The Catholic church up the street attracted me, and I began attending Mass there (over my parents' objections) because I enjoyed the beauty and mystery of the Latin Mass -- pre-Vatican II, obviously! I continued that attendance during Marine Corps boot camp (although I couldn't accept all their precepts, church attendance at that time was required, and it was better than the Protestant services, which I thought totally boring).
I spent a lot of years searching for a religion that didn't require me to give up reason for faith, and couldn't find one. While faith is required, it shouldn't conflict with reason, and I couldn't find a conventional religion that didn't require me to accept a number of doctrines that I found illogical. (Not beyond logic, which I could have managed, but contrary to logic, which I could not.)
It didn't take much study to realize that most of the "advanced" religions have a lot in common, such as variations of the Golden Rule, and although I called myself agnostic for some time, as I recall it I always accepted a First Cause. Eventually, I arrived at the conclusion in the first section, that all religions were true in part, none completely so. (While the Creator is infallible, humans are anything but; revelation can be distorted, either intentionally or otherwise, and if the revelation is interpreted or copied, distortion is probably inevitable. Particularly if someone has something to gain.)
Okay, now that you know a bit about me, on to Omnism -- bearing always in mind that this is not revelation, and the Creator expects you to use the intelligence He gave you. ("He" can't possibly be correct, since it limits the illimitable Creator, but it's traditional, so I'll use it.)
At its most basic, Omnism is a faith arrived at individually by each believer. Most began as members of other religions, growing dissatisfied with the pat answers offered to difficult questions, particularly when those answers conflicted with scientific evidence or common sense. In an effort to find better answers, they studied other religions, and arrived at the conclusion that is the heart of Omnism:
All religions are true in part,
Since this is a brief discussion, I won't go into great detail, but where possible, will refer you to more complete analysis. For instance, the initial contention -- that there is a Creator, a Supreme Being, Who should be worshipped -- is addressed quite logically, not to mention eloquently, in the first part of the Knights of Columbus booklet #18, Religion Means God and Me. Until about three-quarters of the way down P. 20, it's almost pure Omnism, and there is no point in repeating what they have said so well.
And since you would probably not be reading this unless you accepted both those ideas, we can go from that point. The first Omnist premise is that the creation must reflect the Creator, in various degrees, and as intelligent creatures, we are expected to use our intelligence.
The Creator, of course, is unknowable by finite beings, since He is infinite, and according to modern physics, His creation may be as well (some mathematics state that other universes are not only possible, but necessary). Everything in all the universes (the Omniverse) is part of the Creator, that being the only thing available to create with.
After that, the starting point has to be that the Creator plays fair, and allows for the limitations of the created. If He doesn't, we're in deep trouble. So we work out what we can about Him from the limited sample of His creation we see on this single world.
This planet is a limited sample of a single universe, granted, but it's still a good example to go from. It's obvious, for example, that the Creator loves variety; why have umpteen numbers of, say, pine tree varieties, or zebra sub-species, or horse colors, otherwise? And He has a sense of humor; humanity's here, after all, and giraffes, and mandrills. He loves beauty in all its forms, from desert to mountains to seascapes and orchids.
You can go from there for yourself, so let's get back the larger subject for a moment. Earth is one small planet in a solar system toward the edge of a spiral galaxy, one of many galaxies in this universe -- and bear in mind there may be, perhaps must be, other universes. Given that, and some other discoveries (such as water, the essential for life as we know it, in other galaxies, and other planets in our own), it's the height of arrogance to believe humanity is the only intelligent life form the Creator made.
And, even on our own planet, in considering religion we can't limit ourselves to the last few thousand years. Homo sapiens has been around for at least a quarter million years, and if you include homo habilis, who was bright enough to use tools, there's been intelligence here for almost two million years. It's difficult to be positive, but from the available evidence, religion in one form or another is as old as humanity.
This takes us to two conflicting points: the Creator's fairness (or justice) and many religions' claims to exclusivity. Either the vast majority of humans and other intelligences are condemned, through not belonging to the religion in question, to whatever torment or dissolution that religion teaches for its non-adherents, or the Creator is more generous than those religions allow.
Omnists believe the latter. A number of conflicting religions claiming to be the Only True Faith obviously can't all be right, particularly when the ones we know about with such a claim have appeared within, as far as we know, the last three thousand years or less, and on this single planet.
Those claims, then, don't make sense. The Omnist position is that a person who does his best to do the Creator's will and not harm his fellow created without necessity will share the Creator's glory to the best of his comprehension after physical death.
That may or may not include formal, public acknowledgement of a deity or deities and the associated worship and ceremonies. This is where the Omnist understanding of a deity becomes too general for most people. While there is obviously only one Creator, the Omnist definition of lesser deities is quite simple. (Unfortunately, it isn't completely satisfactory since there is normally little or no investigation -- with the outstanding exception of the Catholic Church -- of its single criterion. And they, if they know of it, undoubtedly disapprove.)
That definition: Any being who or which is the proximate cause of a verifiable miracle is a deity. Subordinate to the Creator, of course, and with the ultimate power coming from Him -- but most religions acknowledge such beings, though under different names. Angels, saints, djinn, kami, the spirits . . . there's no need for a prolonged list. Since all power ultimately comes from the Creator, whether He uses it at the request of an intercessor, or delegates a part of it to be used independently, is both unknowable and unimportant in everyday terms; if a person prays to Jesus, or Buddha, or Vishnu, or any other, what practical difference does it make whether the answer comes directly from, or through, the one prayed to?
Omnism, then, can and does include any and all other religions, as its name implies. We don't consider all of them equally developed, of course; that would be ridiculous, given the wide spread of religions on this one world alone.
Article copyright © 1998 Ann Wilson
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