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International audience drawn to local atheist show

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TWC News: International audience drawn to local atheist show
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Inside the Channel Austin studios in East Austin is a team of T.V. producers putting together one of the Capital City’s longest running programs—“The Atheist Experience.”

The show has been on local public access for 15 years. For six years, it has been hosted by Matt Dillahunty, who was Christan for 25 years before becoming an atheist.

That public announcement is the center conflict within Dillahunty's family.

"They know me to be a decent human being and yet they are convinced by their religion that I am working for Satan. Some of them are convinced I am Satan incarnate,” he said. “I am none of those. I don't believe in Satan any more than I believe in Jesus or tooth fairies."

Dillahunty said the show spreads awareness about the widespread atheist community.

"We are real people,” he said. “We are the people who deliver your mail. We are your doctor. We're your next door neighbor. We're your friend, the person who baked cookies for the bake sale. We're your kids and grandkids. We're real people just like you."

Every Sunday, the one-hour presentation can be seen live on cable TV. Thousands watch the internet stream, attracting international attention.

Audience participation is allowed during the program. Callers sound off questions and comments, sometimes from all over the world.

"I've had calls from Israel, Japan, Canada, Mexico," Dillahunty said.

This past Sunday, author Darrel Ray, who has written books on what he calls “recovering from religion,” was guest co-host.

"We're good without God. I give money to charities,” Ray said. “I work within secular charitable organizations, and I want to make my culture and my society better."

As the show continues, Dillahunty wants the public to understand that non-believers are part of the fabric of American society and beyond.

A 2008 Gallup poll showed 6 percent of the American population describe themselves as Atheist, and those numbers have been growing since 1990.

The atheist community estimates as many 200,000 non-believers live in the Austin metro area.

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