One of the interesting things about religion is the assurance that no matter what happens, the good guys will win the end. In fact, it’s often suggested that things will become quite bad before the final victory, as if it is all part of the plan.
In the absence of this conviction, we must consider the thought that there is no cosmic purpose behind any particular outcome; that everything is simply a result of our collective choices and it’s quite possible, if not likely, for “the good guys” (whatever that actually is) to not win (you don’t need to be religious or spiritual to believe “good will naturally prevail,” but I’m not sure how you can really justify such a thought otherwise. Feel free to enlighten me).
Both mindsets have the potential to be simultaneously beneficial and dangerous. The belief that disaster is inevitable before victory can lead to complacency, if not actual encouragement of the propagation of said disaster, yet it could also lead to increased preparedness and compassion for people who will be affected. On the other hand, the belief that we completely control our own destinies could result in a vigorous effort to bring about a result we consider to be positive or at least satisfactory. However, it could also result in a feeling of hopelessness if that result is not what we desired.
As you might be aware, I personally identify as a non-spiritual atheist, so I find myself firmly in that second camp. I try to convince myself, however naively, that the majority of human beings are basically good. They are not perfect, but they value goodness to an extent that goodness should prevail, or so I reassure myself. In spite of this, I frequently get a stinging suspicious that there isn’t enough good in the world to overcome all of the–and I can’t think of a good word to put here. “Evil” is much too dramatic.
In most fiction, the villains are generally much more powerful than the heroes. Doctor Doom is smarter, stronger, and more resourceful than the Fantastic Four. Darth Vader is more intimidating and skilled than Luke Skywalker, and he has a huge army at his command. Even Councilman Jeremy Jamm from Parks and Recreation has more money and influence than Leslie Knope. But in fiction, the heroes always win because they are unyielding, clever, and pure of heart.
The question is, does positivity actually outweigh negativity in real life? It really doesn’t seem to. In fact, it often feels like a little bit of greed, dishonesty, and corruption is worth a whole lot more than a whole lot of love and compassion. That, I suppose, is why we use fiction as a form of escapism.
So what then, is our resolution? As I mentioned, hopelessness is an option. If it feels that the odds are stacked against us and the obstacles are insurmountable, we might start to question the point of even trying. I am not quite there, though. We’ve seen positive change, we’ve seen the world get better, we know that it is possible. And if it isn’t possible on a worldwide or national scale, it is certainly possible in our inner circles and our local communities. Whether or not there is more good than bad in the world, I still believe that there is enough good to make a difference. I don’t think that improvement is inevitable though. I think it will only come through hard work, compassion, and patience. And for now, I am willing to put that hypothesis to the test.