The Magic of Atheism

I stumbled upon this post on a study on faith in hospitals and found it kind of interesting that even the old argument about prayer helping patients in hospitals is not entirely true. That’s pretty crazy, as I always assumed the studies were correct, that there really were statistics showing that prayer helps healing and that it had to do with the connection between the mind and body, but apparently even that is not true, and the study shows that prayer might actually be damaging. It’s funny, that was one of the most common pro-prayer arguments I’ve heard over the years, and none of it was true. Why am I not surprised?

But anyway, that’s not what this post is about, because someone made a comment that I found interesting and important to address:

“One exasperating aspect of reading or watching the atheists’ arguments is that they are so linear, cognitive and left brained. If we were wholly left brained beings, this would make sense but we are not. There is an emotional aspect to us as well as a strong sense of intuition. When we are seriously ill, we do not respond solely with our intellects. We respond with our entire beings.”

He wrote some more in his comment, but this is what I found important, because he’s got some really good points. Atheists do have a tendency to think so linear and left brained, and I have the same frustrations with the way so many other atheists just present cause-and-effects and use logical proofs to try and scientifically discredit the existence of God, as though our lives are just some big math equation. What many atheists need to understand is that for many people it doesn’t matter how true or rational or obvious something is, if it doesn’t make them feel good, they won’t believe it. Period.

But the commenter seemed to be implying that atheists are essentially free of the emotional aspects of life, which I think is a misconception. Atheists tend to be in love with logic and reason. That’s really all it is. We talk about logic and reason all the time, like how a guy in love always talks about his girlfriend, and we seem to relate everything back to that. It doesn’t mean we don’t have everything else that theists appreciate about life, it simply means that our passion for life is directly integrated into our logic and reason, and that brings us more joy than God could.

It might seem foreign and strange for many theists for us to be this devoted to something that on its surface seems so cold and mechanical, but once you start relying on logic and reason you quickly find that it rewards you. It rewards you with success, good fortune, happiness, a sense of self-worth and a reliable sense of safety and security, and, since the commenter mentioned intuition, it also trains our subconscious to be more accurate and make better decisions. It’s hard not to fall in love with something when it brings you so many amazing things, especially for those of us who have given God a serious try and done a comparison.

So this is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog, because I wanted to talk about the human aspect of Atheism. I want to talk about the night I became an Atheist (the same night I became a writer) after reading a novel that made me forget who I was. I want to talk about the joy and poetry of code, the magic of the if statement and for loop and try to communicate the way I feel when I’m using that logic to command the computer, affecting the lives of hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. I want to talk about how amazing, fragile and beautiful this world is knowing that it all came out of chance, that it wasn’t created by anything intelligent, and yet it came out in all these glorious colors, and even though all those colors make perfect logical sense, they are no less amazing–nay, they are far more amazing because they make logical sense and because we have the capacity to understand them.

If our world was created out of unintelligent randomness, just imagine what the human race could accomplish and where we could go from here. That is the true magic of this world. If God were here, what would be the point? Why should we bother when He already created everything?

And I want to talk about how nice it is to have control over your emotions, to know that some irrational paranoia is not going to creep into your mind, to know that if something happens you won’t lose control, that you won’t randomly become depressed and anxious, knowing that you are your own person and you have control over who you are and how you feel.

Using Foreign Characters in Kalin’s PDF Creation Station

The following are instructions for fixing font and character related problems such as foreign character sets in Kalin’s PDF Creation Station WordPress plugin.

First,  download the full version of TCPDF Engine. This is the same PDF engine that is included in Creation Station, except it has more fonts and other stuff I originally removed to conserve file size.

Now, extract the tcpdf folder to a workspace on your desktop. Go into the tcpdf/config folder and open tcpdf_config.php. In this file you can find some configuration variables that you can play with to adjust fonts, margins and whatnot. Find the line, define (‘PDF_FONT_NAME_MAIN’, ‘helvetica’); and, define (‘PDF_FONT_NAME_DATA’, ‘helvetica’); Now simply change ‘helvetica’ (or whatever font might be set) to whichever included font you’d like, such as ‘courier’, ‘times’, ‘dejavusans’, ‘freemono’ etc. You can look in the fonts folder to see which other fonts are available. There seems to be many different versions of the same fonts. Experiment until you find one that includes the character set you need. For example, using dejavusans seems to solve some issues with Turkish characters. (If you can’t find the font you like, you can visit the TCPDF website to see how to add new fonts. It’s a little more complicated and requires running some command-line functions. I haven’t personally tried it, but I’ve heard that it works. If you can’t figure it out, send me your font and I’ll give it a shot.)

Next, FTP into your server, find your wordpress/wp-content/plugins/kalins-pdf-creation-station/ directory. Copy your new tcpdf folder into the directory, overwriting the original tcpdf folder. (You might want to make a backup first to be safe.) Now you should be ready to go. Just start creating PDF files and check to make sure the characters show properly. Obviously you can keep re-uploading the tcpdf_config.php file to its appropriate location to test new fonts if you don’t have a local development environment.

Remember to make a local copy of your new tcpdf folder because you will need to re-upload it every time you upgrade the plugin.

Edit: somebody emailed me about this topic and wrote the following. I’m not sure what he’s talking about as it’s been a long time since I’ve looked into the code for these plugins, but here’s what he said. It sounds like it could be helpful.

hint: if somebody with the same problem contact you, it’s right that the font has to be changed to font with type ‘TrueTypeUnicode’ in order to know which one is the correct type, it is necessary to open the [font-name].php in text editor or php editor and check the properties of the font.

Tacoma Dome Parking – Logistical Nightmare

This is a post I made about a month ago but hesitated to post because it seemed too much like a personal vendetta to publish it. However, I think it does a decent job of giving a real-world example of how capitalism is inherently unfair and makes life more difficult for the average person, and after I’ve given it some time, I still feel as though I (and hundreds of others) were victims of fraud at the hands of The Tacoma Dome and their parking situation.


I went to see Lady Gaga Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington and felt that my experiences with their parking was worthy of a rambling, pissed-off blog post. (My first thought was to make an all-caps Facebook post.)

The show started at 8:00 according to the ticket. My friend and I arrived at the Tacoma Dome exit around 7:30. We then waited in a single file, poorly marked line for nearly two hours for a parking space. Cars frequently passed us, and we theorized that all of them were cutting in front of us. Finally, just before 9:30 we finally realized we weren’t going to make the show, so we decided to pull out of line and either park somewhere far away and take a cab (I didn’t stop to think that getting a cab would have been impossible), or, I was thinking I could just abandon my car and pay the impound fee later.

We pulled out and saw the line of cars behind us, disappearing into a point on the horizon. We drove forward, passing maybe 50 to 100 cars and arrived at the front of the line. At this point we we were so fed up, we decided to turn around and sneak into the front of the line. I know that’s a dick move, but sometimes you get to a point where you just can’t take it any more.

So we made a u-turn, right in front of the traffic police. Naturally they didn’t say anything to us and just let us through. We pulled into the parking garage and the attendant came to my window and said, “Ten dollars, and do not tell me you don’t have cash.”

Fortunately I did have cash, and I payed her without argument, though I wanted to scream at her about the ethics of charging ten bucks for event parking when you’ve already forced everyone to miss the majority of the show. The fact that she said, “do not tell me you don’t have cash,” implies that she went through that kind of ordeal with other drivers. Every car that pulled in spent probably an average of a minute talking to the attendant, and if not for that, no doubt we would have gotten inside in a much more timely fashion.

We parked, then ran several blocks to the stadium. Lady Gaga had already played nearly half her set, and obviously the opening band was long gone (some band called Semi-Precious Weapons that I was actually excited to see). We were able to find the row where our seats were supposed to be, but we looked through the darkness and saw that our seats had been taken. (To be honest, we didn’t realize that they were bench seats, rather than individual seats, because it was so dark and crowded at this point there was no way to see details like that.)

We went back down to talk to an usher, who refues to help, immediately accusing me of lying to her as though I was trying to avoid going to my seat. So my friend and I decided to simply stand at the front railing with all the other people who weren’t able to get to their seats. After ten minutes someone from seats behind us came down and started screaming at us (you can’t really communicate when Lady Gaga’s in the background unless you’re screaming) because we were blocking their view. We tried to apologize and explain there was nothing we could do, but ultimately we refused to move because there was simply no where else we could watch the show.

So they went and complained to management about us. The usher’s supervisor came to yell at us, and I wound up yelling back, asking him to help us get to our seats. He refused to help, so my friend and I refused to move from the railing. Finally, he agreed to assist and brought us up to our row and was able to get the attention of the others to let us in. We finally made it to our seats a little after 10:00 PM, just in time to see the last third of Lady Gaga’s set.

Getting out of the parking garage was not as difficult. It only took an hour before we started moving, which realistically is pretty reasonable.

(This is kind of unrelated, but on the way out, the police were directing traffic, but for some reason were not making much effort to make their signals understandable. When they waved us through it seemed more like someone jingling their keys by their side than someone actually trying to communicate, so I could never tell if they were waving us through or their hands were simply unsteady.

Now this personally bothers me because my greatest phobia is being beaten by a police officer, and last year someone was leaving a Seattle Mariner’s game and misunderstood a traffic cop’s signals. As he drove through the intersection the cop took out his flashlight and smashed the man in the face, giving him a concussion. The Seattle police settled with the man for, I believe $70,000, but the police department made a statement that the officer had acted reasonably.)

The main issue for me is that all of this was based on money. If the promoters hadn’t felt the need to rake in every last dollar they could, they wouldn’t have over-sold the show. They could have sent out emails telling everyone that they didn’t have parking capacity, but that would have discouraged some people from coming. They could have stopped charging for parking to allow everyone to see the show, but they knew that Ticketmaster would not be refunding our money, so they didn’t care if they caused hundreds of people to miss a show that cost $100 per ticket. Basically, it’s all about profit and nothing about serving the community. As an anarchist, I believe the opposite. Community should come first; profit second.

Hmmm… so at $100 per ticket, at 20,000 fans, the concert promoters brought in 2 million dollars for that show.

During the show, Lady Gaga said something about how Hollywood and the media build up pop stars to be larger than life, which in turn allows those stars to treat their fans like shit. I personally can’t blame Lady Gaga for this mess because I doubt she even knew about the parking problems, but I found her statement quite fitting.

Then, the next day, I found this article:, which basically makes the claim that parking was not an issue at the show at all. I can’t help thinking that was a deliberate lie.

I asked for my money back, just to see what they’d say. Naturally both TicketMaster and The Tacoma Dome officials refused, but the answer from the Tacoma Dome blew me away as their letter was filled with more lies, specifically, the lie that all other stadiums have the same kind of parking issues, as though I’d never been to a sold-out stadium concert before.

What I don’t understand is why the general population thinks that this kind of financial manipulation and deceit is more acceptable than a normal thief who steals in a more direct and honest manner and has more need for what he’s stealing. For me, this experience was more hurtful than any of the three times my home has been broken into.

I’ve never met a successful believer part3

This is the continuation of part 1 and part 2 about how I’ve never met a true spiritual believer who was really successful at life.


At one point near the turn of the century I decided I wanted to find a death row pen-pal because I wanted to learn more about the psychology of criminal behavior. I searched the internet for prison pen-pal listings, but decided I wanted to find an atheist, assuming that since all the major religions claim that God guides people toward goodness, there must be quite a number of atheists in prison, because there was no conceivable way an institution as respected as the church could make a claim like that without evidence.

So I started looking through prison pen-pal listings, searching for someone who thought similar to me. My search returned many pages of results. I started looking at the religion entry for each listing, surprised that almost every prisoner listed their religion. We had Catholics, Christians, Muslims, native-American religion, one or two Hindus, a few Buddhists… and… well… I searched through page after page after page, each time expecting to see the word “atheist” or “agnostic” somewhere. I searched for an hour or more, through what I remember to be about three hundred results and the closest thing I could find to an atheist was a couple people who had left the field blank and one person who wrote “it’s complicated”. I finally wrote to one of the people who had left the field blank. After a couple letters he began insisting that I accept Jesus as my personal savior, saying “just look at me. Look at how much Jesus has done to help me.”

We wrote a number of letters to each other, and each time he became more and more forceful in his insistence that I needed to become a Christian, as I was a bad person if I didn’t. Then one day he wrote to me to tell me that he was being transferred to a regular prison as he was no longer on death row. Apparently some 19 year old law student spent a few weekends working on his case, basically as a hobby, and enacted a special clause that says that you cannot get the death penalty if you killed someone in self defense, as apparently this guy was on death row for an act of self defense that went too far. I asked if he had sent a thank-you letter to this law-student, and he replied that no, he didn’t need to because he could just thank Jesus instead, and Jesus would pass his thanks down as good fortune, like a spiritual, trickle-down theory.


Then there’s several people I have known who have issues with panic attacks, migraine headaches and unmanageable stress. Every one of them believes in spirits and ghosts. It’s no wonder they have panic attacks when they think all these invisible spirits are controlling the universe and there’s nothing they can do to affect the world. Same thing with depression. It’s natural for someone to become chronically depressed when they believe there are all these wonderful angels and spirits, but then they see their own life going nowhere and instead of blaming their own decisions, they decide, either consciously or subconsciously, that God or the spirits or the universe just doesn’t like them. Same thing with the anger-management issues I’ve seen in certain believers. They think the world was intelligently designed by a perfect creator, but are constantly inundated with problems and become frustrated and helpless because the world doesn’t function the way their beliefs say it should. They’ve ingrained the concept of these spirits so far into their subconscious that they can’t control their own thoughts and emotions.


Then there’s my friend who is one of the few people I know who really believes in the power of love spells, that these spirits guide our passion and love for each other and can be affected by the spells we cast using magic stones and little trinkets. Why was I not surprised to find out she was still a victim of domestic abuse?


Then there was Josh, a guy with no job, no interest in getting a job, who had a daughter he never saw, and who jumped off a bridge because Jesus told him he could fly.


So these are all things I’ve seen in my life, and I understand that my experiences are probably not typical. The reason I’ve met so many crazy believers is because I gravitate toward either true believers or atheists. I obviously identify with atheists, but somehow the true believers–the ‘crazies’–are much easier for me to identify with than the moderate religious individuals because at least they’re consistent in their beliefs. If they say they take the bible literally, they actually take the bible literally. One of the most frustrating things for me is to hear a religious individual say that we always need to follow the word of God, but then hear them call my friend Josh crazy for following the word of God, and say that Isaac Zamora is a monster because he followed the word of God. Somehow they never recognize the hypocrisy.

I have all these stories of other people going crazy because they believed in spiritual, religious or supernatural entities, but the ones that are most convincing to me are the ones that happened to me.

When I was in school, for some reason I decided I would be happier if I was stupid, and I began trying to train my brain to run slower. I wanted to be able to get excited about football and fart jokes and I wanted to be able to have silly conversations without being frustrated that we weren’t discussing something more important. When I first thought of the idea to make myself stupid, I thought it would be dangerous, but then I decided that there must be some kind of God or universal force that keeps everything in order that would ultimately protect me from the consequences if I did anything truly stupid. I tried this off and on for years, though fortunately never went full force on the idea, simply because I did not have enough faith in my spiritual safety net. Sometimes I think I see this same process in others, though they seem to have more faith than me.

There was also a time around the turn of the century where I experimented with faith and God again for a couple years, and surprisingly went quite far quite quickly with the idea and before I knew it God was talking to me regularly and leading me down increasingly strange paths that didn’t always make sense. It’s those experiences more than anything else that make me an atheist now.


So I guess my point to all this is not really to convince people to become atheists. The average person probably hasn’t known as many crazy believers as I have, but what I hope is that people will at least understand why I am so terrified of religion and supernatural beliefs and won’t allow them to be a part of my life. How could I support something like the concept of God when I’ve seen it literally kill people, when I’ve seen it destroy lives, send people into deep depressions, and cause them to wish for death? I don’t believe I could be a good person unless I spoke out about these things.

I’ve never met a successful believer part2

So to continue some of my thoughts from yesterday’s post, I thought I’d go through a quick and dirty list of some of the true believers I’ve met in my life. However, I should clarify that these are just case studies–anecdotal evidence, and I personally don’t believe in forming political or spiritual opinions based solely on personal experiences, because everyone’s experience is different. It’s safer to base your opinions on statistics and things with hard scientific evidence. But that’s just not realistic, even for me, especially when the statistics back up your personal experiences. I don’t expect to convert anyone, but hopefully these stories will help people to understand why I’m such a devoted atheist.


The first real believers I ever met were the Zamoras, who introduced me to the concept of God and to religion when I was a child. I won’t detail them here because I think the fact that Isaac Zamora eventually killed six people in the name of God kind of speaks for itself.


I grew up without knowing many religious people, except for a few Jewish individuals who were similar to my Muslim friend I mentioned yesterday, in that they were logically thinking people who had manipulated their religion to fit their reasoning, instead of a true believer who rejects reason to fit their religion.


But when I was 18 I met Michelle. I intend to write a long story about her at some point since there’s a ton of interesting details about her, but to summarize, she was 15 years old, recovering from her fifth suicide attempt, and had the words “I HATE GOD” carved in huge block letters on the front of her binder. She believed that God’s only goal in the world was to create suffering. She truly believed that the more horrors and suffering you cause in the world the more likely you are to get into heaven, because God is entertained by our suffering, like when humans watch a horror movie. (See item 21 in 22 Ways Religion Promotes Crime) Earlier in her life she had tried to force herself to become a selfish and inconsiderate person, but was revolted by the idea, and instead decided to join a Satan worshiping group (just some kids who were angry and liked to cast spells) and decided that she hated God and all his followers and that she was okay with burning in hell for all eternity because she didn’t want to cause suffering in the world. She was horribly depressed and wanted little more than to end her own life, and insisted that it was God who was causing her to feel that way. I asked her why she didn’t just become an atheist, saying that I didn’t have any problems with depression, and she told me that atheists are just crazy, that it’s plainly obvious that God is real and that God loves suffering. She was certain that anyone who didn’t see that was ignorant and delusional.

She was expelled from school a month or so after I met her for excessive profanity and exposing herself in the lunch room and I never saw her again so I didn’t get the chance to watch how her belief systems developed.


Then a year or so later I met Jerry, who had kind of a modified Wiccan-Pagan belief system, believing in things like the psychic power of certain types of stones, spell-casting, alignment of planets and things of that nature. I’d met people who thought about these things before and considered them, but no one who was actually practicing and making active decisions based on these beliefs, such as making friends with certain people over others based on their birth sign. One night he insisted he was going to live forever, in his own corporeal body, that he would never grow old. I called him crazy and he became angry, telling me I had no right to disrespect his beliefs. He was living in a halfway house after getting caught with a quarter-pound of marijuana and for breaking into a safe and stealing $10,000 from a Hollywood Video. I didn’t judge him too much for these things, but when we went into a local bead store and Jerry later showed me the handful of beads he’d swiped, I started yelling at him about his thievery. He told me he was helpless to resist the urge to steal, that kleptomania was a disease and that I didn’t understand how difficult it could be. I asked him how his mind could be so powerful that he could believe himself into immortality but he couldn’t resist the urge to steal. Maybe he would be able to control his compulsion if he didn’t insist on believing that all these spirits and magic forces were in control of the universe. Unfortunately I never got the chance to say that to him because he was arrested for stealing from his job and was sent away.


Then I met a devoted Christian individual I’ll call Dave. He went to church, read the bible, and trusted his pastors. In every possible way that I understood, Dave was a truly devoted Christian. He was a wonderfully compassionate and respectful individual. He seemed to care about the planet and animal rights and a lot of other important issues and treated his dog with more respect and love than I think I’ve ever seen anyone treat an animal.

Dave would sometimes take certain things in the world and apply them as signs from God. For example, he believed that white cars meant yes, and red or black meant no. If he happened to see a white car, he would take that as an answer of yes to whatever he was thinking about, and actually make real-world decisions based on that. However, he was such a good person, and seemingly happy and well adjusted that he almost changed my mind about religion, until the night we had a few drinks and I watched him repeatedly pound his fist into his Bible, screaming “LIfe sucks! That’s a simple, absolute fact! God wants us to suffer, and if you can’t see that then you’re a blind fool!” Another time he took a whole bunch of LSD and decided that a mutual friend of ours was molesting a small child, based on the “look in his eye”. The child, of course, thought Dave was insane, but Dave insisted the little girl was lying and thought I was crazy for thinking the LSD may have distorted his perceptions.

One of the last times I saw Dave, he admitted to me that he did not care about his family. He said he didn’t care about the planet or the human race or right and wrong. All he cared about was getting into heaven and told me that he would jump at the chance to kill himself if not for his desire to avoid hell. He essentially admitted that all his niceness, compassion and generosity was nothing more than a means to serve himself and his desire for eternal pleasure.


Then I met Aleks, who had a whole altar set up in his room and would frequently cast spells and talk about how spirits were affecting his life and surroundings, and, just like Jerry, judged people as much by their astrological sign as their character. Then one day I watched him pull a knife on a mutual friend, insisting he would cut her throat if she didn’t stop sending evil spirits into his mind.


I’ll continue these thoughts in tomorrow’s entry…

I’ve Never Met a Successful Believer

I’ve come to the realization that never once have I met a person who truly believed in God or spirits AND had quality life-management skills. I’ve been trying for a while now and I can’t think of a single person. I may be overlooking someone, but no matter how hard I try I can’t think of who that might be.

That seems like a wild statement, and potentially offensive, and it does come with a couple caveats and definitions, but yes, I’ve never met a single successful person who truly believed in God, spirits or magic. I’m sure they’re out there. I’ve seen a few on TV (Sarah Palin and George W. Bush come to mind) but personally I have never actually met one. However, I have met many people who truly believe in God or spirits.

I define life-management skills as: 1. You’re not in prison. 2. You’re able to survive without the assistance of welfare, homeless shelters or other handouts. 3. you don’t have any current debilitating mental issues such as chronic depression, extreme anger, unmanageable stress, or thoughts of suicide. 4. If you have children you see them more than once a month and they are not in prison or on their way to prison. That’s it. That’s really all I expect from a normal, functional human being. It doesn’t seem like much to ask, but somehow for most of the true spiritual believers I’ve met, these things are major hurdles.

I have met a few religious people who had decent life management skills and while weren’t necessarily successful, at least they could get a job and pay their own way in the world. I’ve even met a couple (though they are pretty few and far between) successful religious individuals. However, these were not true believers because they kept their religious beliefs carefully segregated from their real-world decision making processes and never actually applied their faith to real-world situations.

For example, I had a Muslim friend that I worked with a couple years ago. We would carpool an hour and a half to work so he had a chance to go into detail about his beliefs. He would talk and talk about the Quran and Allah and traditions and whatnot. He stopped five times a day to pray in the middle of work, he only ate halal (which basically meant vegetarian or raw fish) and would practically starve himself during Ramadan, but when it came time to actually sit down and work on code architecture and get our job done, his religion was absolutely gone, as though it had never existed. I worked with him for years and he was probably the most devoted religious individual I’ve ever met, but never once did he propose a coding architecture based on something Allah had told him. Not once did he refer to the Quran as evidence that we should pick one technology over another. Not once did he suggest hiring or not hiring someone based on their spirituality. Not once did he suggest praying before meetings or development sessions as though it would improve our chance of success. Not once did he suggest a program feature based on something he’d felt in prayer. When his wife wanted to become a doctor he supported her, saying that it just made logical sense that women should have equal rights. When I asked him if I would burn in hell for not being a Muslim, he said no, as long as I’m a good person. In essence, he was an atheist in all practical respects and was only a Muslim on an emotional level when it didn’t conflict with logic, reason or compassion. He went through all the motions of being a Muslim, but essentially, deep down inside, he was an atheist because he rarely applied his religion to the real world.

I think the majority of religious individuals are like this and don’t recognize the fact that they are not being true to their religion and that they can’t call themselves true believers. They choose to manipulate their religion to fit their logic instead of the other way around. These people do okay for themselves, but at the same time, they are showing their direct support to the actual believers who, as an example, make career choices based on what God tells them in prayer, then can’t figure out why they hate their job, or, as another example, go on killing sprees or jump off bridges in the name of Jesus.


In tomorrow’s post I’m gonna start going through some quick examples of the true believers I’ve met.