Haines offers Stephen a cigarette, and asks directly about Stephen’s beliefs.
Haines has not spent much time around Stephen, but has heard enough and seen enough to assume that a person with such a strong bohemian affect can’t possibly believe in God, or at least not in the conventional God of the church. After all, Haines knows that Stephen has refused to pray at his dying mother’s bedside–proof that Joyce’s attitude towards religion, and the Catholic church specifically, was complex.
On the one hand, he could not bring himself to believe. On the other, he had a profound respect for the culture and learning of the church; he knew more about it and its doctrines than most believers. He took it very seriously, and he took his refusal to believe very seriously. His respect for the church amplified his defiance of it. Stephen, who is to a large extent Joyce’s alter ego in Ulysses, clearly does not want to identify with Haines’ attitudes towards religion, but cannot pretend to really believe either. We’ll watch Stephen continue to negotiate this paradox for… the rest of the book, really.
Rob has carefully drawn Haines’ cigarette case, which is described as a “smooth silver case in which twinkled a green stone.” It’s a deft symbol for the English Hibernophile… Ireland, of course, is often referred to as the “Emerald Isle,” as a beautiful green stone. Its setting in a silver case also recalls a line from Shakespeare’s Richard II, in which England is referred to as a “precious stone set in a silver sea.” Ireland has been substituted for England, but only as a kind of token.