Main Article Content
The notion of the United States as a “godly nation” does not designate an uncontested fact, but comes from the majoritarian culture of Protestant Evangelicals who have never ceased making the claim since the earliest years of the nation. The idea is contentious, and the task of scholars of unbelief in American history has been to make this point in voluble terms. Leigh Eric Schmidt’s book admirably charts an important period of this history, from the Civil War to the first decades of the twentieth century. During this time the public discourse of unbelief was loudly shaped by a series of colorful personalities whose careers Schmidt deftly limns in four very readable and entertaining chapters: Samuel Putnam, Watson Heston, Charles Reynolds, and Elmina Drake Slenker.