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From Fundamentalism, Through Atheism, Toward Realization

A Video Autobiography by a Kriya Yoga Student of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)
Larry Dominus Reavis, Ph.D.

 

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5. Doubt

I didn't understand what I had done wrong. I certainly remembered a few weeks before when Mrs. W. had burst into the room screaming, "Don't sing that song! Stop singing! Stop, stop now!" But why were we no longer allowed to sing that song?

I had requested that song. When our Sunday School teacher had asked what song we might want to sing, my hand shot up: "Jesus loves the little children of the world," I responded. I think we got to the words, "Black and yellow, brown and white, they are precious in his sight . . ." when Mrs. W. put an end to the singing.

My teacher kindly explained to Mrs. W. that it was in the Southern Baptist Convention's songbook for children; but an argument ensued that was not resolved.

After the class, my teacher asked me, "Why  do you like that song - is it the words or the melody"?

"The words," I firmly replied."

"Me too," she said - and smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder.

Soon my warm and kindly teacher was replaced. On her first day, the new teacher asked what song we'd like to sing. My hand shot up. "Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World," I requested just as soon as she called on me.

This new teacher curtly replied with a scowl, "We don't sing that song anymore," and called on someone else.* Soon I saw that I was being shunned by her. Not only did she never again call on me when I raised my hand, but she ignored me at all other times too, never even speaking to me. I didn't get it.

About three years later - at around eight years of age - I was playing on the playground one Saturday morning when I spied a couple of little black boys walking on the sidewalk. I had never seen black boys in our neighborhood, and I was intrigued - especially as they seemed to be only a little older than I was. They briskly walked by again the next week.

3 houses

Five big teenagers raced out of these three houses to beat up the black boys who were walking on the sidewalk.

Perhaps it was on their third brisk walk past our school (I later learned the 10-year-old was  going to a job with the 12-year-old accompanying him for protection) when I heard someone from inside the houses across the street shout, "now"! From three houses, out streamed five big teenage boys. Running pell-mell across the street, they began to viciously pound on those two little black boys.

When I saw that the black boys weren't going to run away, I raced as fast as I could into the middle of the fray and shouted, "Stop it! Stop it! You don't own the sidewalk! They have a right to walk here! It says so in the Constitution"!

I was astonished when they stopped pounding the black boys - and now me too. After a bit of discussion about constitutional law, I was even more astonished when they turned and slunk back into their homes, heads down. Then I began to understand why Mrs. W. wouldn't let us sing that song; and why the church had replaced my lovely teacher.

Some three years later, at age 11, the new preacher, Brother Goings, had invited a black choir to visit and sing for us. I loved their singing! But so many in our congregation raised such a fuss that the next time they visited he was forced to ask them to leave immediately after they had finished their song. I began to have serious doubts about the morality of our church.

Other doubts
   I've already described how my first doubts about the Bible came when my father tried to convince me that I had never lived before. He might just as well have tried to convince me that I could not remember my summer trips to California; I certainly did have vivid memories of both - and still do.

And then, somewhere during those years, my grade-school teacher explained how it was the earth turning on its axis that produced day and night - and not the movement of the Sun. With my antenna already up for the possibility that my parents' claim that the Bible was without error might itself be erroneous, I immediately thought about that story where Joshua made the Sun stand still in order to lengthen the day. Huh? So many accumulating doubts - far too many to list here.

But I decided that I was too young to figure it out. So I waited.

My wait ended at age 16 during the Christmas season of 1952. I was walking home from my job at the grocery store when I happened to glance at the moon. I noticed that it was seeming to move with me - each time I passed a house, the moon passed over to the next house. I quickly realized that any star would do the same. With yesterday's sermon still on my mind I reasoned that a star that was close enough to a manger so that one could actually decide which location it was standing over would burn up the manger - and everything else on earth, for that matter.** My doubt no longer would be contained.

It also was during that time that I realized that my Catholic boss, Walter M., was a most saintly man. Not just because he drove me home every evening during those years before I owned a car, and not just because of the kind wisdom that I learned from him during those drives, nor even the cheerful way that he managed our large grocery store, where absolutely everyone admired him so much that they did their very best to perform their duties in a way that would please him.

But I soon saw that he also was a man of remarkable courage. I saw his courage when he hired a black man, Henry. Some of the customers did complain to me, but our business did not suffer. Nevertheless, the next time our district manager visited, he soon saw Henry and blew his top. After a long, intense, discussion in the office, he and Mr. M. reached a compromise: Henry would not be fired, but no longer could he be allowed to be seen by the customers. Henry was confined to the back-room. Soon he quit.

During the ride home that night, I told Mr. M. how sorry I was that Henry quit. "Me too," he replied.

Some nights later Mr. M. confided that he had agreed to open one more store for the corporation - after having already opened four. He asked if I would join him as the only part-time person in the new store - to show by example for the new part-time employees how one should do one's  job. I was honored. Soon, he also confided that after that store was up and running, he was going to leave the corporation in order to open a dry-goods store in his hometown of Indianapolis, IN. I was so sorry that I wouldn't be working much longer for him; but I understood why he wanted the freedom to do what he believed was right.

Of course, Mr. M. wasn't the only unbigoted white person in the early 1950s. Even my own Aunt Katheryn already had purchased a black baby doll for her 10-year-old daughter. At first the other cousins teased a bit about the black doll, so she ran to me for my opinion - me being the oldest male child in our extended family. I looked very sternly at the black doll; then smiled and said, "I think she's beautiful."

"Me too," said my cousin. And for the rest of the afternoon I heard the girls fighting over who would be next to get to play with the black baby doll.

So my Aunt Katheryn was, perhaps in her own way, as courageous as the Catholic Mr. M. However, getting to know rather well the saintly Mr. M. made me doubt the wisdom of my father's deep hostility against the Catholic Church. In total, I began to see our religion as little more that a collection of fallacious tales mixed thoroughly with many types of bigotry.

Still - as I explained in my physics video - I could not bring myself to part with my fundamentalism until I could see absolutely no resolution for my doubt. But, finally, as a soldier in Korea a bit more than seven years after that parallax observation of the moon when I was 16, I no longer could claim to be a believer.

*The Southern Baptist Convention in those days was much more lilberal than most of the churches. But this bigotry against blacks now has faded even from Southern Baptist churches, and blacks no longer are my former church's favorite "socially acceptable victim." In fact, I have been told that blacks now may be in the majority there; could gays be their new socially-acceptable victims?

**
star

The star of the east seen by the wise men, as described in the second chapter of Matthew, was the five-pointed star of intuition seen by any deeply meditating person at the point between the eyebrows. Yoganandaji says:

The star of the East that led the Three Wise Men to Christ was no physical star, but rather a spiritual star. It would be impossible for such a planetary body to suddenly appear and remain so close to the earth without a collision.

Absence of visible material light is darkness. But behind material darkness is the spiritual light, which is everywhere. When you pierce the darkness of closed physical eyes, you behold the light of the spiritual eye - the intuitive, all-seeing eye of the soul. Through that spiritual eye you can enter the sphere of awakened silence. It is there, behind the clouds of darkness, that you perceive Christ. Today we will prepare our minds by meditation until our entire consciousness passes through that telescopic eye and beholds the overspreading divine consciousness of the Infinite Christ. - The Second Coming of Christ, p1539-40

wise men
The wise men saw in their intuitive spiritual eye at the
point between the eyebrows the location of the manger.
Painting by Murillo, copyright expired.

















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