Everyone is brought up to believe in something. Some of us are Christian, Jewish, Buddhists, or even Atheists. For some our beliefs are sacrosanct and others not so much. You could say that as humans we are prone to believe in something, unless you are a Nihilist; but we’ll talk about that later.
Ultimately we choose what we believe in based on our family upbringing, the community where we are raised and, now more than ever, the information we gather from the world around us. What if, instead of believing in one religion or way of thinking, you believe in all of them? Then my friend, you are an Omnist.
The term’s earliest usage was in the 1839 long poem “Festus” by English poet Philip J. Bailey: “I am an omnist, and believe in all religions”. In recent years the term has reemerged due to some people’s desire to redefine it for todays society. Instead of “belief in all religions” it has been modified to “the belief that all religions are relevant.” That all religions have core truths and commonalities that reflect the nature of our reality.
To be fair, Omnism isn’t a theology, it neither says there is a God nor denies God’s existence. Of course it also doesn’t say we aren’t gods or there were or weren’t dead gods, but It is, in essence, a belief in equality. It allows the individual to determine their own understanding of reality, yet with a firm system of values. An Omnists agrees to never judge another for their beliefs because within them lies the seed of all truth. It is possible to be a Christian Omnist, a Jewish Omnist, a Muslim Omnist or Buddhist Omnist. Since there is no Church or congregation it is difficult to know just how many Omnists are out there.
The Omnist Standard provides the clearest definition. “As an Omnist, the world and the universe, are literally yours to interpret how you see fit, using the eyes of all beliefs, to visualize understanding and communication. Love and wisdom. Possibilities and inevitabilities.
As an Omnist, You Are The “universe.”
Ok, I can get on board with that; especially these days. How about you?
Now let’s talk about Omnism’s opposite, Nihilism, or, The belief in nothing.
Nihilism is a far more complex and discussed subject and I wonder why? Is it the tendency of human thought to better accept nothingness than every-thing-ness? In essence Nihilism is the belief that nothing matters. There is no reason for life and there is no god. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. It is about how there is nothing without rationalization or proof.
The term nihilism was first used by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819) who was defining rationalism and whose banner was most notably taken up by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. For anyone who studied philosophy you are well aware of the unfathomable depths and complexity of the subject – or maybe that was just me. “Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.” (Nietzsche, Friedrich (2005/1886), Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Helen Zimmern.) He himself had problems with the concept although firmly ensconced in the subject.
Nihilism is also not a religion, although Buddhism comes very close to being the outward representation of the inner dialogue. Nirvana, a Buddhists highest goal, is said to be the state of nothingness.
Martin Heidegger interpreted Nietzsche and while he was influential for a time was most notable for his idea that Western culture did not discriminate between the investigation of a Being and Being. Without getting into all the details – he determined that metaphysics, rather than being the antithesis of Nihilism was a perfection of it. I know, I know, try listening to a lecture on it for two hours.
Perhaps it’s easier to give some current examples of Nihilism as it is represented in popular films. The Big Lebowski when Walter Sobchak comments “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” Or in The Matrix where agent Smith is portrayed as a nihilist, declaring all peace, justice, love meaningless. Then there is the king of all Nihilists, The Joker in Batman. The “Agent of Chaos” … “…. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
I suppose you could wonder if we aren’t headed into a nihilistic frontier when everything we hear or see is suspect, do we come to the conclusion that none of it matters? For me, given the choice of All or Nothing, I choose All.