By Alston, Joshua
Newsweek , Vol. 155, No. 05
Byline: Joshua Alston
In the beginning, Oceanic Flight 815 started shaking somewhere over the Indian Ocean. "My husband keeps reminding me that planes want to be in the air," Rose nervously tells the passenger sitting next to her, a levelheaded neurosurgeon named Jack Shephard. "Well, he sounds like a very smart man," Jack replies. Moments later, 815 is ripped into three pieces, emptying its contents onto a Chinese box of an island. Twenty minutes into the still-stunning pilot episode of Lost, the message was clear: there are situations in which book smarts are worthless, in which eggheads wind up with egg on their faces. Or, to borrow from the Book of Romans, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Lost is constantly alluding to the Bible: character identities (Shephard!), plotlines, explicit references to Scripture. As fans start speculating about the show's final season (set to launch on Feb. 2), they would do well to remember that more than anything else--and more than any other acclaimed show ever on television--Lost is a show about faith. It's not for nothing that this season's publicity photo features the cast in a Last Supper-style tableau.
As a genre, science fiction is itself a religion of sorts, with fervent believers, the ones who drop off the grid during Comic-Con and list "Jedi" on their Facebook profiles under "Religious Beliefs." Lost is no exception to this kind of devotion. It has spawned a robust online community--Lostpedia, an obsessively detailed Wiki, boasts nearly 60,000 articles--and a hyperbolic literary subculture, featuring titles such as The Myth of 'Lost': Solving the Mysteries and Understanding the Wisdom.
Fans this dedicated want a satisfying resolution at the end of this sixth and final season, but that hardly seems possible for everyone. Like the show's polestars--pragmatic Dr. Shephard (Matthew Fox) and the fatalistic, inaptly named John Locke (Terry O'Quinn)--Lost's viewers fall into two categories, those who adhere to reason and those who follow their faith. …