former soul-owner? Did he give it back? ;o) 

  • guest

    Wrong country for it, but this would be a dream come true for someone I went to school with.  She’d go around telling everyone that she’d lie her way to get onto Big Brother and then spend the whole time reciting Bible verses and converting the unsaved.  (Godbots like this aren’t terribly common in Australia, but they’re not entirely unheard of) 


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