И прочие вечные вопросы :)
Stephen, who had been listening to the unspoken speech behind the words, said with assumed carelessness:
—Pascal, if I remember rightly, would not suffer his mother to kiss him as he feared the contact of her sex.
—Pascal was a pig, said Cranly.
—Aloysius Gonzaga, I think, was of the same mind, Stephen said.
—And he was another pig then, said Cranly.
—The church calls him a saint, Stephen objected.
—I don't care a flaming damn what anyone calls him, Cranly said rudely and flatly. I call him a pig.
Stephen, preparing the words neatly in his mind, continued:
—Jesus, too, seems to have treated his mother with scant courtesy in public but Suarez, a jesuit theologian and Spanish gentleman, has apologized for him.
—Did the idea ever occur to you, Cranly asked, that Jesus was not what he pretended to be?
—The first person to whom that idea occurred, Stephen answered, was Jesus himself.
—I mean, Cranly said, hardening in his speech, did the idea ever occur to you that he was himself a conscious hypocrite, what he called the jews of his time, a whited sepulchre? Or, to put it more plainly, that he was a blackguard?
—That idea never occurred to me, Stephen answered. But I am curious to know are you trying to make a convert of me or a pervert of yourself?
He turned towards his friend's face and saw there a raw smile which some force of will strove to make finely significant.
Cranly asked suddenly in a plain sensible tone:
—Tell me the truth. Were you at all shocked by what I said?
—Somewhat, Stephen said.
—And why were you shocked, Cranly pressed on in the same tone, if you feel sure that our religion is false and that Jesus was not the son of God?
—I am not at all sure of it, Stephen said. He is more like a son of God than a son of Mary.
—And is that why you will not communicate, Cranly asked, because you are not sure of that too, because you feel that the host, too, may be the body and blood of the son of God and not a wafer of bread? And because you fear that it may be?
—Yes, Stephen said quietly, I feel that and I also fear it.
—I see, Cranly said.
Stephen, struck by his tone of closure, reopened the discussion at once by saying:
—I fear many things: dogs, horses, fire-arms, the sea, thunder-storms, machinery, the country roads at night.
—But why do you fear a bit of bread?
—I imagine, Stephen said, that there is a malevolent reality behind those things I say I fear.
—Do you fear then, Cranly asked, that the God of the Roman catholics would strike you dead and damn you if you made a sacrilegious communion?
—The God of the Roman catholics could do that now, Stephen said. I fear more than that the chemical action which would be set up in my soul by a false homage to a symbol behind which are massed twenty centuries of authority and veneration.
—Would you, Cranly asked, in extreme danger, commit that particular sacrilege? For instance, if you lived in the penal days?
—I cannot answer for the past, Stephen replied. Possibly not.
—Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?
—I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?