Memoir of a Reluctant Atheist

My Journey Back to Stardust

 

This is a story about a little girl named Judy.

One of her earliest memories is of a nightly ritual. As she lay in bed awaiting sleep, she tried to understand the meaning of the word “forever.” She knew when she died she went to heaven or hell for forever. She tried to picture, imagine, and reach to the end of forever. But forever was forever. It did not end. It kept being there. It would not finish. It tumbled over and over into eternity, a word she did not know. She kept pushing for an end. But there was no end. How could there be an end to forever? Trying to find forever was a feat she never accomplished. Her quest ended in sleep.

The book is also a story of the grown-up quest of the little girl. If there be no end, was there a beginning? When and what and where and why and how was the beginning? The nuns in Sunday School taught her God was the answer. In childhood that simple explanation was enough.

As an adult, she needed to find her own answers to the questions of the beginning and the end.

The story begins with her maternal and paternal ancestries.

Samplings from Chapters One and Two:

Maternal Ancestry:

womanIn the first person the little girl tells the story of her history on her mother’s side. From the first-known generic progenitors of Homo sapiens, the little girl jumps forward about 199,800 years ago to her first-known, actual ancestor—great-great-great-great-grandmother Norse. She doesn’t know the woman’s first name, but she has her picture, taken in 1866 when she was 100 years old, and also the chair she sat in at the time of her portrait. Grandmother Norse died in 1868 at the age of 102. Calculating from these dates, Grandmother Norse was born in 1766, nine years prior to the start of the American Revolution.

The chapter includes her subsequent grandmothers and the exploits of her mother and her mother’s sister. Both feminists. Her aunt’s story ends in tragedy while her mother’s ends with the marriage to her father on New Year’s Eve, 1935.

Paternal Ancestry:

family

My father’s family. He is the young boy on the left.

The little girl’s father’s forebears are from Ireland and Scotland. Great-great grandfather Patrick Morrison arrives in Lynn, Massachusetts at age thirty-two in 1848. He marries twice, has thirteen children and his very last daughter, born when he was fifty-nine, is my father’s mother. My father is the second child of a close family of five.

After these two chapters, Judy’s story begins. Follow her “coming of age” experiences in the forties and fifties. At age thirty-two, she embraces atheism, but only from the security of the closet. In the last section of the book, she spends ten years searching for the truth to the beginnings of life, be it God or evolution. In her search she tours the Holy Land in an effort to revive her faith. Will she return to a belief in God or continue her embrace of atheism? This book is her answer to the when, what, where, why, and how of our beginnings.

With scientific truths but in layman’s words and bountiful pictures the closing chapters end her search. Enjoy the evidence.

Samplings from Chapters Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Nine:

A scientific journey from Earth’s beginnings to the beginnings of Homo sapiens:

The birth of planet Earth occurred four and one half billion years ago. At 550 million years ago the Cambrian Explosion caused the birth of the major groups of animals in the fossil record―Mollusks (animals with soft bodies and hard shells such as snails, oysters, and mussels); Arthropods (animals with jointed limbs and hard external skeletons such as insects, spiders, and crustaceans); and Chordates (animals with backbones such as fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals). At seven million years ago our primate forebears split into simians/apes or hominins/menlike. The Homo genus did not appear until 200,00 years ago and Homo sapiens not until 50,000 BCE.

 

eozostrodon

Eozostrodon the first mammal about two million years ago.

Teilhardina early primate

Teilhardina early primate about fifty million years ago.

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Ardipithecus or “land ape” about five million years ago.

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Homo erectus about two million years ago.