Matt Dillahunty

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Matt Dillahunty
Matt Dillahunty SashaCon.jpg
Matt Dillahunty, speaking at the University of Missouri in 2014
Born (1969-03-31) March 31, 1969 (age 47)
Kansas City, Missouri


Military career
Service/branch United States Navy seal United States Navy[1]
Years of service 1987–1995[2]
Known for Atheism and secular activism
Spouse(s) Beth Presswood

Matt Dillahunty (born March 31, 1969) is an American public speaker and Internet personality, and was the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013.[3][4][5] He has hosted the Austin-based webcast and cable-access television show The Atheist Experience since c. 2005,[6][7][8] and formerly hosted the live internet radio show Non-Prophets Radio.[9][10] He is also the founder and contributor of the counter-apologetics encyclopedia Iron Chariots and its subsidiary sites.[11]

He is regularly engaged in formal debates and travels the United States speaking to local secular organizations and university groups as part of the Secular Student Alliance's Speakers Bureau.[12] Alongside fellow activists Seth Andrews and Aron Ra, he traveled to Australia in March 2015 as a member of the Unholy Trinity Tour.[13][14] In April 2015 he was an invited speaker at the Merseyside Skeptics Society QEDCon in the United Kingdom.[15][16]


Raised Southern Baptist, Dillahunty sought to become a minister.[2] His religious studies, instead of bolstering his faith as he intended, led him to no longer believe in Christianity and, eventually, all religions.[17] Dillahunty spent eight years in the US Navy,[1][2][6] before leaving to work in the field of computer software design. In 2011, he married The Atheist Experience colleague and co-host of the Godless Bitches podcast Beth Presswood.[18] Dillahunty is an outspoken feminist.[19]

Dillahunty is one of the subjects of the 2014 documentary film My Week in Atheism by director John Christy.[20][21]

Speaking and debates[edit]

Matt Dillahunty, speaking at the American Atheists Convention 2011

Dillahunty has spoken at atheist and freethought conferences around the country and debated numerous Christian apologists, including Ray Comfort (on The Atheist Experience) and with David Robertson on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable.[22] At the 2014 American Atheists Convention in Salt Lake City, he gave a workshop that outlined some key ideas in effective debating: "Take the opponent seriously: 'The audience has to sense that I can perfectly understand their views, and have rejected them.' Use logic: 'I tell them that I can write a better book than the Bible. Simple: I copy it word for word, except the parts about slavery.' And don't forget emotion: 'It is theater. That is my advantage with a Baptist background over someone like Richard Dawkins, although he knows more about science.'"[23] He has also stated that he is willing to say "I don't know" in a debate, a "scary concept" to some of his audience.[24]

Aside from people such as Ray Comfort and others who he has said he will not debate again, Dillahunty rejects the idea that debates are a waste of time: "I am absolutely convinced from my experience and the evidence that I've gathered over the years of doing this that they are incredibly valuable."[25]

Views on morality[edit]

One of Dillahunty's recurring themes has been the superiority of secular morality over religious morality. His key contentions on the issue are that secular moral systems are inclusive, dynamic, encourage change, and serve the interests of the participants, whereas religious moral systems serve only the interests of an external authority.[26][27] He touched on the subject again at a lecture at the 2013 American Atheists Convention in Austin: "They say we're immoral, when we're the only ones who understand that morality is derived from empathy, fairness, cooperation, and the physical facts about interacting in this universe. They've broken their moral compass and sacrificed their humanity on the altar of religion. They say we're lost and broken and in need of salvation, when we're the ones who are free."[28] Dillahunty holds the view that advocating infinite reward or punishment for finite deeds is "morally inferior".[29]

Advocacy of abortion rights[edit]

Dillahunty has become an outspoken advocate of abortion rights. After hearing that Secular Pro-Life set up a table at the 2012 American Atheists convention, Dillahunty challenged a representative of the organization to a public debate on the issue. The debate took place at the 2012 Texas Freethought Convention, with Dillahunty debating Kristine Kruszelnicki. Dillahunty used bodily autonomy as his primary argument for abortion rights, which is based on Judith Jarvis Thompson's essay on the subject.[30] In March 2014, Dillahunty debated Clinton Wilcox, who is not a member of Secular Pro-Life, though the debate was advertised on their blog. The aftermath led to a falling out with the organization, and he announced in a Facebook post that he would not debate them in public again.[31] He and Beth Presswood later appeared on Amanda Marcotte's podcast RH Reality Check to explain the events of the preceding years, and said that "the optics of a cis male without a womb" debating women's rights is not what he wanted to advocate, and would let others take the lead in public on the issue.[32]


Dillahunty at QED 2015, a skeptical conference in Manchester.

Advocacy of the primacy of skepticism is another of Dillahunty's recurring themes. He said at the American Atheists convention in Austin in 2013 that the closest thing he has to a motto is "to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible," taking his inspiration from David Hume. In the same lecture, he said that being a skeptic is the most important identifier of who he is. In addition, Dillahunty said that skepticism has something to say about untested religious claims, and that philosophical skepticism will lead to atheism.[28] He sees atheism as a subset of skepticism, and he doesn't see why skepticism should not address religious claims, something that has become a point of controversy in the skeptic community. Dillahunty rhetorically asked, "how popular would psychics be, how popular would ghosts be, if there wasn't this monolithic idea that 70-80% of the population believe, that within each of us is an eternal soul that leaves the body when we're dead and either goes on to some afterlife or lingers around here on the earth?...If you teach people about what we know, about what most likely happens when we die, they will strive to treat people better while they're alive, and their grief will be lessened because they understand reality." He admonished "don't just do skepticism with the goal of getting it right, do it with the goal of not being able to get it wrong." In an interview published by the Norwegian Humanist Association, he said he doesn't see why religious claims about reality should be treated any differently by skeptics than conspiracy theories and allegations about alien visitation.[33]

Gumball analogy[edit]

Dillahunty's explanation of the philosophical burden of proof is presented in his gumball analogy. For a hypothetical jar filled with a large number of gumballs, any positive claim about whether there were an odd or even number of gumballs would be dubious without further supporting evidence.[34]


In 2011, Dillahunty was awarded the Atheist of the Year award, nicknamed the "Hitchie" for Christopher Hitchens, by Staks Rosch writing for[35][36] The award process, in which Rosch's readers voted for nominees he selected, was criticized by Greta Christina and Ophelia Benson for not including any women nominees.[37][38][39]

He received the 2012 Catherine Fahringer Freethinker of the Year Award from the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas.[40]


He has been mentioned in Christian publications Charisma and Christian Today, and from the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, for his activism.[20][22][41] He was described by David Robertson in Christian Today as one of the representatives of "New Atheist Fundamentalism".[22]


  1. ^ a b Doehring, Thoralf. "USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)". Unofficial U.S. Navy Site. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Eileen E. Flynn (March 18, 2007). "Preaching his own gospel of atheism". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ ACA Lecture Series: Matt Dillahunty — Reflections on a "lifetime" as ACA President, Atheist Community of Austin, May 12, 2013, retrieved 2013-05-17, Matt has been the President of ACA for many years and is stepping down. 
  4. ^ "MattDillahunty - Twitch". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Matt Dillahunty". Texas Secular Convention. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Mike Rosen-Molina (December 17, 2008), Public-Access TV Fights for Relevance in the YouTube Age, PBS 
  7. ^ Billy Hallowell (January 9, 2013), ""You Piece of S**t!": Atheist TV Hosts Hang Up on "Christian" Caller After Fiery Exchange Over God & Child Rape", TheBlaze 
  8. ^ Salazar, John (May 18, 2015), "Research Shows Christian Population in Decline", Time Warner Cable News (television newscast), San Antonio, Texas 
  9. ^ Lyz (February 22, 2010). "Matt Dillahunty". Secular Student Alliance. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  10. ^ Miller, Lloyd (2012). "On Atheism" (PDF). The Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges. 18 (1): 23. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Matt Dillahunty (username Sans Deity), User:Sans Deity, Iron Chariots - the counter-apologetics wiki. 
  12. ^ 2012 Conference Speakers!, Secular Student Alliance, Retrieved 2012-07-12
  13. ^ Sophie Timothy (22 March 2015), "Pub talk with an atheist and an Anglican", Eternity News, Bible Society Australia 
  14. ^ The Unholy Trinity Down Under Tour, Atheist Foundation of Australia, September 10, 2014 
  15. ^ Al Lee (April 27, 2015), Ophelia Benson, ed., "The Mancunian Way", Butterflies and Wheels 
  16. ^ "Panel: Daring to Disagree, A session at QED 2015", Lanyrd 
  17. ^ Atheist Experience: Matt Dillahunty
  18. ^ "Beth Presswood". Reason Con 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Amy Roth (August 1, 2012), Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Matt Dillahunty (blog), Skepchick International 
  20. ^ a b Korb, Melanie (February 20, 2014), "Christian, Atheist Display Complicated Friendship in New Documentary", Charisma 
  21. ^ Anugrah Kumar (February 18, 2014), "Christian Filmmaker, Atheist Activist Release Their New Film 'My Week in Atheism'", The Christian Post 
  22. ^ a b c Robertson, David (11 March 2014), "Should Christians be nice in dealing with nasty atheists?", Christian Today 
  23. ^ Bas den Hond (3 June 2014). "Onder ongelovigen". Trouw (in Dutch). De Persgroep. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  24. ^ Adams, Heather (March 17, 2014), MU skeptics group brings big-name atheists to campus, KBIA mid-Missouri public radio 
  25. ^ "Matt Dillahunty - The Value of Debates". June 28, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Matt Dillahunty: The Superiority of Secular Morality". September 26, 2010. 
  27. ^ Collin Boots (April 30, 2014), "The superiority of secular morality: Why do we think religion is required for morality when godless morality may well serve us better?", The Daily Pennsylvanian 
  28. ^ a b "AACON 2013 Matt Dillahunty speaks on Skepticism and Atheism". March 31, 2013. 
  29. ^ Dyken, J. J. (2013). The Divine Default: Why Faith is Not the Answer. Algora Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 9781628940084. 
  30. ^ "Abortion Debate at Texas Freethought Convention, Matt Dillahunty vs. Kristine Kruszelnicki". October 22, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Debates, Delusions and Dishonesty - Why I have no respect for Kelsey Hazzard and SPL". April 3, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Is Secular Anti-Choice a Thing? And How Big a Hypocrite Is Rep. Vance McAllister?". April 14, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Tåpelig av skeptikere å frede religion—Matt Dillahunty har omvendt mange amerikanere til ateisme. Men han er først og fremst skeptiker, og ser på ateisme er en nødvendig konsekvens." ["It is foolish for skeptics to spare religion": Matt Dillahunty has converted many Americans to atheism. But he is first and foremost a skeptic, and sees atheism is a necessary consequence.], (in Norwegian), Norwegian Humanist Association, October 9, 2014, retrieved 2015-01-05 
  34. ^ Armin Navabi (6 October 2014). Hise, Nicki, ed. Why There Is No God. Atheist Republic. p. 9. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  35. ^ "Ex-evangelista recebe o prêmio de "ateu do ano"" [Ex-evangelist receives the Atheist of the Year award], Gospel Prime (in Portuguese) 
  36. ^ Rosch, Staks (January 5, 2012), "The 2011 Hitchie Award winner is…", Atheism Examiner, 
  37. ^ Libresco, Leah (January 5, 2012), "What Makes a Great Atheist?", Patheos Catholic channel 
  38. ^ Christina, Greta (January 5, 2012), "Tokenism Is Not Inclusivity", Greta Christina's blog, 
  39. ^ Benson, Ophelia (January 5, 2012), "Token women", Butterflies and Wheels (blog), 
  40. ^ Freethinkers of Central Texas honors Matt Dillahunty, Atheist Community of Austin, November 14, 2012 
  41. ^ Jonathan M. (September 11, 2014), "Is Intelligent Design a Circular Argument? A Conversation with Atheist Activist Matt Dillahunty", Evolution News and Views, Seattle, Washington: Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture 

External links[edit]