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Sources

Larson: Summer for the Gods (Modified)

Some of the language and phrasing in this document has been modified from the original.

Head Note: Edward J. Larson is a historian who wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book on the Scopes trial called Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and Americaís Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. He traces the rise of fundamentalist Christianity in the 1920s. Fundamentalists opposed "modernism," which claimed that humans wrote the Bible and that its stories should be interpreted, rather than assumed to be literally true.

Middle ground did exist between modernism and fundamentalism but gained little attention in the public debate surrounding the Scopes trial.

The popular press seemed intent on pitting fundamentalists against modernists or against agnostics, all of whom scorned the middle. Christians caught in the middle sat on the sidelines.

"The thing that we got from the Scopes trial," one editorial observed, was that the most "sincere believers in religion" simply wanted to avoid the origins dispute altogether. "Some have their religion, but they are afraid if they get involved in the debate, they will lose it. Some are in the position of believing, but fear they can not prove their belief."

Source: Excerpt from historian Edward Larsonís book, Summer for the Gods, 1997.