I had an interview a few weeks ago with a reporter from Germany, and it has resulted in a very nice write-up about The Atheist Experience in the The Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest national print newspaper.
You can view the original article in context here, under the title “Gottlose Gesellen”. The attempt to get an English version from Google Translate was a bit laughable, so one of our native German followers has kindly provided a much better translation for us:
“I’m going to ask you something now. And I’m not doing it to insult you, but to save us all time.” For twelve minutes Matt Dillaunty tried to make it clear to his caller, that there was no global flood that nearly wiped out humanity, 4000 years ago. He also tried to make it clear that creationism, the belief in the literal truth of the biblical creation account is not science. As host of the weekly call-in show The Atheist Experience, Dillahunty often uses harsh words, particularly when his discussion partners stumble over logic fallacies. For 15 years now the live TV show broadcasted on the public channel in Austin, Texas and live streamed on the internet.
Two of the weekly rotating hosts debate with callers about God and the world. Mostly God, because they don’t believe in him. Their show is meant to promote “positive atheism and the separation of state and church.” They stand in for a world view which is hardly viewed as favorable in the United States. “If you live on the East or West Coast, maybe in New York or Los Angeles, nobody is really interested in your faith,“ says host Russell Glasser, “but in the central states, particularly here in Texas, there are a lot of fundamentalist Christians.”
Since Glasser moved to Austin in 2000 he is active in the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA).The organization began in the late 90’s with a newspaper ad as an invitation to an atheist social gathering, today it counts more than 100 active members. Most of the growth can be attributed to their call-in show. “The first ten years it was a local show with just local calls,” Glasser recalls, “but once the first clips appeared on YouTube it became a worldwide success.”
Especially popular are the clips featuring rhetorically clumsy but religiously devout callers getting taken apart verbally by the hosts. For instance, when someone claims that Noah’s Ark was discovered in Asia Minor . Hardly anyone is capable to make the discussion as entertaining as the hosts of The Atheist Experience. Well-versed in the bible and rhetorically brilliant, Matt Dillahunty is now the star of the show.
Originally Dillahunty wanted to become a minister. The burly, bearded, bald man gladly retells his story of growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian family, and how he found more and more contradictions in his belief system, until he was unable to find any rational reasons to maintain his faith. That’s exactly what he demands of his callers: to skeptically examine their faith. Everyone who keeps up with the hosts can look forward to an intellectually satisfying debate. Everyone who remains too rhetorically challenged risks becoming a joke among the YouTube community.
Such ridicule is not the goal of the show, Russel Glasser explains. He rather views it as a contribution in the fight against the restrictive religious climate in the USA. Russell Glasser knows that many religious people are already offended by the mere concept of the show, “but for those people it is already offensive to have different views from them at all.“