The Atheist Experience
|The Atheist Experience|
|Genre||Live call-in talk show|
|Theme music composer||Shelley Segal|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||1000 (as of June 24th, 2018)|
|Production location(s)||Austin, Texas|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Distributor||Atheist Community of Austin|
|Original release||October 19, 1997 –|
The Atheist Experience is an American live, weekly televised webcast based in Austin, Texas. Listeners—theists and atheists alike—are encouraged to call in to discuss the existence of God and related topics. Calls from theists are usually given priority, as the aim of the webcast is to encourage theists to question their theistic beliefs and unshackle themselves from their religious faith(s) - as such, theists are often asked to explain what they believe, and why. Following the webcast, each episode is made available on YouTube, as well as in an audio-only podcast format.
The Atheist Experience is a production of the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA), an educational non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas, which has as a central goal the promotion of positive atheism and the separation of church and state.
In April 1996, a woman named Kellen Von Houser took the initiative of forming a group for atheists in the Austin area by e-mailing local atheists. After several informal monthly gatherings, the Atheist Community of Austin was formally founded on December 15, 1996, by which time it had attracted around 60 members. By June 1997, the ACA had its own website, a relatively new medium at the time, to reach out to fellow atheists on the internet. The first episode of The Atheist Experience, a pre-recorded pilot, aired on October 19, 1997.
From the second show onward, the episodes were broadcast live on cable access television on every other Sunday, giving the opportunity to viewers to call the show live. Initially the show's length was one half-hour. Ray Blevins was the show's first host, while Joe Zamecki served as the first co-host.
The show length was extended to an hour in September 1998. From December 1999 on, The Atheist Experience began streaming over the Internet, enabling anyone around the world with Internet access to watch. Since November 2005, The Atheist Experience (as well as The Non-Prophets Radio) has also been distributed as a podcast to a global audience.
A YouTube channel, which became the official channel in August 2012, has over 306,000 subscribers and over 98 million video views as of December 2019. On June 24, 2018 the show aired its 1000th episode.
The first episode (pilot) was recorded at Furr's Cafeteria in October 1997. Subsequent episodes were recorded at the public-access television studio at Austin Public (1143 Northwestern Ave). After 18 years, long-standing logistical and technical issues at the public access studio prompted the crew to move to the ACA's Freethought Library (1507 West Koenig Lane) in October 2015.
The Atheist Experience's success has spawned several spin-off shows also produced by the ACA; as of July 2018, these were The Non-Prophets Radio podcast, the Talk Heathen talk show, the Godless Bitches podcast and The Preaching Humanist television show.(2:51) In December 2018, the new Secular Sexuality live show was launched.
The primary purpose of The Atheist Experience is to have a discussion or debate on the existence of gods or related topics between theist callers and the atheist hosts and co-hosts. The Atheist Experience is therefore primarily geared towards a non-atheist audience, and tends to foster confrontational debates. Moreover, the conversations are intended for theists to hear from atheists themselves, rather than from other theists, what atheists actually believe. Another goal is to familiarize the show's audience with relevant arguments and effective debating tactics.
The opening theme used for The Atheist Experience has changed over the years; in some cases due to copyright issues. From August 2009 to August 2015, the theme song was Bryan Steeksma's "Listen to Reason". Following that, Shelley Segal's "Saved" has been used.
Although debates about all theism- and atheism-related views are welcome, because of the large number of Christians in the United States and their influence in American politics and society, the emphasis is mostly on Christianity. Frequent topics include religious dogma, morality, ethics and application of the scientific method.
The host (on the right) and co-host (on the left) are filmed sitting behind a table. There may also be off-camera spectators in the studio. After the opening sequence featuring the theme song, the co-host often opens with a theme (for example, Don Baker's segment "The Failures of Christianity") or current event discussion, and then the host takes live calls. Callers are put in a waiting queue and screened by the crew before they are put into direct contact with the host and co-host. Although atheists are also allowed to call in, the crew attempts to have at least 50% theists callers.(4:00) The host has a control panel, which allows them to put a caller temporarily "on hold" in order to clarify a point or address a technical issue, or disconnect a caller who in the host's judgment has been overly rude or has frustrated the discussion.
Some callers hold negative stereotypes about atheists, or misconceptions about atheism and science, and occasionally verbally abuse the hosts, or atheists in general. At times, the hosts reply in kind, or even initiate verbal abuse or mockery of the religious beliefs which a caller may hold. However, friendly and respectful conversations also frequently take place, and are preferred. Author Yuriy Nikshych wrote that The Atheist Experience is "worth watching to get a sense of how to talk to theists", and said it was an "invaluable resource" for people (including himself) in the process of losing their religious beliefs to become atheists.
- Matt Dillahunty: a professional magician who was raised a fundamentalist Baptist and was a Christian for more than twenty years. He served in the Navy for eight years before moving to Austin to spend several years in the video game industry. Although he intended to attend seminary and pursue a career in the ministry, he came to reject his previous theistic beliefs. He co-founded Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics wiki, co-presented The Atheist Experience for the first time in March 2005, and served as the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013.
- Don Baker: a computer scientist in the field of computer-supported cooperative work, who has a strong interest in the field of memetics and has spent several years exploring the implications of Christianity as a meme complex. He has served as secretary of the Atheist Community of Austin.
- Jeff Dee: an artist and game designer whose work shows comic book form and influence. He is the co-creator of Villains and Vigilantes, illustrator of the Dungeons & Dragons manual Deities & Demigods, artist for Master of Orion, art director for Ultima VII, and lead designer for The Sims: Castaway Stories. He co-created The Non Prophets, an Internet radio show.
- Keryn Glasser: a gerontological social worker who has worked in hospice and, having come from a Jewish atheist background, is "interested in exploring death and dying from a non-religious perspective." She identifies as a "pacifistic, animal loving, tree hugging, vegan."
- Russell Glasser: a software engineer who has been involved in The Atheist Experience since 2000 and produced the internet radio show The Non Prophets. He has served on the ACA board and was elected ACA president in 2016.
- Ashley Perrien: started as a co-host in 2002 and served as host from March 2004 to May 2005.
- Martin Wagner: an artist, cartoonist, and filmmaker who self-published the comic book Hepcats.
- Tracie Harris: a former Christian fundamentalist who has worked as a graphic artist, cartoonist, and publishing professional and has drawn the Atheist Eve strip hosted on the Atheist Community of Austin website. She has served as secretary and vice president of the ACA board and has co-hosted the GB 2.0 podcast since February 2018.
- John Iacoletti: became a co-host on March 24, 2013 (episode 806) after operating the cameras and providing technical assistance. He brought a Unitarian perspective to the show. Iacoletti has served as a board member of the ACA several years, as of 2018–19 as treasurer.
- Jen Peeples: an aerospace engineer and self-described "foxhole atheist" who served in the U.S. Army for twenty-six years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She is openly gay and has co-hosted GB 2.0 podcast, the reboot of Godless Bitches, since February 2018. She has served as president of the ACA board.
- Phil Session: became a co-host on June 26, 2016, having previously worked on the television crew. In college, he tried to reconcile his Christian faith with his homosexuality; failing, he left Christianity and first identified as 'spiritual but not religious', then a 'nonbeliever' after accepting the argument from inconsistent revelations, and finally as an atheist when he heard that word on a YouTube podcast. He served as vice president of the ACA.
In June 2019, Tracie Harris, Jen Peeples, John Iacoletti, and Phil Session left the show after a disagreement with the ACA's handling of a guest host who made a controversial video on trans women athletes.
Notable guest appearances
Occasionally, a notable scientist, scholar or activist is invited to take the role of co-host on the show; after an interview with the host, the guest participates in answering calls. These have included:
- Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist podcast and video producer, former Christian radio show host (episode #22.25), guest appearance
- Ray Comfort, Evangelical Christian apologist (episode #702), live call-in
- Kathleen Johnson, vice-president of American Atheists and founder of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (episode #647, 2010-03-07), guest appearance
- Mark Loewe, theoretical physicist (episode #393, 2005-04-24), guest appearance
- Jonathan McLatchie, doctoral student in cell biology, Apologetics Academy (episode #22.31, 2018-08-05), live call-in.
- Kyle Miller, pastor (episode #639, 2010-01-10), guest appearance
- Greg Paul, paleontologist (episode #708, 2011-05-08), guest appearance
- Aron Ra, vlogger and Texas state director of the American Atheists (episodes #648, #668, #703, #875), live guest appearances
- Darrel Ray, organizational psychologist (episode #645, 2010-02-21; #686, 2010-12-05), guest appearances
- David Silverman, president of American Atheists (episode #701, 2011-03-20), live call-in
- Matt Slick, Evangelical Christian apologist (episode #593 broadcast February 22, 2009), live call-in
- David Smalley of podcast Dogma Debate and the American Atheists (episode #753, 2012-03-18), guest appearance
- Victor J. Stenger, particle physicist (episode #499, 2007-05-06), guest appearance
- Mandisa Thomas, the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers Inc (episode #22.38, September 23, 2018), guest appearance
- Alex J. O'Connor, the founder and owner of the CosmicSkeptic blog and YouTube channel, with over 250,000 subscribers (episode #23.18, April 28, 2019), guest appearance
- Noah Lugeons, Host and creator of Scathing Atheists podcast. Appeared on episode 23:02
Since its launch on July 29, 2014, The Atheist Experience has been affiliated with AtheistTV, the world's first atheism-dedicated television channel. Distributed through the Roku streaming television network, and available through online streaming through the American Atheists webpage, Atheist TV's playlists and programming include recent episodes of The Atheist Experience.
- About.com Readers' Choice Awards 2012, Favorite Agnostic / Atheist Podcast of 2011
- The Austin Chronicle, Best of Austin 2012: Best Public Access TV Show
- The Austin Chronicle, Best of Austin 2011: Best Public Access TV Show
- About.com Readers' Choice Awards 2011, Best Atheist Podcast, 2010
- The Austin Chronicle, Best of Austin 2010: Best Public-Access TV Show
- "The Atheist Experience Technical FAQ". www.atheist-experience.com. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
- Dillahunty, Matt; Andrews, Seth (June 24, 2018). "Atheist Experience 22.25 with Matt Dillahunty and Seth Andrews". The Atheist Experience. Episode 22.25. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "The Atheist Community of Austin". Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "History of the ACA". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Zamecki, Joe; Osborne, Mary Sue; Rhoades, Don (October 19, 1997). "Atheist Experience #1: Here we are; Coming out as atheists". The Atheist Experience. Episode 1. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- "History of The Atheist Experience". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- "Online Media in 2005". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
- "The Atheist Experience YouTube Channel Analytics and Report". www.noxinfluencer.com. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- "TheAtheistExperience compared to statsheep YouTube channels". Statsheep. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- "TheAtheistExperience YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics". Socialblade. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- "The Atheist Experience". YouTube. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Matt Dillahunty (February 7, 2016). "Atheist Experience Tech Episode". The Atheist Experience. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
- "Atheist Experience Studio and Freethought Library Tour". The Atheist Experience. October 10, 2015. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
- "TALK HEATHEN - We're kind of a big deal..." TALK HEATHEN. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
- Russell Glasser & Tracie Harris (July 1, 2015). "Atheist Experience - Live From Oklahoma City". American Atheists. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "Secular Sexuality Live Show". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. December 13, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "Want to help us continue our work?". TAE website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- "The Atheist Experience is creating podcasts & videos". Patreon. May 11, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- Matt Dillahunty (July 1, 2015). "Matt Dillahunty – Rethinking Debates (2014 National Convention)". American Atheists. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- Meredith Bennett-Smith (January 8, 2013). "'Atheist Experience' TV Host Shocked By Caller's Statement About Child Rape (VIDEO)". Huffpost. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Pierren, Ashley; Glasser, Keryn (May 14, 2006). "Why Are You Atheists Anti-Christian? (The Atheist Experience 448)". The Atheist Experience. Episode 448. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- David Robertson (March 11, 2014). "Should Christians be nice in dealing with nasty atheists?". Christian Today. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Understanding Peer Reviewed, Benedictine University, Retrieved 2012-06-02 Archived May 5, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- "Atheist Skeptic and Freethought Podcasts". Holy Koolaid. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
- Daniel d'Addario (August 9, 2014). "I spent a day watching AtheistTV -- and it was horrifying". Salon. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Matt Dillahunty (May 10, 2010). "How to mismanage a call on live TV..." The Atheist Experience blog. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
- Glasser, Russell; Dee, Jeff (August 28, 2005). "Crazy Caller #24 - Y'all Is Da Devil - The Atheist Experience 411". The Atheist Experience. Episode 411. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- Dillahunty, Matt; Peeples, Jen (July 22, 2012). "Matt Dillahunty vs. Crazy, Yelling Catholic - The Atheist Experience 771". The Atheist Experience. Episode 771. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
- Aleem Maqbool (August 4, 2014). "The stigma of being an atheist in the US". BBC News. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- Harris, Tracie; Murphy, Eric (April 15, 2018). "Questions About Atheism | Ben & Elijah - Colorado Springs, CO | Atheist Experience 22.15". The Atheist Experience. Episode 22.15. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
- Nikshych, Yuriy (2015). So You're an Atheist. Now What?. New York: Algora Publishing. pp. 87–88. ISBN 9781628941104. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
- UMBC's Orthodox Christian Fellowship Chapter (November 17, 2010). "The Source of Human Morality Debate PART 1/9". YouTube. University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- "Saving believers: Former Christian finds calling to preach the good news of atheism". Austin American-Statesman. Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. March 21, 2007. Archived from the original on May 28, 2018.
- "Profile of Matt Dillahunty". The Atheist Experience.
- Matt Dillahunty (August 11, 2013). "Matt Dillahunty: Reflections on a "'lifetime' as ACA President". The Atheist Experience. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 17, 2019. (7:35)
- Rachel Carrell (October 24, 2011). "New group helps students understand atheism". University Star. Texas State University. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Rana McDonald (February 14, 2012). "WTAMU Lecture to Debate Christian and Atheist Doctrines". West Texas A&M University. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
- "Freethunk – Atheist Eve"
- "Profile of Don Baker". The Atheist Experience.
- Matt Dillahunty, Don Baker (January 2008). "ACA Board of Directors" (PDF). Austin Atheist. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- Olivo, Benjamin (March 9, 2007). "Leatherface to rev up ChimaeraCon action", San Antonio Express-News, p. H16.
- Jebens, Harley (September 21, 1995). "Game central". Austin American-Statesman. p. 38.
- "Master of Orion (1993 Video Game) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- "Profile of Jeff Dee". The Atheist Experience.
- "Profile of Keryn Glasser". The Atheist Experience.
- "Keryn Glasser". IMDb. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- "Profile of Russell Glasser". The Atheist Experience.
- Russell Glasser, personal profile
- Russell Glasser (August 13, 2017). "Quick check-in on my life". Kazim's Korner. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- Mike Rosen-Molina (December 17, 2008). "Public-Access TV Fights for Relevance in the YouTube Age". PBS MediaShift. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
- "The 2013-2014 ACA board members". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- Russell Glasser (April 29, 2016). "Atheist Community of Austin board election this Sunday". Freethought Blogs. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- "People: Ashley Perrien". The Atheist Experience. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "Hepcats by Martin Wagner". Comic Genesis.
- "Profile of Tracie Harris". The Atheist Experience.
- Wuellner, Clare; Peeples, Jen; Harris, Tracie (February 4, 2018). "Godless Bitches 04.01 with Clare Wuellner, Jen Peeples, & Tracie Harris". GB 2.0. Episode 1. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 14, 2019. (3:35)
- Dillahunty, Matt; Iacoletti, John (March 24, 2013). "Atheist Experience #806 with Matt Dillahunty and John Iacoletti". The Atheist Experience. Episode 806. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 14, 2019. (1:00)
- "Profile of John Iacoletti". The Atheist Experience. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
- "2018 - 2019 Board of Directors". ACA website. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- "Profile of Jen Peeples". The Atheist Experience.
- "She later earned a commission and spent 9 years on active duty, first as a Field Artillery officer, then as an Aviation officer." "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 1, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Atheist Experience (September 18, 2011). "Atheist Experience #727: Defunding Planned Parenthood". YouTube. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Dillahunty, Matt; Session, Phil (June 26, 2016). "Atheist Experience 20.25 with Matt Dillahunty and Phil Session". The Atheist Experience. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 4, 2019. (2:28)
- Kevin Logan (July 19, 2019). "Speaking with Tracie Harris, Jen Peeples & Clare Wuellner about the split within the ACA". YouTube. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
- "The Atheist Experience Show Archive"
- "Matt Dillahunty and Russell Glasser with guest Ray Comfort. Interview with Ray Comfort. Matt and Russell have a conversation "across the divide" with professional apologist Ray Comfort." 
- "The Atheist Experience #708 of May 8, 2011, with Russell Glasser and Don Baker. Topic: "Greg Paul and Atheist Civil Rights." Russell and Don talk with sociologist/evolutionist Greg Paul about atheist civil rights and healthy societies.", YouTube 
- "AronRa – 1st appearance on the Atheist Experience, ep #648 [..] 2nd appearance on the Atheist Experience, ep #668 [..] 3rd appearance on the Atheist Experience, ep #703" 
- The Atheist Experience TV Show #648: Interview with AronRa, Host: Matt Dillahunty, Guest: AronRa, YouTube Celebrity, 2010-03-14 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Atheist Experience #701 20 Mar 11", YouTube
- "Dogma Debate with David Smalley"
- "Vic explains the scientific case against God's existence".
- "Oct, 29 Thu Austin TX, 6:30 pm, Threadgill's Old Number One (Longhorn room), 6416 North Lamar, Austin, TX. Atheist Community of Austin. http://www.atheist-community.org/. Don Rhoades. The Atheist Experience. Interview with Don Baker. On web." 
- Dillahunty, Matt; Thomas, Mandisa (September 23, 2018). "Atheist Experience 22.38 with Matt Dillahunty and Mandisa Thomas". The Atheist Experience. Episode 22.38. Atheist Community of Austin. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
- "Cosmic Skeptic". Cosmic Skeptic. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
- "CosmicSkeptic". YouTube. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
- The Atheist Experience (April 28, 2019), Atheist Experience 23.18 with Matt Dillahunty, Cosmic Skeptic, & Rationality Rules, retrieved May 23, 2019
- D'Addario, Daniel (August 9, 2014). "I spent a day watching AtheistTV – and it was horrifying". Salon. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
- Cline, Austin (2012). "Readers' Choice Awards, 2012". About.com Guide.
- "Best of Austin 2012: Best Public Access TV Show: The Atheist Experience". The Austin Chronicle. November 9, 2012.
- "Best of Austin 2011: Best Public Access TV Show: The Atheist Experience". The Austin Chronicle. October 14, 2011.
- Cline, Austin (2011). "Readers' Choice Awards, 2011". About.com Guide.
- "Best of Austin 2010: Best Public-Access TV Show: 'The Atheist Experience'". The Austin Chronicle. September 3, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Atheist Experience.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Atheist Experience|