What is omnism?

omnism, omnist
Question: "What is omnism? What is an omnist?"

Answer:
Omnism is, in simplistic terms, a belief in all religions, and those who hold this view are referred to as omnists. As with any term, there are variations in exactly what omnism means and the extent to which it should be applied. For the most part, omnism does not imply literal acceptance of every single religious claim as true. Rather, omnists generally perceive some level of truth or specific truths in all religious faiths. Omnism would assert that all religions share a common goal and a common ability to achieve those shared ends. Logically and biblically, however, omnism fails to survive tests for truth.

While the terms omnism and omnist might be uncommon, the concept they embody is reflected in an image that pervades modern society: “Coexist” bumper stickers and icons. These images adapt the symbols of various religions to form the letters of the word C-O-E-X-I-S-T. In this way, the icon suggests an inherent equality, value, and shared truth to all faiths. As an expression of religious pluralism, the “Coexist” theme is the essence of omnism.

As with most philosophies, omnism is not entirely wrong in every facet. There are elements of truth in most religions—if there were nothing at all true in a religion, nobody would believe it. It’s not wrong to say that many of the practical aspects of major faiths are similar. However, what omnism fails to recognize is that, where religions differ, they do so in fundamental, crucial, and contradictory ways. Different religions may be superficially similar, but they are inherently, fundamentally incompatible.

Truth is not relative, so when two religious faiths make competing claims, one or both of them must be wrong. There cannot be one unique God and millions of deities. There cannot be an everlasting hell and universal salvation. Christ cannot be the only way to God and only one of many ways to God. We cannot attain heaven through faith alone and through good deeds or rituals. We cannot be limited to one life and experience reincarnation.

More importantly, religions make claims about the basis for human morality, our relationship to God, and our eternal destiny. Those are not subjects that we can simply shrug off or ignore for the sake of political correctness.

Omnism, then, finds itself either irrelevant or ridiculous. To claim that all religions and all religious beliefs are actually true is blatantly irrational and self-defeating. Suggesting that there is some truth to all faiths is true, but so bland as to be pointless. The typical mid-range view of an omnist, in practice, is neither silly nor irrational; it is simply incorrect. Not all religions lead to God, not all religions teach the truth, and not all religions are worthy of an equal level of respect, even in a secular setting.

Whether referred to as omnism, declared with a “Coexist” bumper sticker, or stated as “all paths lead to God,” a simplistic view of pluralism is indefensible. While an omnist might mean well, there is no substance to his view, and it cannot be applied in any meaningful way.

Recommended Resource: Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World by Dennis L. Okholm & Timothy R. Phillips

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