Bold Enough to ASK QUESTIONS!

How much do you know about the origins of the faith you have latched your loyalties to?   How much research have you done?     Have you read about other faiths–studied other faiths?  Sometimes that’s all it takes to unravel everything.

Questions I never asked–

What happened to Jesus family, his mother, his father, after his death?  The bible never mentions them again.  They drop off the face of the earth.  Wouldn’t they have been revered by the early Christians?  Wouldn’t they be an object of interest to any historians during that time?
What is the problem with Bethlehem?  At the time of Jesus’ birth, was there a Bethlehem?   Did it exist?   Was there such a thing as a Nazareth during Jesus’ time?

What about the Roman laws back then?  Why did the Romans not care or react to what was going on?  Why was nothing written down?

I have found two long radio programs (and one short one called To Xmas And Beyond) that really pointed out stuff I didn’t know, and really made me think.   I’m posting their links below.  I would dare any Christian to listen all the way through.   It’s hard I know.  When I was a Christian I never wanted to hear anything else but what I wanted to hear.   Because I knew deep down the moment I did, it would all unravel.  And it did.

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Cyndal’s Road To Freedom

I have posted on Facebook a request for former Christians or religious folk to share (anonymously if they wish) their stories re. what impact Christianity had in their life and what led them to give up this path and find another.

Cyndal is a  real person.  I got to know her on Facebook.  Her husband David is a real person.  Nice normal people, who just happen to be in rock/live music culture.  These people live in a very small red-neck town in Tennessee, and going to church and hungering after the Lord wasn’t enough apparently for them to fit in.  Asking questions, wanting to understand, requesting that a pastor do his job…between that and daring to dress differently and wear their hair perhaps, differently…

Well, I have my own story, and it’s nothing so bad as this.  But mine also has something to do with what happens when mental illness and religion comes together.  So do I believe this happened to Cyndal?  You bet.   This is not the first time I have heard a story like this.

Small sidenote.  This is a real person’s story, unedited by myself, and I will not post any replies I get to this that are offensive to Cyndal in any way.

Cyndal’s hard road to become a PROUD Atheist

When I was a small child I went to church with my family every Sunday. It was very scary to me because I was so young I just saw a man up there yelling and other people crying. I was very confused because no one explained what was going on but I was comforted as long as my parents were there. Then when I was about 5 years old we just stopped going. I don’t know why. It was just not a routine any more.

We moved around a lot and never went to church anywhere we lived until we moved to this very small, very religious, red neck town. It’s so small it has a small Walmart and about 5 gas stations but a church every quarter of a mile. Unfortunately I still live here with my husband (David) , my two babies (2&4), and my 17year old brother I adopted due to terrible family situations.

When I was 13 my parents all of a sudden started demanding we go to church again. It was a very small, very laid back church where the preacher wore his pjs and cut church off early when his favorite football team was to play that Sunday! At 13 I thought that was awesome! I was very into church and learning everything I possibly could. At one point I even got to teach Sunday school to the smaller children when their teacher was not there! I love kids so I loved that! As I got older I started wanting more. The things I didn’t understand I would question. I just wanted help understanding what was being taught. After a couple of weeks of constant questioning things and begging the preacher for answers he would simply tell me ” i shouldn’t question because that was doubt and as a Christian I should just have faith!” that just wasn’t enough for me! I would TRY to ask more questions but I would be ignored and dodged by the preacher so he wouldn’t have to bother with me. I was 15 then and that’s when the wheels started turning in my head. About the preacher but I still continued being a Christian. I even got the “teen bible” to help me try to learn. At 16 the preacher talked with my parents and all of a sudden I was the “trouble child”. That turned into a lot of arguing with my parents, me pleading my case as why I’m bad, then mental and emotional abuse started to try to “control” me, to prove they were over me. That ultimately ended with me getting kicked out but my grandmother took me in. (for the record I didn’t do drugs, drink, curse, I did smoke cigarettes behind my parents back but that was the only thing I could figure out as to what made me bad) Believe it or not I continued to go to that church. Drive myself and all!

I have always had the punk/rock/goth look even though that made me stick out in this town which labeled me as a “freak”. I didn’t care though, and don’t care to this day. At 17 I met my now husband. He also is a “freak”. Long red hair, lots of black band shirts, big earrings… He was a Christian too then and started coming to church with me when he didn’t have to work. You could feel the tension in the air but we held our heads high and ignored it. It happened quick but about 6 months of dating (after I turned 18) I moved in with him. That’s when the shit started. They didn’t like that at all. I told them even though we were living together we had bible study on our couch some nights in our pjs and he was finally answering my questions! But they labeled him as a devil worshipper!

One Sunday he had to work so I went to church by myself. I was sick that Sunday so of course I was called up for prayer. Everyone came up, laid their hands on me and started pray out loud. As they were doing that the preacher put his hands on my cheeks and whispered into my ear ” you are living with the devil! He is brain washing you! If you don’t move out you will be damned to hell!” Prayer was done so he let go and smiled at me. I was shocked! that night when David got home I told him what happened. He was shocked and mad! We discussed it and decided it was probably our looks and the way he could answer the questions I had that the preacher couldn’t.

The next Sunday after service we confronted the preacher. I think he was really shocked we had the guts to actually bring that to him! You could tell he was nervous because he was stumbling over his words and quickly ended the conversation with “oh..church needs to start!” and ran off. I skipped the next Sunday because I was still hurt. Then I had planned on going the next service but I was really sick. That’s when we had a knock at the door. It was the preacher and my parents! I’m assuming the preacher talked with my parents and told them what had happened and that David was the devil. We talked with them at first but when it became an argument that made me cry, David said that’s enough and closed and locked the door. They became so mad they were beating on the door demanding to get out and they were saving me! We had to actually call the cops to get them off our property! That’s when the doubt on Christianity really started!

I stopped going for a few weeks until I got a call from my 10 year old brother saying our mother and her new boyfriend had whipped him with a belt and made marks! That infuriated me! It was mid day wednesday so I knew exactly where to find our mother! Church! So I drove down to the church parking lot and waited for them to pull in. No one was there yet and they got there first. I got out demanding my mother to get out and talk with me! She wouldn’t do anything but crack her window but her boyfriend got out and came to my car very angry! I got out not backing down! He was getting up in my face yelling, screaming and telling me I wasn’t nothing but shit for a daughter causing pain in my mothers heart. He pissed me off so bad I grabbed a tire iron out of my car and yelled back “do something…let’s go!” Then they jumped into their van and took off! So…I took off chasing them! I wasn’t done! I guess they called the preacher from their cell because after a minute of round and round they pulled over and the preacher and his wife blocked their car between mine and my mothers. They calmly told them to go back to the church, go in, and lock the doors. Then the attention was turned to me! Yelling and screaming! How dare I go on church grounds acting that way, it didn’t matter what the situation was! I could barely get any words out between their screaming! Well, it ended with the PREACHER, exact words, yelling ” You have been nothing but FUCKING trouble for the past 3 years! I have never been able to stand your ASS! You and the devil (David) are never to step foot in my GOD DAMN church ever again! FUCK YOU YOU LITTLE BITCH!!!” I had to drive by there to get home and as I passed by about 15 church members were outside all of them holding up their middle finger at me and someone yelled something but I couldn’t hear what! And did anyone notice that none of me getting kicked out of the church and why I did this had nothing to do with the whipping of my brother? That was what started it but that act I did was like the preachers perfect opportunity to get me and David out of his church…which was his plan all along!

Now, I know this sounds unbelievable but honest it all true!

That was the beginning of my search. If knew I definitely not a Christian but what was I? I went years just in a non existent daze, half the time not thinking about it until church was brought up then the wondering came back. Around 22 I had enough! I went started the googling, then I went to Books A Million. I sat in the floor for about an hour and came home with 5 books. Not all Atheist books. Agnostic, Atheist, even Wiccan! The Wiccan one was just because I had no clue what Wiccan was! I read and read. I thought and thought. I kept it all secret from everyone. Even David. (Oh I forgot to mention he’s my husband now for 6 years! ) After a while it hit me! I AM ATHEIST! I know I am! No doubt! And I felt free!

Now that I was 100% positive I was Atheist there was the next part….tell David and explain what made me decide this and why… I was soo nervous. He’s my husband. What would he think? What if he got mad? What if it cause arguments? Well, one night we pulled into our drive way. The babies were sound asleep so we took the chance to sit and enjoy a quiet moment talking. Some how religion was the topic that quiet moment. So I took this chance. Basically said ” hunny I have to tell you something about how I feel about religion and if you have any questions or …” then he stopped me. (I have a problem when I’m nervous to talk too much before I just get to the point) He gives me the “come on spit it out look” so I took a deep breathe.” ok well, remember I’ll explain everything…” he says “come on Cyndal” and I just blurt out “I’m atheist and I know that 100%and it feels so good! I have peace now, I feel free, I don’t have near as much anxiety about every move I make any more!” I cringed waiting for shock, questions, maybe even frustrating talking. But to my surprise he just grinned and started laughing! “umm ok…what’s going on ” is all I could say! He said ” stop talking and it’s ok..I’m not mad..I’m happy you found yourself by yourself and you are now happy and not secretly stressing!” He smiled, leaned over and hugged me tight, kissed me and said ” Cyndal I have been Atheist for over a year now, I just never told you so you could figure it out yourself! And even if it were different other than Atheist it would still be ok! I love you!” I can’t explain the relief that was lifted off of my chest! Then we sat there for quite a while talking about how and when he became Atheist and how. And the same for me! He kept telling me how proud he was of me for finding myself by myself! All me! No influences at all! And we talked about that a lot for days! Then he started showing me different things on the Internet to help me further research and his books he had and the wonderful “The Thinking Atheist” site and Seth’s pod casts. That is now one of our pass time things to do is pod casts and “hey look at this video..look at this joke..” I’ve also figured out how to (with his help) teach our children better as far as science and things. I truly feel like as both of us being Atheist has benefited me, benefited David, benefited our family life style…just a lot of things.

This is my story of all my struggles through life but in the end I finally feel my life is the best it’s ever been. And it continues to be better and better. Me and David are on the same page so that helps the whole family in many ways! I feel like my whole life until I became Atheist was a dark blur and now I feel it’s free and happy. Like I’ve finally seen the light! (not in a Christian way though…lol) All of this combined, my whole journey to become myself now, being able to speak out and tell my story has helped me to become out of my shell.

That is why I can honestly say ….

I AM A PROUD ATHEIST!!!

( I really from my heart hope that my story can help hundreds of the quiet Atheist out there that feel like they should stay quiet! Learn from my story that you can uplift yourself and be a free thinker and most of all …a PROUD Atheist!!!)

And Yes, Who We Pick As Mates = Natural Selection

As far as I know (and I’m going by my layman’s (or woman’s) understanding of things) three things cause / contribute to the process of evolution.  Natural selection, climate change and TIME.

Interracial marriage is not an example of evolution, it is an example of natural selection which, over time, contributes to changes to a species, and that process of change over time is called evolution.

A hundred years ago the percentage of people who had to wear corrective lenses was less.  The further back in time you go, very likely the less people you find with impaired vision.  Why?    Because visually impaired humans living more closely with nature are a lot more likely to become bear fodder and never reproduce.   Because before we invented our way to the top of the food-chain, we needed our senses a lot more to survive; our ability to hear, and see, and RUN.  So, just like it is still in nature, survival of the fittest.

Of course this doesn’t apply today.  People like myself who get laughed out of the building when we try to enlist in the Navy (for being too blind) still manage to cope quite well thanks to corrective lenses.  We hold down jobs, we raise children–who likely will also inherit our weak vision.  Over time we have more and more people needing corrective lenses because it no longer happens that the weak sighted humans are killed off by bears, or by accidentally falling off cliffs or, whatever perils our ancestors had to face who didn’t have the benefit of corrective lenses, seeing eye dogs or white canes.

This is an example of natural selection working against a species.  Because those of us with weak vision are able to live and procreate we are creating more visually impaired people.  Usually the opposite effect comes from natural selection.   Weaker traits do not get passed on because the individual with that weaker trait doesn’t get to survive.  Not in the natural world.  Anyone who knows anything about wolves or lions or any of the big predators knows–it is the sick or the aged or the weak that predators target and go after.  Why?  Because predators naturally do not want to have their rib cages kicked in or their skulls crushed, and the bigger stronger younger prey are more likely to cause serious harm–assuming they can catch them at all.

So natural selection, over time, does change a species.  If you go to Europe and check out the doorways of those cool old castles, I hear the doorways are very short.  Like….people over 5 feet tall have to stoop over to walk through them.  Why?   Because people were shorter back then.

Even in my lifetime…I was the tallest girl in my school growing up.  That was back in the day when there weren’t any professional women sports teams and girls were just beginning to have the same kind of physical education/fitness programs in schools as boys.   in the 30 years since I graduated I have seen more and more taller young women.  Girls that make me look short.   My guess is because women are finally “allowed” and even encouraged to use their bodies more–push themselves like boys to discover what they can do–they are getting stronger.   Or maybe it’s just that the human race is still just getting a little bigger with each passing generation.  This is evolution.  Environmental changes or natural selection over time causes species to adapt physically.  That changing process is evolution.  If human beings survived another million years (highly doubtful) or more, those humans of the future might look a lot different than we do now.   Especially as we replace what we used to do physically to survive, with machines to do it for us.

Another thing that creates change–diet.  In the horse example I gave in my previous blog, what I copied for that from Wikipedia describes how horses teeth changed as the horse’s diet changed.

If only brown haired, brown eyed people were allowed to have children, eventually blue or green eyed people would disappear–with maybe the occasional throw back now and then.  If interracial marriage became more and more accepted and popular, over time it is very possible the races now existing on this planet might be effected.  There might not be white people one day.  Because the more interracial couplings that happen, the more mixing of the races occurs, over a short amount of time, like 50 years or 100 years or 200 years, the face of humanity will change.  If all tall people were forbidden to procreate and only short people had children, the human race would likely start to get shorter again.

If the climate changes and the sun becomes more intense, again, white people might find it harder to survive than people with more pigment in their skin.  This would be a case where environment change is reshaping a species.   If the gravity on this planet were to change and become stronger…very likely many species would die out altogether, while other species might have a few individuals with stronger thicker bones, survive.  Those individuals with the stockier bone structure would mate with other individuals with stockier bone structure and that species would slowly adapt more and more to the new gravity, producing stockier offspring–and any offspring born without the thicker bone structure would die and not pro-create, until one day a stockier thicker boned version would exist, completely replacing the lighter framed earlier version of that same species that could not survive.

This is evolution or what causes evolution, as I understand it.  When you have the conditions of survival change and the life in that environment must adapt to the changes or die.

Another example–river dolphins.  Copied from Wikipedia:

Differences between marine and river dolphins

Both river dolphins and marine dolphins belong to a group of mammals called cetaceans, but they differ somewhat in appearance. For example, the snout of a river dolphin measures about 58 centimeters (2 ft) long, approximately four times as long as that of most marine dolphins. River dolphins have smaller eyes than marine dolphins, and their vision is poorly developed because they live in dark, muddy water. This environment also makes river dolphins less active than marine dolphins. River dolphins feed primarily on fish.[1

 
So….dolphins who do not use their vision very much because their environment doesn’t let them see, develop smaller eyes and weaker eye sight than dolphins in clear water who need and use their vision to survive.   Two examples of marine mammals very different from each other because of their environment.  And yet, both are dolphins.

Another example of animals who have adapted to suit their environment–Siberian tigers.  Gorgeous cats.  The largest of the big cats.  He has feet the size of platters–great big huge feet, why?  Because he travels on snow–needs to be able to run on snow.  So his feet have adapted.  Where humans have to wear snow shoes to walk on snow, the Siberian Tiger has his larger paws to achieve the same result.

An interesting animal to watch is the polar bear.  Either he will become extinct in the next 50 years, or he will adapt to his radically changing environment.  If he adapts he will physically change.   His diet will have to change.  How he gets fresh water to survive will have to change.  How well he can endure warmer temperatures will have to change.  If he can’t adapt fast enough, he will die and there will no longer be polar bears.

But there will be other bears.

Just like once upon a time there were Neanderthals and now there are not, while other species of humans who lived alongside Neanderthals did not die but endured.  Neanderthals didn’t become us…but they did leave their genetic signature behind and contributed to what has made humans what we are today.

I don’t know how to end this.  I hope this makes some kind of point. I guess what I’m trying to describe is, the ingredient Creationists don’t want to take into account is time.  Creationists are used to thinking a deity said “let there be–” and there it suddenly was.  They apply that same kind of thinking to evolution.  They think one species just suddenly becomes something else. That’s not how it happens.  It takes time–millions of years.   Over time creatures that looked rather like wolves started hunting more and more in the water, started feeding more on fish than prey animals on land.  Over time these animals adapted to hunting in water, and came out onto dry land less and less.  Over time these animals developed limbs more like paddles instead of legs, and longer leaner bodies to make them cut through the water more swiftly.   And over a really long period of time these animals became cetaceans–dolphins, Orcas, whales.  Warm blooded mammals that live like fish in the sea.

Given enough time, a species will adapt itself to its changing environment.   Because if it doesn’t, or if the change happens too soon, it goes the other route.  It becomes extinct.  Or changes to the point that it hits a roadblock and cannot change or adapt anymore, which is what they guess happened to the Neanderthal.

Evolution. One thing does NOT turn into another!

This is in response to a few rather absurd notes i received in response to a prior blog.

Dogs will always be dogs no matter how much cross breeding or selective breeding humans put them through.

Very true.

Just like Epihippus who lived 47 million years ago was as much a horse as thoroughbreds racing around tracks today. 


Do we see Epihippus walking around?   No we do not.  Because the habitat changed and Epihippus changed.  Over time he got bigger, he got stronger teeth, more specialized at eating grass instead of leaves…his middle toe got stronger as he learned to walk on it more and eventually his other toes weren’t used as much…they grew weaker and one day horses just didn’t have any extra toes anymore–just the hard crusty nail (or chestnut) we can still find half-way up modern horses cannon bones today.

What some Creationists with blinders don’t get, and don’t want to get.  Humans did not come from apes.  We are simply of the same family as apes. Because there are still apes around today just as there are humans around today. Does one sibling become another? They are our siblings…our cousins. The most similar to us genetically. We are the same with them (primates) like lions and tigers are the same (felines). WE were never THEM. They never morphed into us.

I understood this concept even when I was a Christian…a child! Being a Christian should not excuse being ignorant. How difficult is this concept really???

Are there Epihippus still around today?  No, because between Epihippus and the modern day horse there was a series of horses adapting from a creature about the size of a fox to a creature approx 14 hands tall, or the size of a large modern day pony.  These later forms of horse replaced the earlier forms because the earlier forms died out–were not able to continue to live in their changing environment.  So today we see the horse, but we do not see the earlier forms of HORSE that were replaced.

This same thing happened with human beings.  Apes did not become humans.  Apes are still here and have been here for a very long time.  There were other species of primates (which humans are) that are not walking around now because they too adapted to their changing environment and changed and replaced the earlier versions no longer able to survive.  Our ancestors have long since disappeared from the earth, just as the apes ancestors have long since disappeared from the earth.  We are all primates however, so a very long time ago, apes and humans did have the same ancestor.  We are cousins to apes.  We are apes ourselves of a different kind, classified as great apes, actually.  but we are not gorillas like we see gorillas today.  We are not chimpanzees either.   We are human beings.  We have always been human beings and we will always be human beings.

I really wish Creationists would get it.

Another modern day example of evolution:   records–vinyl–45’s, etc….then 8 track tape players…then reel to reel players…then cassette players…then CD players…then DVD players…then digital.   Do we still see 8 track tape players around today?  Do we see very many cassette players around today?  Did these things suddenly turn into something else?  Or were they REPLACED by a newer better more adaptable technology?  This too is evolution in the modern world.  There are lots of examples of evolution at work all around us.  But where are there any examples of Creationism in the modern world?  There are none.

Copied from Wikipedia:

Epihippus

In the mid-Eocene, about 47 million years ago, Epihippus, a genus which continued the evolutionary trend of increasingly efficient grinding teeth, evolved from Orohippus. Epihippus had five grinding, low-crowned cheek teeth with well-formed crests. A late species of Epihippus, sometimes referred to as Duchesnehippus intermedius, had teeth similar to Oligocene equids, although slightly less developed. Whether Duchesnehippus was a subgenus of Epihippus or a distinct genus is disputed.[citation needed]

Mesohippus

In the late Eocene and the early stages of the Oligocene epoch (32–24 mya), the climate of North America became drier, and the earliest grasses began to evolve. The forests were yielding to flatlands,[citation needed] home to grasses and various kinds of brush. In a few areas, these plains were covered in sand,[citation needed] creating the type of environment resembling the present-day prairies.

In response to the changing environment, the then-living species of Equidae also began to change. In the late Eocene, they began developing tougher teeth and becoming slightly larger and leggier, allowing for faster running speeds in open areas, and thus for evading predators in nonwooded areas[citation needed]. About 40 mya, Mesohippus (“middle horse”) suddenly developed in response to strong new selective pressures to adapt, beginning with the species Mesohippus celer and soon followed by Mesohippus westoni.

In the early Oligocene, Mesohippus was one of the more widespread mammals in North America. It walked on three toes on each of its front and hind feet (the first and fifth toes remained, but were small and not used in walking). The third toe was stronger than the outer ones, and thus more weighted; the fourth front toe was diminished to a vestigial nub. Judging by its longer and slimmer limbs, Mesohippus was an agile animal.

Mesohippus was slightly larger than Epihippus, about 610 mm (24″) at the shoulder. Its back was less arched, and its face, snout, and neck were somewhat longer. It had significantly larger cerebral hemispheres, and had a small, shallow depression on its skull called a fossa, which in modern horses is quite detailed. The fossa serves as a useful marker for identifying an equine fossil’s species. Mesohippus had six grinding “cheek teeth”, with a single premolar in front—a trait all descendant Equidae would retain. Mesohippus also had the sharp tooth crests of Epihippus, improving its ability to grind down tough vegetation.

[edit] Miohippus

Around 36 million years ago, soon after the development of Mesohippus, Miohippus (“lesser horse”) emerged, the earliest species being Miohippus assiniboiensis. Like Mesohippus, Miohippus‘s evolution was relatively abrupt, though a few transitional fossils linking the two genera have been found. Mesohippus was once believed to have anagenetically evolved into Miohippus by a gradual series of progressions, but new evidence has shown its evolution was cladogenetic: a Miohippus population split off from the main Mesohippus genus, coexisted with Mesohippus for around four million years, and then over time came to replace Mesohippus.[16]

Miohippus was significantly larger than its predecessors, and its ankle joints had subtly changed. Its facial fossa was larger and deeper, and it also began to show a variable extra crest in its upper cheek teeth, a trait that became a characteristic feature of equine teeth.

Miohippus ushered in a major new period of diversification in Equidae.[14] While Mesohippus died out in the mid-Oligocene, Miohippus continued to thrive, and in the early Miocene (24–5.3 mya), it began to rapidly diversify and speciate. It branched out into two major groups, one of which adjusted to the life in forests once again, while the other remained suited to life on the prairies.[citation needed]

[edit] Miocene and Pliocene: true equines

[edit] Kalobatippus

The forest-suited form was Kalobatippus (or Miohippus intermedius, depending on whether it was a new genus or species), whose second and fourth front toes were long, well-suited travel on the soft forest floors. Kalobatippus probably gave rise to Anchitherium, which travelled to Asia via the Bering Strait land bridge, and from there to Europe.[17] In both North America and Eurasia, larger-bodied genera evolved from Anchitherium: Sinohippus in Eurasia and Hypohippus and Megahippus in North America.[18] Hypohippus became extinct by the late Miocene.[19]

[edit] Parahippus

The Miohippus population that remained on the steppes is believed to be ancestral to Parahippus, a North American animal about the size of a small pony, with a prolonged skull and a facial structure resembling the horses of today. Its third toe was stronger and larger, and carried the main weight of the body. Its four premolars resembled the molar teeth and the first were small and almost nonexistent. The incisive teeth of Parahippus, like those of its predecessors, had a crown as humans do; however, the top incisors had a trace of a shallow crease marking the beginning of the core/cup.

[edit] Merychippus

Merychippus, an effective grazer and runner

In the middle of the Miocene epoch, the grazer Merychippus flourished. It had wider molars than its predecessors, which are believed to have been used for crunching the hard grasses of the steppes. The hind legs, which were relatively short, had side toes equipped with small hooves, but they probably only touched the ground when running.[14] Merychippus radiated into at least 19 additional grassland species.

[edit] Hipparion

Protohippus simus

Three lineages within Equidae are believed to be descended from the numerous varieties of Merychippus: Hipparion, Protohippus and Pliohippus. The most different from Merychippus was Hipparion, mainly in the structure of tooth enamel: in comparison with other Equidae, the inside, or tongue side, had a completely isolated parapet. A complete and well-preserved skeleton of the North American Hipparion shows an animal the size of a small pony. They were very slim, rather like antelopes, and were adapted to life on dry prairies. On its slim legs, Hipparion had three toes equipped with small hooves, but the side toes did not touch the ground.

In North America, Hipparion and its relatives (Cormohipparion, Nannippus, Neohipparion, and Pseudhipparion), proliferated into many kinds of equids, at least one of which managed to migrate to Asia and Europe during the Miocene epoch.[20] (European Hipparion differs from American Hipparion in its smaller body size – the best-known discovery of these fossils was near Athens.)

[edit] Pliohippus

Pliohippus pernix

Pliohippus arose from Callippus in the middle Miocene, around 12 mya. It was very similar in appearance to Equus, though it had two long extra toes on both sides of the hoof, externally barely visible as callused stubs. The long and slim limbs of Pliohippus reveal a quick-footed steppe animal.

Until recently, Pliohippus was believed to be the ancestor of present-day horses because of its many anatomical similarities. However, though Pliohippus was clearly a close relative of Equus, its skull had deep facial fossae, whereas Equus had no fossae at all. Additionally, its teeth were strongly curved, unlike the very straight teeth of modern horses. Consequently, it is unlikely to be the ancestor of the modern horse; instead, it is a likely candidate for the ancestor of Astrohippus.[21]

[edit] Dinohippus

Dinohippus was the most common species of Equidae in North America during the late Pliocene. It was originally thought to be monodactyl, but a 1981 fossil find in Nebraska shows some were tridactyl.

[edit] Plesippus

Mounted skeleton of Hagerman horse (Equus simplicidens)

Plesippus is often considered an intermediate stage between Dinohippus and the extant genus, Equus.

The famous fossils found near Hagerman, Idaho were originally thought to be a part of the genus Plesippus. Hagerman Fossil Beds (Idaho) is a Pliocene site, dating to about 3.5 mya. The fossilized remains were originally called Plesippus shoshonensis, but further study by paleontologists determined the fossils represented the oldest remains of the genus Equus.[22] Their estimated average weight was 425 kg, roughly the size of an Arabian horse.

At the end of the Pliocene, the climate in North America began to cool significantly and most of the animals were forced to move south. One population of Plesippus moved across the Bering land bridge into Eurasia around 2.5 mya.[23]

[edit] Modern horses

[edit] Equus

Skull of a giant extinct horse of the genus Equus, E. eisenmannae

The genus Equus, which includes all extant equines, is believed to have evolved from Dinohippus, via the intermediate form Plesippus. One of the oldest species is Equus simplicidens, described as zebra-like with a donkey-shaped head. The oldest material to date is ~3.5 million years old from Idaho, USA. The genus appears to have spread quickly into the Old World, with the similarly aged Equus livenzovensis documented from western Europe and Russia.[24]

Molecular phylogenies indicate the most recent common ancestor of all modern equids (members of the genus Equus) lived ~5.6 (3.9-7.8) mya. The oldest divergencies are the Asian hemiones (subgenus E. (Asinus)), including the kulan, onager, and kiang), followed by the African zebras (subgenera E. (Dolichohippus), and E. (Hippotigris)). All other modern forms including the domesticated horse (and many fossil Pliocene and Pleistocene forms) belong to the subgenus E. (Equus) which diverged ~4.8 (3.2-6.5) million years ago.[25]

Pleistocene horse fossils have been assigned to a multitude of species, with over 50 species of equines described from the Pleistocene of North America alone, although the taxonomic validity of most of these has been called into question.[26] Recent genetic work on fossils has found evidence for only three genetically divergent equid lineages in Pleistocene North and South America.[25] These results suggest all North American fossils of caballine-type horses (which also include the domesticated horse and Przewalski’s horse of Europe and Asia), as well as South American fossils traditionally placed in the subgenus E. (Amerhippus)[27] belong to the same species: E. ferus. Remains attributed to a variety of species and lumped as New World stilt-legged horses (including E. francisci, E. tau, E. quinni and potentially North American Pleistocene fossils previously attributed to E. cf. hemiones, and E. (Asinus) cf. kiang) likely all belong to a second species endemic to North America, which despite a superficial resemblance to species in the subgenus E. (Asinus) (and hence occasionally referred to as North American ass) is closely related to E. ferus.[25] Surprisingly, the third species, endemic to South America, and traditionally referred to as Hippidion, originally believed to be descended from Pliohippus, was shown to be a third species in the genus Equus, closely related to the New World stilt-legged horse.[25] The temporal and regional variation in body size and morphological features within each lineage indicates extraordinary intraspecific plasticity. Such environment-driven adaptative changes would explain why the taxonomic diversity of Pleistocene equids has been overestimated on morphoanatomical grounds.[27]

According to these results, it appears the genus Equus evolved from a Dinohippus-like ancestor ~4-7 mya. It rapidly spread into the Old World and there diversified into the various species of asses and zebras. A North American lineage of the subgenus E. (Equus) evolved into the New World stilt-legged horse (NWSLH). Subsequently, populations of this species entered South America as part of the Great American Interchange shortly after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, and evolved into the form currently referred to as “Hippidion” ~2.5 million years ago. Hippidion is thus unrelated to the morphologically similar Pliohippus, which presumably went extinct during the Miocene. Both the NWSLH and Hippidium show adaptations to dry, barren ground, whereas the shortened legs of Hippidion may have been a response to sloped terrain.[27] In contrast, the geographic origin of the closely related modern E. ferus is not resolved. However, genetic results on extant and fossil material of Pleistocene age indicate two clades, potentially subspecies, one of which had a holarctic distribution spanning from Europe through Asia and across North America and would become the founding stock of the modern domesticated horse.[28][29] The other population appears to have been restricted to North America. One or more North American populations of E. ferus entered South America ~1.0-1.5 million years ago, leading to the forms currently known as “E. (Amerhippus)“, which represent an extinct geographic variant or race of E. ferus, however.

[edit] Pleistocene extinctions

Digs in western Canada have unearthed clear evidence horses existed in North America until about 12,000 years ago.[30] However, all Equidae in North America ultimately became extinct. The causes of this extinction (simultaneous with the extinctions of a variety of other American megafauna) have been a matter of debate. Given the suddenness of the event and because these mammals had been flourishing for millions of years previously, something quite unusual must have happened. The first main hypothesis attributes extinction to climate change. For example, in Alaska, beginning approximately 12,500 years ago, the grasses characteristic of a steppe ecosystem gave way to shrub tundra, which was covered with unpalatable plants.[31][32] The other hypothesis suggests extinction was linked to overexploitation of naive prey by newly arrived humans. The extinctions were roughly simultaneous with the end of the most recent glacial advance and the appearance of the big game-hunting Clovis culture.[33][34] Several studies have indicated humans probably arrived in Alaska at the same time or shortly before the local extinction of horses.[34][35][36] Additionally, it has been proposed that the steppe-tundra vegetation transition in Beringia may have been a consequence, rather than a cause, of the extinction of megafaunal grazers.[37]

In Eurasia, horse fossils began occurring frequently again in archaeological sites in Kazakhstan and the southern Ukraine about 6,000 years ago.[28] From then on, domesticated horses, as well as the knowledge of capturing, taming, and rearing horses, probably spread relatively quickly, with wild mares from several wild populations being incorporated en route.[29]

[edit] Return to the Americas

Horses only returned to the Americas with Christopher Columbus in 1493. These were Iberian horses first brought to Hispaniola and later to Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and, in 1538, Florida.[38] The first horses to return to the main continent were 16 specifically identified horses brought by Hernan Cortes. Subsequent explorers, such as Coronado and De Soto brought ever-larger numbers, some from Spain and other from breeding establishments set up by the Spanish in the Caribbean. Later, as Spanish missions were founded on the mainland, horses would eventually be lost or stolen, and proliferated into large herds of feral horses that became known as mustangs.[citation needed]

The indigenous peoples of the Americas did not have a specific word for horses, and came to refer to them in various languages as a type of dog or deer (in one case, “elk-dog”).[citation needed]

[edit] Details

[edit] Toes

The ancestors of the horse came to walk only on the end of the third toe and both side toes. Skeletal remnants show obvious wear on the back of both sides of metacarpal and metatarsal bones, commonly called the “splint bones”. They are the remnants of the second and the fourth toe. Modern horses retain the splint bones; they are often believed to be useless attachments, but they in fact play an important role in supporting the carpal joints (front knees) and even the tarsal joints (hocks).

[edit] Teeth

Throughout the phylogenetic development, the teeth of the horse underwent significant changes. The type of the original omnivorous teeth with short, “bumpy” molars, with which the prime members of the evolutionary line distinguished themselves, gradually changed into the teeth common to herbivorous mammals. They became long (as much as 100 mm), roughly cubical molars equipped with flat grinding surfaces. In conjunction with the teeth, during the horse’s evolution, the elongation of the facial part of the skull is apparent, and can also be observed in the backward-set eyeholes. In addition, the relatively short neck of the equine ancestors became longer, with equal elongation of the legs. Finally, the size of the body grew as well.

Christian Blinders

When a Christian spouts off about all the other evidences and proofs out there that a biblical Jesus existed, other than, that is, the four gospels written by anonymous church-hired writers in the New Testament, demand they kindly provide these proofs.  Are they going to list Josephus or other Roman historians that either did not live during the time of Jesus or did not actually write about him per se, but rather the appearance of the new religion Christianity.

It is largely accepted that the few passages in Josephus that mention Jesus were added in later, as the paragraphs are out of context with the sentences that come before and after.   And even if a historian is found who lived during Jesus’ alleged lifetime and did write about him, all that proves is that a person named Jesus existed.  I believe in that part of the world, it is not an uncommon name.

All I ask for is evidence.  Christianity lost credibility for me when I realized that the bible is not true.  When I figured out that there were verses clearly put into it not because they were god’s teachings but because some religious group wanted to dictate certain laws and rules over the common people, and especially to subjugate certain people, most especially women, as is typical of all man-made, patriarchal religions.

Once I figured out that some verses in the bible couldn’t possibly be from god or god inspired, then all of a sudden the entire book became suspect.  How am I, with my puny little mind, supposed to weed out what is really from god and what isn’t really from god?   Between that and the blatant errors in the bible (god the all powerful can’t smite chariots made of iron?  Hello???), the bible stopped being, in my eyes, anything real.

Some Christians readily admit the bible is nothing more than a fairy tale or myths–legends, etc.  But they still believe.  I fail to see how the religion can have a leg to stand on if the bible is not true, if the story of Adam and Eve and original sin is not true?  Without that story of original sin there ceases to be a need for religion, or god, or saviors.  There ceases to be a need for Christianity.  This is the only reason why the Christian bible still has the old testament included–because they need that all important absurd story of talking snakes and the original sin.

Talk to a Christian, they will tell you about Christian writers who disagree.  Well, no surprise there.  I say, read the testimonials of learned Christians–men and women who went to Seminary and taught this stuff and knew the bible inside out and STILL unconverted–lost their faith–stopped believing.   These are the people I would be interested in hearing from.  Not the people who just say the same things I had to hear over and over and over–repeating the same well worn pages and hi-lighted verses, and ignoring completely the other three quarters of this book.

Before a Christian has the right to tell me their god is good, they need to read the entire bible.  They need to tell me how a good and loving deity does what the god of the old testament does, and answer the illogic of an all knowing god deliberately creating flawed human beings, and then punishing them for being flawed.

Woe to You Who Disagrees w/ a Christian!

I once really liked this story in the New Testament.  I used to think it literally meant you have to be humble, not proud, to be great in heaven.  But now, seeing this as an atheist, a second meaning  becomes clear.   In the first part Jesus is teaching his followers they must be humble like a little child, not proud.   What’s funny is from my recollection of childhood, children are not humble but rather very self-important; they very much see themselves as special and want to be treated that way; they want to COUNT, to be the favorite child, to get the gold star from the teacher.  So what I really think the point of this verse is–to believe in what Christianity teaches you must be gullible like a little child–have magical thinking like a little child–accept rather than to question what you don’t understand–like a little child:

Matthew Ch: 8–

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Matthew Ch: 8–

This next part that immediately follows is a warning to non-believers like myself that there will be dire consequences for us if we should say or produce any evidence or logic that might cause one of God’s “little ones” to stumble in their faith, start to question their faith or… lose it altogether:

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

SO in other words, assuming Jesus actually lived and actually said these things, which I highly doubt, what I believe his real point is, you have to be gullible like a child to believe all this stuff and get into heaven, and any of you who refuse to be or can’t be gullible–shame on you for trying to talk sense into any of these who can–you will be gravely punished if you succeed in making them stumble.

Not only does this warn believers against relying upon their own judgment or reason (to do so would not be humble but rather arrogant), but it also puts a “hands off” sign on believers directed at non believers.  Meaning that if I had a spouse or a parent I saw lost to a belief I know is false, I am to remain silent about it or bad things will happen to me if I in any way, try to interject a different opinion, perspective, or interpretation.

Questions I’d Ask Christians

Ultimatum.  The only way to heaven & eternal life is by the blood/sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Question:  What about small children, infants or (heaven forbid) fetuses yet to be conceived because mom and dad haven’t met?

Answer:  God is a fair and loving God.  I’m sure innocent children and babies (fetuses!) go to heaven.

Question:  what about all the people (Jews) who worshipped/followed God before Jesus came to earth?  (or for that matter what about all the people who worshiped the other godmen like Krishna or Mithras who claimed to be the only son of god, were born of a virgin, were crucified and rose three days later?  Was it their fault they were born before the REAL only son of god came?  Seems to me their hearts were in the right place–they worshipped the same thing, for doing the same thing.  How were those millions of followers to know it wasn’t the right only son of god?

Answer:  God works in mysterious ways.  Before Jesus came god let people into heaven if they said they were sorry enough times and sacrificed enough crops, animals, or in some cases, daughters or sons.

Question:  what about people in modern times who were born in other parts of the world where the majority of the population is Muslim or Hindu and that’s what they were taught since birth is the only right religion?  Are they to be sent to hell for believing their parents and their teachers and their culture or their religious leaders in their country?  Should they go to hell for not being born where the majority of Christians live–America?

Answer:  We have missionaries that preach to the uneducated third world peoples.  If they hear the word of god and Satan hardens their hearts to it, yes, they will go to hell.  The truth is out there.   They have to forsake these false religions they have been raised all their lives (just as we have been) to think is true, and follow what we believe instead, in order to make it into heaven.

Question:  If you were told by a Muslim or Hindu or anyone else of any other religion that the Christianity you have embraced all your life–that you were raised to believe all your life is true, is actually false, would YOU be able to forsake all you’ve been taught and become one of these other faiths?

Answer:  Absolutely not because Christianity is the only truth.

Question:  And you know this how?

Answer:   The bible tells me so.  And I know because I have a personal relationship with Jesus in my heart.

Question:  Do you think Muslims might feel sure because the Koran tells them so, or because they have a personal relationship with Muhammad in their heart?

Answer:  If Jesus isn’t in their hearts, then what they think is Muhammad is actually satan.

Question:  If Christianity is the only truth, why are there so many variations of Christianity?   Why do Four Square churches teach you d0n’t have the holy spirit in your heart until you can speak in tongues, and why do the Baptists teach that you must be baptized as an adult before the holy spirit will enter you and how come born again Christians say you must ask Jesus into your heart to be your lord and savior before you can really be saved–going to church or doing good works is not enough?     How is a person to know which Christianity is the right way?

Answer:  All who truly seek after God and truly believe Jesus is the only son of god and died for their sins, will be welcome in the kingdom of heaven.

Question:  But all these other people who seek god too, only the god they’ve been taught to believe in has a different name…they aren’t saved because it’s not the right god?

Answer:  Correct

Question:  What about atheists or agnostics who don’t follow or believe in any god?  Isn’t free will a gift your god gives all of us?   So then, if people accept the gift and exercise their free will…they are punished if they don’t make the right decision?

Answer:  Anyone who shuns god will go to hell, yes.

Question:  By that you mean your god?

Answer:  mine is the only god.

Question: Well, what about mentally ill people, or people incapable of comprehending things like god, salvation, Jesus, Satan, sin, heaven and hell?  Do they go to hell for not understanding?

Answer:  Who can know the mind of god?   Our god is loving: I doubt he’d send someone to hell like that.

Question:  Oh, ok, so he does make exceptions.  Interesting.  So um…if he creates someone mentally ill or otherwise unable to make the right choice–he won’t punish them for not believing, but if he makes someone flawed deliberately so they can’t make the right choice and instead don’t believe, that’s different.  Hmm.  So, how can you call it “free will” if there’s only one right choice a mentally capable person can make and…damnation forever if they make the wrong choice?

Answer:  God doesn’t force them to follow him.   He asks.  If they say no, that’s fine.  But then they don’t go to heaven.

Question:  They go to hell instead, and burn in torment forever.

Answer:  yes, exactly.

Question:  Even though god made them the way they are to be destined not to choose him?  He’d punish them for that?  Wow.  Tell me, could you love a god who sent your mother and father to hell for not believing the right thing?  Who sent your best friend to hell because he couldn’t believe something not supported by facts?  Imagine you’re in heaven and you can hear their cries and see their suffering every moment of the eternity in paradise you get to spend?  Would it still feel like paradise to you?   You could love a god who could do this?

Question–or even if god hardens your heart so it doesn’t bother you knowing that mortal human beings are being tortured forever and ever for making the wrong choice in their brief, flawed, mortal life–you could still love a god knowing he can do this?  To creations he made flawed enough to sin in the first place?

Because,Christian, I could not, and I would rather go to hell than worship a god like that.

What Came First? The Chicken or The Egg?

Creationism:

Obviously the chicken would come first because it would be the source of the egg.  Actually there would have to be a first chicken and a first rooster to accomplish the first fertilized egg resulting in a chick.  So the answer is, like with everything else, a full formed first chicken came first–created by the great I AM.

Evolutionism:

Obviously a living animal would be necessary in order to give birth to offspring, so the real question is, when did the first chicken-like bird first appear on the earth?

The theory of evolution states that species change over time via mutation and sexual reproduction. Since DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) can be modified only before birth, a mutation must have taken place at conception or within an egg such that an animal similar to a chicken, but not a chicken, laid the first chicken eggs. These eggs then hatched into chickens that inbred to produce a living population.[12][13] Hence, in this light, both the chicken and the structure of its egg evolved simultaneously from birds that, while not of the same exact species, gradually became more and more like present-day chickens over time.

Not any mutation in one individual can be considered as constituting a new species. A speciation event involves the separation of one population from its parent population, so that interbreeding ceases; this is the process whereby domesticated animals are genetically separated from their wild forebears. The whole separated group can then be recognized as a new species.

The modern chicken was believed to have descended from another closely related species of birds, the red junglefowl, but recently discovered genetic evidence suggests that the modern domestic chicken is a hybrid descendant of both the red junglefowl and the grey junglefowl.[14] Assuming the evidence bears out, a hybrid is a compelling scenario that the chicken egg, based on the second definition, came before the chicken.

This implies that the egg existed long before the chicken, but that the chicken egg did not exist until an arbitrary threshold was crossed that differentiates a modern chicken from its ancestors. Since this arbitrary distinction cannot be made until after the egg has hatched, one would have to first find the original chicken, then from this find the first egg it laid.

A simple view is that at whatever point the threshold was crossed and the first chicken was hatched, it had to hatch from an egg. The type of bird that laid that egg, by definition, was on the other side of the threshold and therefore not technically a chicken — it may be viewed as a proto-chicken or ancestral chicken of some sort, from which a genetic variation or mutation occurred that thus resulted in the egg being laid containing the embryo of the first chicken. In this light, de facto, that the argument is settled and the egg had to have come first.

Becoming Atheist

It seems to me people think it’s a choice, being atheist.  Like, I wake up one day and think, “today I’m going to become atheist.”  That’s not what happens!

For many it’s not about “becoming” atheist at all.  They simply are atheist.  They’ve heard all the bible verses before–all the arguments, always the same cherry picked verses people quote.   They’ve perhaps tried various faiths or religions, or at least looked into them, but none are backed up by fact or evidence, and so they can’t believe.  Not everyone can have magical thinking, and that’s what it takes to be a believer–any kind of believer.  The same quality children have to be able to believe in a Santa Claus.  Magical thinking.  The ability to suspend disbelief or put aside the questions and just have FAITH, trust that what a million or more people say is real–if so many people believe, it must be real.

But for others like myself, we did believe once.  We were able to set aside the doubts and nagging questions.  Like, having a little pebble in your shoe; rather than stop and shake it out, you keep walking, hoping it will slide to the side where it can’t be felt and you can walk normally for awhile, without limping, forgetting the pebble is there…up until it finds its way back under your foot again where it hurts.

No Christian wants to lose their faith.  That’s the thing.  Every Christian really loves the idea of seeing Jesus when they die, and not having to cross the valley of the shadow of death alone.  To see loved ones you miss.  To be young again if you’re old, or strong and whole again if you’ve been hurt, blinded, or crippled by some disease.   We all like to think we’re special, too special for us to deserve to just…cease to exist after we die.   There must be a reason we were made.  Certainly this isn’t all there is!

Belief is like a teddy bear.  Once you have it, it comforts you.  You don’t want to let it go.  In the storm, in the dark, it’s what you reach for to clutch tight against you.  The idea of having that taken away…what a scary thing!   So you block your ears whenever anyone says anything that stirs up that doubt again, brings the pebble back under your foot inside your shoe.   You don’t want to hear.  You don’t want to risk losing something you treasure, something so much a part of you for so long.

No born again Christian (or any kind of Christian) asked to become an atheist.  We were all Christians once, desperate to keep the faith alive, the hope of seeing our loved ones again, of living forever in some paradise.  But then something happened.

Does it make us evil that this something…happened?  Do we deserve contempt and to be branded as demonic or worse…because this something happened?   I have been an atheist now for three years.  I was a Christian for over 30.  Has anything changed for me?  I don’t think so.  I still FEEL all the things I did before.  I still feel in tune with that little voice inside, that I now realize is really myself, my rational self that comes and comforts my animal, frightened, instinctive self.   I love the same, care the same, still possess what I once called “the fruits of the spirit.”  I feel guilty when I make someone feel sad.  I feel the same strong desire to not cause hurt or harm.

Nothing has changed.  And because nothing has changed in me, this has reinforced for me that what I had before was just a different explanation for what I’ve had all along.  I haven’t lost it.  What it is simply isn’t what I thought.  It’s not a supernatural being or a eye in the sky or imaginary friend.  It’s not a teddy bear.  It’s my strength I have within me, that I didn’t believe in–thought I needed this crutch instead, to be strong.  But I don’t because…it’s all still there inside me, making me strong.

All on my own.

I didn’t ask to become an atheist.  But I’m really glad I did.  I like living with the perspective I will cease to exist when I die.  Perhaps it will make me try a little harder to make a difference in this life, while I live.  Then if I’m wrong and I do find something after death, it will be a happy surprise.  And if I don’t, I won’t be here anymore to feel regret–but I also will not have wasted my life on something false, either.