[The following is Part I of The Skeptic and the Believer series. Click here to read the entire dialogue.]

Skeptic: It's not going to happen.

Believer: Why not?

Skeptic: Universal brotherhood, swords into plowshares, the eradication of evil... give me a break!

Believer: Again, why not?

Skeptic: Humanity is why not. Look at its bloodstained history, look at what's going on today. Let's face it, man is a selfish animal. His only true goal in life is self-fulfillment, and he'll trample and destroy everything in his path to get what he wants.

Believer: And such, in your view, is the basic nature of every human being? Including yourself, for example?

Skeptic: Of course! I'm just as selfish as anyone else. I try to be decent, but I know that I've hurt and wronged others in the course of my life.

Believer: So this is how you see yourself — as this evil monster...

Skeptic: No, that's not what I said. I try to do the right thing. But my selfish instincts often get the better of me.

Believer: But deep down, in your heart of hearts, you know that you can do better...

Skeptic: Okay. Let us say that if I truly put my mind and will to it, I can make my behavior consistent with what I know to be right. How would that change anything? There are another six billion people on our planet!

Believer: Aren't we employing a double standard here? "I'm basically good, but everyone else is evil."

Skeptic: And if most people are essentially good, where has that gotten us in the last few thousand years? Even a single evil act can do a lot of damage. A single madman can undo the positive accomplishments of many well-meaning individuals.

Believer: Why not the other way around? Why not a single positive act having a far-reaching influence? If one Hitler can murder millions and wreck havoc on the lives of hundreds of millions of others, why not a Moshiach who kindles the latent good in every human being? Basically what you're saying is that evil is more powerful than good.

Skeptic: It probably is. I would like it to be otherwise. It ought to be otherwise. But it seems to be that way.

Believer: But you yourself said that you feel that the good within you is more powerful than your selfish drives — that if you believed it would make a real difference, you could overpower them. If one person can do it, every person can do it.

Skeptic: Theoretically, you are right, but I don't see it happening. It's just not realistic.

Believer: You know, good and evil are often referred to as "light" and "darkness". Think of it this way: darkness, no matter how intimidating, is not a thing or force. It is merely the absence of light. So light need not combat and overpower darkness in order to displace it — where light is, darkness is not. In the same way, evil is no match for good. Good is the basic state of human nature —you, me, and everyone else sense this to be true of ourselves —whereas the "evil" in us is merely the obscuring and distortion of this truth. The moment your true self comes to light, the darkness melts away.

Skeptic: That's a beautiful way of putting it, and I would agree that most of us view their own selves this way. But to say that there will come a day when every human being will make that move... As I said, it's simply not realistic.

Believer: I think that your problem with the idea of Moshiach is not a rational one, or one of personal prejudice. You seem to agree that my world view makes perfect sense. And you certainly have nothing to lose and everything to gain from a harmonious and perfect world. It's just a certain internal block, a habitual distrust of your fellow man...

Skeptic: Well, I do live in New York City...

Believer: You agree with everything I say, except for the conclusion.

Skeptic: You're right. I just don't buy it.