You probably have seen it before in a movie or a novel, the guy or gal who desires to do what is right yet is lured by some weakness, blackmail in respect of some past sin or misbehavior, or offer of money to indulge in wrong or evil actions.
Whenever there is ambivalence about committing of evil actions towards others, such as stealing of others’ property, murder, perjury etc. , there clearly is belief that regardless of whatever benefits it confers, evil is normatively wrong. If evil were not perceived to be normatively wrong, offer of money in exchange for any ‘evil’ would be jumped at, not induce any ambivalence whatsoever.
In addition to normativeness of perception of evil as wrong behavior, there exists odes of evidence that in the long-run, payoffs to evil turn out bad. While there may be some movies which deviate from this premise, at the very least 95% of movies end with evil not paying off as planned, with explicit lesson that evil does not pay. If doing of evil does not pay, doing of the right thing is the only remaining alternative, the only rational action on which to embark. Blockbuster movies such as the Star Trek series, The Matrix Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy etc. all are set in struggle of good versus evil, such that regardless of seeming irrationality of the odds, good eventually triumphs over evil.
Outside of movies and novels, outcomes of peoples’ lives such as those of Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles I etc. lend credence to the well received notion that in the long run, evil does not pay. Consider Napoleon Bonaparte. Having established himself as a brilliant general with whom no one really wants to engage in battle, Napoleon could have had a very peaceful reign in France, with focus on improving of French lives. Brilliance in war you see is most useful not for attempts at conquering, but for deterrence of attacks from enemies. On the contrary, blinded by his brilliance, Napoleon dragged France over and over into battles until his demise at Waterloo. How exactly one wonders could the French ever have colonized England? Attempting to colonize people who are as sophisticated as you are in knowledge, science, technology, arts etc. is an exercise in futility. Africa was easily colonized because it was backward in knowledge, science, technology, and the arts. Yes, there was individual brilliance in the arts, yet there was none of the progression in knowledge and form evident in European art. In Napoleon’s dissociation of demonstration of his brilliance from welfare of his people, Napoleon devolved into demagoguery.
Outcomes of lives such as those of Jesus Christ, William Wilberforce, Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale etc. show commitment to what is good creates a lasting footprint on the sands of time. Nelson Mandela got released from prison, divorced the wife who seemingly had stood by him all the while he had languished in prison. The whole world hardly noticed. In his pursuit of reconciliation with those who hurt him we figured the marriage failed not due to lack of ingratitude, but lack of compatibility. After all, how can a man capable of forgiving those who hurt him lack capacity for appreciation of a wife who stood by him all that while? But then after more than 20 years in prison, there are excesses of life a man committed to reconciliation with others may lack capacity for toleration. Winnie Mandela was known for excesses.
Given we all die, and good people sometimes are killed by evil people, in equilibrium, death or manner of death is irrelevant to how we are perceived. Each of Scots and Irish celebrate people hanged or decapitated by England. Christians believe in a man who was crucified by Jews and Romans. Today, we continue to quote Socrates, a man condemned to death by his own people. In light of irrelevance of death and manner of death, all that matters for how we are remembered is how we live — our actions, our choices, what we choose to love. Whether in the movies or in real life, there exists strong credible evidence that in the long-run commitment to good trumps commitment to evil.
Whenever people turn away from a truth to which they have been exposed, meaning they recognize a truth from afar but seek to avoid having to acknowledge that truth, there always exists some benefit to which they seek to cling, some benefit they believe is endangered by acknowledgement of a new truth. While maintenance of a belief in danger of being shown not to be true cannot necessarily be construed to be devolution into evil, it is easy to show that it induces long-running cognitive dissonance, dissonance which eventually can short circuit well functioning of the mind.
Suppose for instance that a person refuses to believe that the earth orbits the sun. This person holds on to the totally disreputable belief that the sun orbits the earth. In context of this belief, it becomes impossible for the earth to be viewed in juxtaposition to either of Mars or Mercury. If Mars and Mercury also have suns, there can no longer be one sun in the planetary system. If Mars and Mercury orbit the earth’s sun, their paths must be totally out of sync with the orbit of the earth — the orbit of the earth no longer can be the third of eight concentric orbits around the sun. We find then that automatically there no longer can exist one planetary system consisting of eight or nine planets. In so far Einstein’s famous law is concerned, given it must be the case that it is the earth’s gravitational pull that keeps the sun in orbit, the speed of light becomes somewhat irrelevant; understanding of gravity possesses more importance and practical value for life on earth than understanding of speed of light. In presence of refusal to acknowledge the new truth — that the earth revolves around the sun — it becomes impossible to arrive at truths such as existence of one planetary system and importance of light for life.
Since truth must normatively be construed to be good, rejection of truth, which induces paths that lead further and further away from the truth, must, in absence of a vacuum between good and evil induce devolution into evil or wrong actions. Think falsifying evidence for the belief that the sun orbits the earth. We have then that there exists a link between what we believe and the course of our actions — good or evil.
Which then is more important for maintenance of good actions, ‘belief that what is good triumphs over what is evil’, or ‘commitment to belief in truth’. When there does not exist commitment to belief in truth, society becomes divided into factions — those who believe the truth, and those who shy away from the truth. In absence of a vacuum, shying away from the truth must induce belief in something that is not true.
Who then is capable of doing wrong things? The faction who believes the truth, or the faction which shies away from the truth. But shying away from the truth already is normatively a wrong action, a wrong action which necessitates more of wrong beliefs and actions for its maintenance. We find then that regardless of belief that good triumphs over evil, shying away from truth, which induces belief in an error and is itself a wrong course of action induces more of wrong beliefs and actions, resulting in groups of people who believe in doing good but commit themselves to support for something which, were they to admit the evidence, they readily would accept to be false. If falsehood cannot be true, how exactly can falsehood produce what is good?
When the mind is compromised by a deliberate shying away from truth, while the mind can continue to believe good is better than evil, it can lack the capacity or power for implementation of its belief in normative value of good.
When the mind loves truth, seeks truth, promotes truth, healthy vigor endowed on the mind by demonstrated cognitive consistency strengthens capacity for practice of the belief that good is better than evil.
So then “is it faith that is most important for conquering of fear of doing what is right?” Quite the contrary. A person may believe in normativeness of what is good, yet have yet to develop love for what is good. A man may believe stealing is wrong, yet steal. A woman may believe cheating on her husband is wrong, yet have in herself some innate desire for extramarital sex. Practical evidence? Why would a man confess to being kleptomaniac if there was not dissonance between beliefs and actions? Why would a woman confess to being nymphomaniac if there was not dissonance between beliefs and actions. We have then that in presence of faith for what is good, capacity or love for doing of what is good can be lacking. While there must be faith that ultimately good triumphs over evil, and this without shame, it is love of the truth, love for what is right, love for what is noble which ensures faith (belief in normative rightness of what is good) does not fail us whenever we are tempted to resort to a course of evil.
Love we conclude is what powers faith into action, that is, is the power of faith. Without love for what is good, faith for what is good is mere mental assent, mental assent which lacks power for activation of its own beliefs. Mental assent, the sort of which creates hypochondriacs who hate drugs, kleptomaniacs who hate stealing, and nymphomaniacs who believe they ought to be able to choose whom to have sex with and when.
We have then that Jesus and His Apostles truly are right. Since hope must be built on faith, in presence of faith, hope, love, the greatest of these indeed is Love.