At the University of Edinburgh, he joined in the general admiration of “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Professor Thomas Huxley, who coined the term “agnosticism” only a few years earlier.
For Conan Doyle, though, this spiritual crisis was no mere fad. “I remember,” he wrote, “that when, as a grown lad, I heard Father Murphy, a great fierce Irish priest, declare that there was sure damnation for everyone outside the church, I looked upon him with horror, and to that moment I trace the first rift which has grown into such a chasm between me and those who were my guides.”
This chasm would grow wider over time. “Is religion the only domain of thought which is non-progressive,” he would write in an early novel, “and to be referred forever to a standard set two thousand years ago? Can they not see as the human brain evolves it must take a wider outlook? A half-formed brain makes a half-formed God, and who shall say that our brains are even half-formed yet?”
Clearly Conan Doyle had thought deeply on the matter, but no matter how sincere his feelings, and no matter how passionately he expressed them, the London Doyles could not see past the perceived affront. The offer of patronage was withdrawn.
So much of what I had gathered from his fictional works seems to come together here.