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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Communism and socialism compared to religious sects

In this interesting, though convoluted, passage, Durr explains how for her the debate between Communists, socialists, and Bolsheviks remained inane. To illustrate why, she describes the futility she had seen in the fights between different religions, and includes some of her personal experiences in a fringe denomination in the rural South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Socialists and communists were the same thing to me. As far as I was concerned, they were both Bolsheviks. The fact is, as I say, I thought everybody who was a member of a union was a Bolshevik. You know I was so at the point of political ignorance at that point, that all these divisions. I still thought in terms, you know, of the New Deal and the people fighting the unions and fighting the poll tax. But all this intricate stuff about who was a Trotskyite and who was a and who was a Communist and who was a socialist and who belonged this block-it went over my head like the wind because I didn't know what . . . it didn't interest me and I didn't know what they were talking about. What I was trying to do was get rid of the poll tax. I thought that was the first step to getting the South freed of all these terrible burdens it had. I was very strong for the labor unions because I had seen the suffering out in Ensley and Pratt City and so on. So I was strong for the unions. But that esoteric politics was over my head, at that point. I finally got on to it. [You had to learn.] I learned. It used to bore me to death, because as I said I always felt exactly like, are you going to get to heaven by dipping or sprinkling or total emersion. You know I'd been brought up in that all my life, so it seemed to me exactly the same thing. I didn't see any difference in it atall because here they were talking about building a new society a utopia where everybody would have peace and plenty and love each other, you know, like heaven. But by God if you weren't dipped, you'd never get there. If you were sprinkled, you wouldn't get there. Or total emersion. Or then there used to be the foot washing Baptists, do you remember that? If you didn't have your feet washed, you'd never get to heaven. You see, having been brought up in the Presbyterian Church, you know, and going through all of Daddy's troubles about Jonah and the whale and walking on the water. I must have irritated them very much too, because I thought a lot of it was very amusing. Iused to think it was a joke. I really thought it was silly, and I still think a lot of it was just the silliest thing in the world. Just the way I get upset today about all these fights among this handful of people whether they're Octoberists or revisionists or this that and the other. You know the whole thing to me seemed silly. Maybe I'm wrong about it. But you see I went through that all the years of my life when Daddy was a preacher. I used to hear . . .I think that Christianity has been ruined by theology, very much of it has been, don't you agree? [Tell me what you mean by that.] I mean the teachings of religion, not Jesus Christ and Judaism, every religion that you know, even the Asiatic religions or any religion that I've ever studied. When I was at Wellesley, you know, you had to take Bible, and you studied comparative religions. This was part of the required course. But it seemed to me the essential point of every religion that I've ever studied is to treat each other . . . you know, the golden rule, treat people like you want them to treat you. But it seems to me that is the essence of religion, is to treat other people as you would have them treat you. Well very few people ever accomplish that, but I think the theology, whether the Buddha has four arms or two, or whether you bath in the river or whether you have foot-washing Baptists. Why up there in Mentone, Alabama you see I'd gone to the Holy Roller meetings, and I'd seen people let themselves be bitten by snakes and picking up hot lamp chimneys and drinking poison green. You know we used to go to these Holy Roller meetings up there all the time, just as a joke really. It was all these crazy country folk from way back in the mountains. We would sit there, and they'd let themselves be bitten by snakes. You never saw them handle the snakes? Scariest thing you ever saw. Scared me out of my wits. I'd get out of there as quick as I could when they started handling the snakes. The idea was that the spirit of God was with you and nothing would hurt you. And the snake couldn't bite you and hot lamp chimney couldn't burn you and the poison green couldn't poison you. And then they'd get the jerks. They'd dance before the Lord, you know. They'd have these movements where they'd get up and dance. Have you ever seen them roll? You know they would finally get so possessed by the spirit they'd roll on the floor, and really, you know, just roll from side to side and scream and yell, you know. It always came on in the lay-by period after crops had been gathered, at the end of August, usually, before they started picking the cotton and the corn. There was always a period in there when they had revivals and Holy Roller meetings. [You think that was the only time of year they did that?] That was the only time I was there. You see I was at Mentone. I'd go to Mentone State June July and August, maybe a little bit in September. But Holy Roller meetings never would start until the end of the summer because everybody was working, you know, in the cotton or the corn crop. What I was saying was, the divisions in the Christian religion have, I think, obscured and ruined almost, very badly hurt the meaning of Christianity, of all religions. Every religion that you look into is really founded on a worship of one god who is the father of all mankind and the idea is to treat each other like you'r like people to treat you. Now that's my idea of religion. But you see being brought up in the Presbyterian Church, and my father a preacher and having him thrown out of the church because he didn't believe in Jonah and the whale or walking on the water. You know, I just couldn't ever believe that you got to heaven because you told your beads four times or because you had your feet washed or because you were sprinkled or dipped or totally emersed. Did you ever believe it? [No, I don't think so.] Well maybe you did, but anyway so much of the political agitation that goes on today seems to me very much like the great fights in . . .instead of the fights being in the church whether you're going to get to spiritual heaven and be sitting on the right hand of god and you know play the harp and forever live in bliss. You know we saw last night on the TV that movie on King Henry VIII. Here was this old brutish lecher changing the whole church and changing all the rules of the church just so he could get another wife. But my point is that today I think people don't believe as much, I mean a lot of people don't believe as much as they did that after you die you're going to heaven if you do right and tell your beads and so on. I think they want heaven on earth. I mean they want to get their share while they're alive. But instead of working together or trying to figure things out so that people will have a fair share, you know, and won't suffer all . . .I think a lot of people are working on that, but then there are so many people that are working on it against it, and then the people that are working for it do it in such different ways. I don't suppose I'm making any sense to you.