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Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus

Photo by Sang Tan, AP
Magicians Penn Jillette, right, and Raymond Teller perform a trick at Westfield Shopping centre in London.

(RNS) Magician Penn Jillette and his shorter, quieter partner Raymond Teller have mystified audiences around the world with their card tricks and other illusions that would make even Harry Houdini proud.

With a Showtime TV series that seeks to disprove supernatural beliefs, including religious ones, the duo have long been a public face of atheism and skepticism.

Now, Jillette, in his new book, "God, No!," says he has little use for performers who try to use magic tricks to lure audiences into a spiritual message. Magic doesn't make someone an atheist, he says, but it makes it a lot harder to be a believer.

MORE: Penn Jillette's 10 Commandments for atheists

"It's always astonished me how any magician can be spiritual," he writes before lambasting magicians who connect the loosely mystical or the vividly Christian with sleight-of-hand. "It seems like depicting the most important event in one's philosophy with a $19.95 trick from a joke shop cheapens it a bit."

Jillette, 56, is not alone in his views. A number of prominent and influential magicians say they connect their magic to their lack of religious beliefs. They've done enough hocus-pocus to understand the lure of religious belief, but their evidence-based view of the world is also why they don't buy it. "As magicians, we stand in the doorway of wonder and lead people through," said Joshua Jay, a New York-based magician, atheist, and author of "Magic: The Complete Course."
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