I'm always thrilled when I learn a new word that succinctly describes an idea or belief that I've held for a while, and a few days ago I discovered a pretty powerful one: omnism. Omism, in essence, is the belief that "no religion is truth, but that truth is found within them all." As much as I try to avoid labels, I can't help but think of myself as somewhat of an omnist.
I was baptized into Catholicism before I had the conscious capacity to protest, and spent most of my childhood participating in its ritualistic indoctrination; I attended Catholic school until I was 12, and didn't come into contact (literally) with other ideologies until I went to junior high. Catholicism, then, served as the foundation for my spirituality. It was my first point of contact with God.
After I went to junior high, my belief in Christianity waned rather rapidly. I swung from cookie-cutter Christianity to all-religions-are-bullshit Atheism by the time I finished seventh grade. Having other belief systems on which to compare my own exposed the bat-shit craziness of my own cult. For a long time-- probably until I was about 19-- I was a hardcore atheist. Not agnostic, but atheist. If you believed in any power higher than yourself, I wrote you off as a moron: a sheep, a conformist, a cog in the manipulation machine. I was an asshole, plain and simple.
Now that I've grown up a bit and gained some perspective on life, I view both belief systems-- Catholicism and Atheism-- with a bit more objectivity. Both systems have their weaknesses, but both also have their strengths. I think the same rings true for all religions, and that's why I can't believe in any of them. People who dedicate themselves to a single church or way of thinking, more often than not, fall under the delusion that their truth is the only truth, and that believers of contradictory truths deserve scorn or punishment (some tortures being more eternal than others). With so many competing and exclusive "truths," what is actually "true" gets lost. Which is a shame because, as omnism dictates, truth can be found within all ideologies. When you shut yourself off to any ideology that is not your own, you shut yourself off to truth.
Using my two examples, both Catholicism and Atheism possess striking strengths and weaknesses. Catholicism, and all Judeo-Christian religions for that matter, believe in some objectively wild shit: wizard battles (Moses vs. Pharoah), centuries-old men (looking at you Methuselah), and heaps of other miracles (not to mention archaic patriarchal sexism in a lot of cases, and child-rape in the case of Catholicism-- but that's another topic for another blog post). They believe in things that objectively disregard everything we know about the physical world and present it as objective truth, which is objectively insane. Think about it: if you told someone in today's society that you were the son of God and boasted that you could cure leprosy with the touch of your finger, you'd be much more likely to end up in a mental home than a sacred text (unless you proved your claims, in which case cheers. Praise be to you.)
Next there's atheism, which says "we can't objectively and scientifically prove the nature of existence, therefore existence must be random and pointless." Which is also bat-shit crazy. For one, science is nowhere near proving how or why we got here. Our species will more than likely reach extinction well before our measurement devices reach the center of a black hole or the ever-expanding edges of the universe. Hell, we don't even know where our own consciousness comes from or if it's even generated in the brain. Then there's the big bang, which is basically science saying "give us one free miracle and we can explain the rest." Atheism also discounts people's spiritual experiences, which in my own life have often felt more real and powerful than the universally observable reality that we usually share. Writing off someone's truth as a lie simply because it does not align with your own truth is ignorant whether it comes from a Catholic or an Atheist.
Now, what about the strengths of these belief systems? Continuing with atheism, I do think a lot of good comes from believing in what you can see. Too much blind faith gives you things like Heaven's gate and Jonestown and international pedophile cover-ups (seriously Catholics, what the fuck). The best belief systems, in my opinion, are those that you can find within yourself. I am lucky enough to have experienced moments of divine intervention and revelation in my personal journey, but for someone who has not had such experiences, skepticism makes a hell of a lot of sense. Too much skepticism will shut you off to the divine completely, but skeptical curiosity is imperative to the pursuit of any worthwhile truth. I also love an atheist's sacred estimation of life. If you believe you only have one life, even if you think it's ultimately random and pointless, you will feel compelled to live that life to the fullest. If you believe in a guarantee of eternal ecstasy no matter how bad this life sucks, you won't be as motivated to make the most life-- and I personally believe that life constitutes the holiest stuff in the universe.
As far as Catholicism goes (though really any Christian religions), I. Fucking. Love. Jesus. I'm cynical of his ability to clone fish or reanimate his corpse, but his fundamental teachings are some of the best that any book ever written can offer. Love other people the way you want yourself to be loved (and by God, love yourself!). When someone wrongs you do not seek revenge; instead turn the other cheek. Love all people and things so unconditionally that, even if they literally nail your wrists to two pieces of crudely-assembled lumber, your first impulse will be to forgive them. I am, to a pretty cheesy degree, a firm believer in the power of love and compassion-- and I'll be goddamned if Jesus wasn't the cheesiest motherfucker to ever spread the ideals of the hippies.
Before I wrap this blog up, I want to address directly the question: what is truth? And the truth is, I would have to be the most arrogant prick alive to claim I know what the truth is. I think we'll know what happens when we die, when we die, and not a second sooner (unless the atheists are right, in which case, well, we still won't know). In the meantime, any one belief system is as valid as the next, even if I subjectively think some ideologies are more bat-shit crazy than others (*cough* Scientology *cough*). That being said, I definitely have my own set of well-formed beliefs, which I'm sure a ton of people would view as bat-shit crazy if they heard me articulate them-- but I'll save my own manifesto for another day. Instead, I'd like to leave the beloved readers of my blog (few though you might be) with a few "truths" that seem to overlap between religions.
1. The idea of One God. I think the Judeo-christian religions have warped this concept in the worst way, in that they conceptualize the "one god" as being something disparate and greater than themselves. Even if I think the Jews and Christians and Muslims got it wrong, though, the notion of One God prevails in many Eastern religions as well. Take the most prevalent poly-theistic religion in existence, for example:Hinduism. While Hindu texts describe literally hundreds of gods, the notion of Brahman is one of the most important in their ideology. Brahman is a universal energy that permeates all things, composing the core of all existing matter, conscious or otherwise-- one god, but one that we are all apart of. The Buddhist concept of enlightenment adopts similar logic, claiming that our individual souls eventually return to and become one with the universe itself, our limited consciousness reintegrating itself with its true source: the universal consciousness that is the one true god. Is the return to God that supposedly occurs in the Christian afterlife really so different? Shout out also the Dao, the eternal source from which we all spring, and to which we will all return. Swap out the word "Dao" for "void" in the previous sentence, and suddenly the atheists believe in one "god" as well.
2. The idea of the individual soul. While Hindus believe in Brahman, they believe also in Atman, or the singular soul contained within any given body. The concept can be compared to the ocean: if Brahman is an ocean in its entirety, then Atman is a single drop of water-- but what is an ocean if not many drops? Do not Buddhists reincarnate their individual soul through thousands of bodies before rejoining the source? Are not Christians guaranteed their own plot in Heaven, in spite of being One Body in Christ? Is it not possible to be both God and our own self?
3. The idea of the afterlife. I really love this one. As wildly different as the stances on this issue may be between religions, the consensus is that consciousness does not cease after life. Whether that continuation of consciousness looks like Christian orgies on golden clouds or simply another incarnation on Earth, most people believe that the soul drastically outlives the body. The soul is eternal as the Dao itself, because the soul is the Dao itself. And, even though it's not quite the same thing, even the atheists can't argue that the vibrating particles that composed the matter that composed their bodies will continue vibrating long after their bones decay into dust. Energy lives on in spite of all else, and that is objective truth.
4. Love conquers all. God's love will get you through anything, and the practice of godlike love is your ticket into Heaven in the first place. The road to Enlightenment is one of love and compassion towards all things. To act lovingly is to ensure an abundance of love in your next reincarnation, and is essential to the pursuit of Moksha. Hell, even most of the atheists and agnostics I know gravitate towards love and compassion as the proper modes of existence. Even if we have no idea why or how we got here, when it all starts and ends, or where we're going next, the reality is that we're all here now, and we might as well help and love one another through the confusion and chaos that is life on Earth.
If you read this far (and, I suppose, even if you did not), well, I love you. I hope that you find comfort in whatever truth you adopt, but that you remain open to the truths of others. And please feel free to leave your own thoughts about the "truth" of existence in the comments; I love when someone disagrees with me, and I'm always looking for more blog-worthy material. <3