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4973Re: : RE: SHSI Re: Was Sherlock Holmes an atheist?

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  • Jay Ganguly
    Sep 30, 2015
      Agree with Sumalji. I would say Sherlock Holmes most likely believed in a higher power, but probably spurned any ritualistic behaviour which didn't make much sense to him. I don't think he'd be one to go to church every Sunday, but I don't think he's a complete atheist either. I can easily imagine him reading through literature on several religions. (NAVA: “There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner.”) Maybe he wrote a monograph! Also - unless he was interested in religion, why would he visit the Lama in Tibet? And he does keep a Bible at home.

      I don't think he's an atheist, though. As Sumalji has pointed out, he did go to the chapel when he was younger and definitely knew his biblical tales (eidetic memory, I suspect - and he'd have deleted it if he thought it was completely useless). Maybe he went to churches/chapels/monasteries for the peace and quiet rather than to worship. 

      I've noticed that he tends to invoke God when he's undergoing a powerful emotion - and humans tend to fall back upon their natural reaction, which is more often than not inculcated during childhood, when emotions are running high. Some examples:
      HOUN: “That we should have heard his screams—my God, those screams!—and yet have been unable to save him!”
      FRAN: “Good heavens, Watson, what has become of any brains that God has given me? Quick, man, quick!”
      And my favourite: 3GAR: “You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”

      Then, he believes in God's blessings/benevolence:
      FIVE: “That hurts my pride, Watson,” he said at last. “It is a petty feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon this gang. That he should come to me for help, and that I should send him away to his death—!” He sprang from his chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation, with a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and unclasping of his long thin hands.
      EMPT: “Halfway down I slipped, but by the blessing of God I landed, torn and bleeding, upon the path.”
      LAST: “But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

      He swears by God:
      THOR: “With the help of the god of justice I will give you a case which will make England ring.”
      3GAR: His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. “By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?”

      And, when he's contemplative...BOSC: “God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence. “Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’ ”

      My personal hypothesis is that he was brought up with Christian values - perhaps a bit on the liberal side. (Being the genius he is, I can imagine how he'd have driven the local priest wild with his questions!) Later in life, when he could exercise his own choice, he probably chose to simply do away with the ritualistic side of it or the aspects which he didn't agree with or couldn't see the point of - but that does not mean that he gave up believing in God (or a higher power). One doesn't need to regularly visit a Church/Temple/Mosque to believe in God. As Mycroft says, his brother has the mind of a scientist or a philosopher. Both classes tend to think logically, to reason things out - and may, to "normal" people, appear strangely fluid and contradictory at times. Does Holmes appear spiritual, religious, agnostic, secular and several other things at different points of time? Yes, probably. I think he believed when he had a reason to believe.

      Jayantika Ganguly
      General Secretary and Editor, Sherlock Holmes Society of India
      Member, Sherlock Holmes Society of London
      Member, Ceska spolecnost Sherlocka Holmese
      Author, "The Holmes Sutra", MX Publishing, 2014 
      Author, "The Adventure of the Defenestrated Princess", The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (Part I: 1881 - 1889), MX Publishing, 2015

      On Wednesday, September 30, 2015 12:06 PM, sumalsn <no_reply@...> wrote:

      Dear Holmesians,
      As a further addition to the debate, I would like to bring out Sherlock Holmes has a fairly good knowledge of the Bible as he has demonstrated  in the Crooked Man, when he identifies the epithet "David" as a term of reproach, a reference to the story of Uriah and Bathsheba. Dr Watson missed it though!
      Sumal S

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