God In America
A Nation Reborn/A New LightEpisode Guide »
The third hour explores how religion suffused the Civil War. As slavery split the nation in two, Northern abolitionists and Southern slaveholders turned to the Bible to support their cause. Former slave and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass condemned Christianity for sanctioning slavery. In the White House, Abraham Lincoln, who had put his faith in reason over revelation, struggled to make sense of the war's carnage and the death of his young son. In his anquish Lincoln embarked on a spiritual journey that transformed his ideas about God and the ultimate meaning of the war. The next hour focuses on the 19th century, when the forces of modernity challenged traditional faith and drove a wedge between liberal and conservative believers. An immigrant from Bohemia, Isaac Meyer Wise, embraced change and established Reform Judaism in America while his opponents adhered to Old World traditions. In New York, Presbyterian biblical scholar Charles Briggs sought to wed his evangelical faith with modern biblical scholarship, leading to his trial for heresy. In the 1925 Scopes evolution trial, Christian fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan faced off against freethinker Clarence Darrow in a battle between scientific and religious truth.