The finale of LOST ends with all the main characters gathered together in a church awaiting passage into “heaven” from some kind of purgatory state. For fans, the ending was emotionally riveting: most of the beloved characters reunited with the person they love most with the hope of being together forever. This scene made the message of the show clear. Though the characters were portrayed as being “lost” – both literally and metaphorically – in the end they are all “found” or saved, arriving at an ultimate destination of bliss. Jack’s father describes this destination as “This is the place you all made together so you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people.” No matter the path they took in life, no matter their fate on the island, they “move on” into eternity with this beloved community.
This “all roads lead to heaven” (or most roads? it’s hard to tell who is excluded and why) idea is reinforced by the conspicuous stained-glass window in the room where the coffin of Jack’s father was held. Unlike such a window in a typical church, this window does not contain a scene from the Bible or a depiction of the cross, but is a mosaic of the symbols of the major world religions. This window symbolizes the popular belief that all religions are basically the same and that each is just a different way to heaven. This belief emerges from the skeptical view shared by the producers that “These heady questions are ultimately unanswerable, and we know the audience is hoping that those things are going to be answered. The great mysteries of life fundamentally can’t be addressed.” Thus, the show raises ultimate questions such as what is the meaning of life, what happens when we die, and what determines our destiny, but does not attempt to provide straight, conclusive answers.
Though such questions are difficult to answer, and though there are a plurality of different answers in the world, it does not logically follow that therefore they are unanswerable or that all viewpoints are equally valid, just different. In fact, the producers/writers are advocating a particular religious worldview that is by no means shared by all and opposed by other worldviews. To claim that religious beliefs are personal and subjective, and therefore equal, is a view that excludes the opposing view that some religious beliefs are better than others and therefore have an objective quality. It is also a view that is the product of a particular culture, namely 21st century post-modern Western culture. To say that religious beliefs are cultural contingent, and therefore there are no absolute religious truths, is itself a culturally contingent position that claims absolute status.
Truth by its very nature is exclusive. To affirm something as true is to deny its antithesis or opposite. Otherwise, nothing meaningful can be claimed to be known. What is called the law of contradiction – that two opposing claims cannot both be true in the same time and the same sense – is the foundation of logical thought and therefore of knowledge. Indeed, one cannot argue against this law without affirming it (to deny the reality of the law requires using the law). The belief that all religions lead to heaven excludes its opposite that there is one religion that leads to heaven. If truth is exclusive, then all religions are exclusive in some way. The fundamental question then is “on what basis do religions exclude people?” It is the answer to this question that distinguishes religions from each other and that ultimately sets the Christian faith apart from all others.
To be continued…