Larson: Summer for the Gods

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 trial of Scopes," a Memphis Commercial Appeal 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 go out and mix in the fray 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.