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For immediate release
November 17, 2005
Chad Campbell, NPR: | 202.513.2304

Magician Penn Jillette's Essay on How Not Believing in God Makes Him a Better Person on NPR's This I Believe, November 21...

...And Professor John Fountain's This I Believe Essay on His Belief in God And Its Impact on His Life to Air November 28

Washington, D.C. -- Penn Jillette, the vocal half of comedy- magic duo Penn & Teller, contributes his personal essay about his lack of belief in God and how it gives him room for other beliefs on This I Believe, the NPR® weekly series - a contemporary version of Edward R. Murrow's landmark 1950s project. Jillette's essay will air on the November 21 edition of Morning Edition®.

The following Monday, University of Illinois Professor John W. Fountain will share his essay that takes the opposite stance: His core values are derived from his belief in God and how God became the father he never knew. Fountain's This I Believe will air on the November 28 edition of All Things Considered. The segments alternate on NPR news magazines weekly.

According to Jillette, "Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around." Penn concludes, "Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."

Fountain's point of view reflects his difficult childhood and his belief that God was always present for him. "I believe in God, God the Father, embodied in his Son Jesus Christ. The God who allowed me to feel his presence... whenever I found myself in the tempest of life's storms, telling me - even when I was told I was 'nothing' - that I was something."

Jillette's and Fountain's pieces mark the first time This I Believe has run opposing viewpoints back to back; both were among the newsmakers and national leaders NPR approached to contribute, along with listener submissions.

Susan Feeney, Supervising Senior Editor, NPR News, explains, "Despite their differences, we saw striking similarities in these essays. Both men's core belief in the question of God's existence inspired how they approached their lives and their relationships with others. It made sense to tinker with our format and play these as opposing works in principle. But they are alike in many other ways. They complement each other and form a bridge across the two shows - All Things Considered and Morning Edition - that together, but separately, carry this series."

Jillette and partner Teller have performed together for more than 25 years; currently, they appear nightly in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Jillette's career includes Broadway plays, television series and specials, three best-selling books, and several films, most recently serving as executive producer of the documentary comedy film The Aristocrats. In addition, he is a Cato Institute H.L. Mencken Research Fellow.

Fountain is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been a reporter for The New York Times and the Washington Post and wrote True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity.

Jillette and Fountain join an impressive list of well-known essayists who have contributed to the series since it made its premiere April 4; they include former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Senator John McCain; filmmaker Errol Morris; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates; activists Andrew Sullivan and Gloria Steinem; authors John Updike, Isabel Allende, Rick Moody and Azar Nafisi; psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison and scientist Brian Greene.

This I Believe also features the work of NPR listeners and, after only seven months, the series has generated more than 7500 listener submissions. Their essays have been revelations about parents, personal struggles, race and identity, and even the importance of feeding monkeys. They have been serious and, at times, poignant, as well as unabashedly funny.

This I Believe has sparked communal essay-writing sessions in schools, universities, conferences, community groups and houses of worship and at life-changing events such as birthdays and funerals.

Check for stations and times of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. To date, This I Believe essays have ranked among the top e-mailed stories on To listen or to read past essays please visit

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