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The Conceit of Denying God

April 8, AD2013 13 Comments


I read the news–all bad it seems–and invariably, I think about God. This predilection, not practiced for most of my adult life, now gives me great comfort. And compels me to tell a story.

Once upon a time…

I was in New York City on business visiting some bigwigs––a great address on Park Avenue for those that care. The meeting was to be an important one. As I entered the magnificently designed elevator on the ground floor, there’s another man, smartly dressed, already inside. As we start our upward journey, the perfunctory nods out-of-the-way, we’re jarred by a sudden lurch and we stop.

“When these things happen, I go into a Zen state,” he says.

“Really. I try to solve for the rate of acceleration of a falling object.”

\"\"“You’re a mathematician?” he politely asks.

“No. Just a smart-ass. And you?”

“I’m a professor of theology.”

\"\"“That’s impressive. Well now, since we may have a few moments, can I impose on you? I’d like to hear your proof on the existence of God,” I said.

“Ah, staring at death in a box on a wire. I can do one better. I can prove that He doesn’t exist.”

He teaches theology? Most likely another Marxist secularist with tenure. Or I could be wrong.

He starts. “Let\’s imagine you spend your entire life on a secluded island. During this time, you never meet another human being. Books, CD’s, DVD’s, TVs, tapes, cellular phones, satellite feeds, Internet and Wi-Fi are nonexistent in your hermitically sealed world.”

“How did I get there? What about parents?” Details I wanted answered.

“Fair enough. Your parents live in Bakersfield, California, and one night they do what parents always do. Afterwards, Mom becomes pregnant and then your Dad suddenly dies, of all things. Your Mom, sorry to say, has to now go it alone. Shortly afterwards, pregnant Mom takes a trip to the Caribbean, all expenses paid, because she won some publisher\’s clearinghouse contest. When she ultimately returns home, Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan will be waiting. Waking up hung-over after celebrating her first night away from Bakersfield, please forgive her lapse in judgment, she decides to explore the remote regions of an archipelago, is dinghy wrecked and finds herself stranded on a deserted island. No way out.”

“You teach this stuff?” I ask incredulously.

“My classes have waiting lists. So. Your mother’s quite resourceful. Food, shelter and water are not a problem. Time proceeds as it does, and she delivers you beneath her favorite coconut tree. Key point, she\’s a deaf-mute, so Mom won’t be talkative or much of a teacher about life\’s bigger issues. She nurtures you until you can finally take care of yourself, although you’re still quite young. Then, Mom dies. The irony of it all.”

I’m somewhat curious where this is going.

He continues. “You’re now alone without any outside influences of any kind. You grow older. You survive. A little lonely now and then, but you do splendidly.”

“I’m healthy, right? And tanned, no doubt.”

“A regular Adonis. One glorious fall morning, you awaken to the aquamarine, tropical coolness of Nature\’s breath. Not particularly hungry after gorging on your typical Tuesday menu of blueberries and coconut milk, you decide to sit on the beach, gaze out on the vastness and think. ‘Oh God, what have I done wrong? Why has life turned out this way? Why am I being punished to a life of solitude? Have I been less than moral? Have I done bad things? Have I not been your good servant? Have I talked trash about Jesus? What do I have to do to get into heaven?’”

“Reasonable questions,” I inject.

“So you think? Now we get to the good stuff, because there are a few things wrong and nothing right with this beach scenario. First, sitting there, you can’t articulate words because you’ve never been taught a language. Second, your questions belong in the intellectual domain and you’ve never been to that territory. Third, knowledge is an essential element when exploring the heterogeneity of thought, and you know nothing more than survival basics. To be blunt, you know squat. My point is you won’t be engaging, and never will, in far-reaching philosophical monologues about God or death or pattern baldness even.”

“So you’re saying that given the circumstances of my secluded island life, I could never possibly know about God.”

“In my scenario, righto.”

“You’ve only proven I don’t know about God. He may still exist,” I said.

“Then what a spiteful being He must be. Hiding Himself from you. If man’s relationship with God is the pivotal reason for our existence, He would do everything in His unlimited power to introduce Himself. But He doesn’t. Does spite define love, God’s alter ego? Of course not. Ergo, no God.”

Another lurch, and we once again begin to move up. At the twentieth floor, my floor, the elevator opens and I step out. I turn, put my hand on the polished aluminum doors to prevent them from closing, and look at a man who is pleased with his denial of God. I then offer wisdom I was taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

\”Since Christ died for all and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved.”

The professor starts to speak but hesitates. “I need to think about that. Perhaps I’ll see you on the way down.”

“If down is hell, I’ll pass.”


Left to their own finite abilities, people will sometimes deny God, at least their understanding of God, without ever knowing the truth about the authentic God. Because if they were open to that truth, with His grace, an entirely different light would illuminate the fallacy of their thinking.

© 2013. Marcus Allen Steele. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Educated in zoology (B.S.) and business (M.B.A.), Marcus Allen Steele has been a Marine Captain, Harrier fighter pilot and screenwriter and has worked with the best and brightest in micropaleontology, real estate development and institutional investment.

He’s also been represented by the head literary agent at a major talent agency, appeared on TV demonstrating the spectacular AV8 Harrier, been pictured on the cover of USA Today for no good reason other than dating somebody famous, been recruited by the CIA, given speeches to the largest institutional investors in the world, been a poster child for idiocy, briefed the Chinese Defense Minister on secret stuff, survived a jet crash, been featured in a Japanese golf magazine, experienced miracles and talked to God (his most satisfying achievement).

Since Marcus is a former atheist who converted to Catholicism, more times than not he sees and writes about the world through a spiritual lens––with a touch of irreverence and humor thrown in to keep things interesting. At this point in his life, nudging people towards God and the Catholic Church is his mission. His writing interests are religion, culture, politics, the military, business and news items occasionally out of left field. Marcus is a partner in a real estate capital firm and lives in Roseville, California, with his beloved dog Lani.

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  • Longshanks

    Somewhere between the poorly told story with the Theology professor who had never heard the catholic definition of god and reading your C.V., my suspension of disbelief broke down.


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  • Bek

    I love that the simplicity and truth of your answer just left him floored 🙂 Can’t help but note the extreme lengths he had to go to in order to attempt to contrive a scenario where the knowledge of God would be unattainable.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    You nicely describe the cancer of our age: the existence of God posited on knowledge of Him by man. It, like everything else these days, is anthropocentric. God is a creation of man, rather than man being a creation of God. God simply does not depend on what man thinks about Him in order to exist. But because man is made in God’s image (not vice versa), it is inevitable that man will come to know something about God’s existence when he reaches out in love – it will resonate of something transcendent.

    • MJC

      We are indeed an arrogant lot now. In this climate it’s not easy to see the light! If for those of us who believe are asking “where art Thou”, moreso for those who don’t believe and think themselves to be the grand intellects of the 21stC – like this “prize” Zen character.

  • astran

    Good Story,

    In “about the author” above, you wrote you “survived a jet crash”.
    Did time slow down during that experience? Twice in my life I have had the unnatural/supernatural experience. Teenage hotrodding ends in seeing homogenized milk coming out of a glass bottle and slowly flying right pass my face(passenger side), and not touching anything, while exiting out the driverside window. Happen in a fraction of a second, but I saw what I saw and heard the sound of metal crunching in real time.

    I reckon God “in His unlimited power to introduce Himself” was introducing himself to me, but it takes awhile to get the hint that He really does see/love you. Sometimes it’s just in slow motion.

    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948 (movie)

    Bob Curtin: You know, the worst ain’t so bad when it finally happens. Not half as bad as you figure it’ll be before it’s happened

    • I remember thinking that “this is going to hurt.” And dying occurred to me, you bet. But time continued its usual flow.


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  • Brian A.

    Couldn’t agree more Marcus!

    Recently, I had a similar experience with some individuals on a different website. As I opened myself and asked the Holy Spirit to speak through me for the benefit of all involved, I believe we were treated to some Divinely granted insight.

    While these individuals militantly espoused their own notions regarding God, or God’s “non-existence” as they proffered, I offered a different take; rather, I believe God offered a different take…All good things come from God!

    After a couple of days of “post and reply” communication, there was a deafening silence that occurred. None of the people with whom I was conversing offered a response to my final two replies.

    I just checked this particular website today before coming to Catholic Stand, and as it turns out, anyone desiring to reply to essays on the atheistic/agnostic website I was visiting, must now “sign-up” for a membership before being allowed to do so. I truly have no interest in being a “member” of such a sight…but then again, is that what God is asking me to do in an effort to continue evangelizing?! Don’t know…if He does, His desire will be made known soon enough…His will always is!

    Either way, I can only pray that the Catholic insights I offered touched someone…if only 1-person! But, as we must always do, we’ll leave the rest up to God!

    Great story Marcus! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Semper Fi!

    Aside: I was in both the Navy and Army…the “Old” Navy where I served longer than in the Army. Now, I’m classified as “cannon fodder”…no one wants me there any longer! It’s just as well…I’m enjoying being home with my wife and kids too much now. No more military deployments for me. Now, I just wait for the deployments God asks me to undertake, and I love every one of them.

    It’s nice to meet a fellow/former “brother-in-arms” who is active and evangelical about his Catholic faith! Take care brother! Vivat Iesu!

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