How Heaven LOST


    Warning:  the following article contains spoilers... of your religious beliefs.

Lost The End church

Like everyone else who watched it, I spent the last year pissed off about the final episode of LOST.  Not only was it stupid and logically inconsistent for the flash-sideways to turn out to be Heaven, it also retroactively invalidated the entire show.  Yes, it failed to explain a bunch of stuff we wanted answers to.  But the problem was bigger than that.  An ending of “Surprise! Everyone’s in Heaven!” doesn’t just fail to answer questions — it eliminates the necessity of asking them to begin with.  If everybody just ends up in Heaven, who cares what the Smoke Monster was, or why there was a polar bear, or what the big deal was about Walt or Claire’s baby?  In fact, if everybody just ends up in Heaven, who cares about anything?  Who even cares that all of these people died?  I was pretty damn pissed off.

That is, until I realized that you can just take these same exact objections word-for-word, apply them to real life, and completely invalidate religion.  That cheered me up a little bit. 

Obviously, I realize that I’m not the first skeptic to stumble upon the “If Heaven exists, why are we sad when someone dies?” argument.  I know someone has hit upon that fairly obvious question every time I hear the sound of a five-year old getting slapped by his mom at a funeral.

But LOST did more than just raise this specific objection.  It dramatized every logical extension of it over a six-year period during which people didn’t know where it was going to end up and so didn’t have their resistance raised.  A certain percentage of LOST fans had to have been believers.  And maybe a lot of them were even psyched on some level when the last episode ended up signing off on religion (though, it must be said, not specifically Christianity).

But even religious people aren’t stupid enough to think that the end of LOST was good.  They may have been satisfied as believers, but they must have been outraged as people who just wasted six fucking years giving a shit about LOST.  

Now here’s the thing:  Take that outrage and go right ahead and apply it to your religious beliefs themselves.  Because you know how the last episode of LOST completely shit on the entire rest of LOST?  Well, that’s exactly what belief in an afterlife does to life.  Remember how you felt about the writers of LOST after watching “The End?”  Well, that’s how rationalists have felt about religious people every fucking day for the entire history of human civilization.  Maybe not quite as bad, since the writers of the last episode of LOST never actually went so far as to burn anyone at the stake for pointing out that it was bullshit, but you get my point.

Just to refresh, for people who weren’t paying attention: the Island wasn’t the afterlife “the whole time,” no-one was dead “the whole time,” etc.  Within the continuity of the show, the Island was real, everything that happened on it really happened, and everyone’s dramatized death was really their actual death (except for the re-deaths of people who re-died in the flash-sideways like Keamy, and by the way why the fuck was Keamy even running around Heaven shooting at people to begin with stay on target stay on target).  All of that stuff actually happened in the actual mortal world of the show.

There’s just no reason to give a shit. 

As the last episode of LOST emotionally proved in anyone who was invested in the show, the existence of Heaven doesn’t just mean we shouldn’t be sad when someone dies—it means we shouldn’t be anything when anything.  Why go to school?  Why seek love?  Why cure diseases?  Why track down murderers and put them in jail?  Heck, why not kill people ourselves?  Okay, the corresponding existence of Hell answers that last part — we shouldn’t do bad things because if you do bad things you go to Hell (or become a whisper) instead of Heaven.  But it only answers that last part.  It doesn’t explain why we should care when other people do bad things.  That dude just machine gunned my whole family?  Sweet, they’re in Heaven. 

Although it still makes sense to have sympathy for the physical pain people go through while dying in painful ways, the existence of Heaven would mean that only the pain matters, not the death.  So we shouldn’t have any more sympathy for someone who dies a painful death than we do for someone who, say, undergoes root-canal surgery.  It sucks for a few minutes, and then you’re fine.  Better off than you were before, in fact. 

Lost Juliet Bomb Death
Oh, whatever. In 30 seconds you’ll be a doctor in Heaven.

So, you know that argument religious people have been making for as long as there have been religious people?  The one about how without God there can be no morality?  The one that they think is their number-one trump-card single best argument?  The one that they keep using to “prove” that atheism is inherently a maleficent philosophy that will inevitably lead to utter moral decay, because if you atheists believe what you say you believe then logically there is no reason for you to believe in ethics at all?

Well, right back at you. 

Because it turns out — as you know in your heart if you spent six years watching LOST and were then pissed off by the last episode — that religious people have had this precisely backwards the whole time.  There is actually no reason to believe in ethics if you aren’t an atheist.  Sure, there is a reason to fear punishment from God, but that’s not the same thing.  It certainly doesn’t give us a valid reason to have laws and courts and punish criminals ourselves.  That would be like a little kid taking it upon himself to ground his brother in addition to the grounding their parents are going to give him.  What’s the point?

You could say that we put murderers in jail simply to protect ourselves from them, but if we carry belief in an afterlife to its logical conclusion, that’s actually a terrible idea.  Someone killing you before you have a chance to do anything bad yourself would be the best thing that could possibly happen to you.  It’s the religous equivalent of catching the Golden Snitch: game on, boom, game over, Heaven, nothing else matters.  In a way, those lunatics who refuse to go to the doctor, give away all their stuff, and just lie down in some cult compound and wait to die aren’t the craziest religous people — they’re the least crazy religous people.  The only ones whose beliefs and actions are logically consistent are those people and atheists.  Everyone in the middle is just contradicting themselves.  

This seems like such a simple realization, and yet believers and unbelievers alike are so inculcated by a society that unquestioningly regards an afterlife as good and death as sad that it doesn’t occur to us that these two positions are massively mutually exclusive.  How hard is it to notice?  I spend all my free time thinking up arguments against religion and it took me a year. 

But what is infinitely more ludicrous is that the fictional characters who happen to actually be walking around in Heaven seem to have trouble grasping this.  Take that scene where Christian Shephard gently and gradually breaks the news to his son Jack that they are in fact both dead and in Heaven.  Very touching and all… but why the crap is the news that you are in Heaven something that you would have to “break gently” to someone?!  Here’s the scene as it existed:

        Jack:  But why are they all here now?
        Christian:  Well…  There is no “now” here.
        Jack:  Something something who gives a shit.
        Christian:  something something.
        Jack:  I’m… dead?  I’m dead?  (stumbles around in tears)

Logically, here’s how it should have gone:

        Jack:  LIKE A BOSS!!

Okay, maybe the semantics are up for debate, but in general I’m pretty sure that my reaction to finding out that I was immortal and in paradise alongside an absurdly hot and equally immortal sex doll would be some variant of “Woo-hoo!” rather than some variant of stumbling around in tears.  You could try to argue that, as a man of science, Jack is pissed that he had been wrong about religion all this time, but I don’t think so.  That’s like trying to argue that, because I have repeatedly stated that real lightsabers are impossible, I would be pissed if tomorrow I got one in the mail. 

an inappropriate reaction
Pictured: an inappropriate reaction.

Anything you ever believed, just like anything you ever did, or loved, or hated, would be rendered completely and immediately inconsequential.  Sure, there are reasons to be upset in this situation, but the fact that you are dead is not one of them: 

        Jack:  Wait a minute, why is Sayid out there next to Shannon, who he dated for like two                         hours, instead of that other chick he was in love with his whole life?
        Christian:  Fuck if I know.  Just be glad he’s not out there with a polar bear.

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