Mr Holmes always found enough indisputable evidence to solve the mystery and prove the guilt of even the craftiest of criminals. He made it seem easy, obvious, elementary.
We accept all sorts of things without proof. Besides subjects of debate and controversy such as the human factor in climate change, to say nothing of our political and racial prejudices which often replace rational judgement, we accept on faith, without proof, that the food we are being served in a restaurant or which we purchase in a store is not dangerous, that the pilot of our plane is not on drugs and that the banker, insurance salesman or the vendor at the door can be trusted. We prefer proofs, but often have to take somebody’s word for it and hope for the best.
When it comes to religious belief – the existence of God, the reality of an after-life or the divine inspiration of the Bible – most people believe because they have been told that such things are true. Most intelligent people admit that you cannot prove either that God exists or that He doesn’t. There are, however, some theologians who continue to trot out the Five “Proofs” of St Thomas Aquinas, and even some who expect and challenge atheists to “prove” the non-existence of God. (Atheists, of course, do not need to even try to disprove God’s existence, any more than anyone can be expected to prove that leprechauns do not exist.) The dialogue of the deaf about God’s existence has ceased to interest me entirely. I can understand why some people would consider many physical phenomena, including the beauty and complexity of “creation”, as irrefutable indications if not proofs of a divine First Cause and Intelligent Designer, why others attribute to God certain extraordinary, unexplainable events which they believe are “miracles”, or perhaps less spectacular occurrences in their own lives as direct, divine answers to prayers, and, finally, why some believers’ unshakable faith is based on a quasi-mystical personal experience. I have already suggested in previous Reflections that I am prepared even to accept, for the sake of discussion, that God in fact does exist, but that even if He did I would still find theological elucubrations so incredible and religion so ridiculous that I believe we should live our lives as if He didn’t.
No one has ever “proved” or will ever “prove” the existence of God. For me to accept the practice of religion, I would need proof of what is at the heart of religious belief : that we have an immortal soul, and that what purports to be Sacred Scripture is the revealed word of God. These are the foundations of Christian faith. I have spent my life examining them and found them not only unbelievable but pure fantasies of human invention and wishful thinking. I do not share Sherlock Holmes’ arrogance, but without calling it elementary, I would dare to affirm that the conclusion is inescapable :