Omnianism is the monotheistic religion of the peoples of Omnia, a large desert nation in southern Europe. It is based around the worship of the Great God Om and the various Prophets that He has spoken to over the millennia. Understanding of this religion is essential if one is looking for an insight into Omnian society and people, each of whom must live their daily lives according to the Commandments handed down by the Prophets. Despite the rigidity and responsibilities of the lifestyle; the rabid evangelicalism of the Church, coupled with its opposition to contraception, has ensured that Omnianism is one of the fastest growing religions in Europe and it is expected to begin to challenge the current ascendancy of Twentish Catholicism in the coming years.
The central and uncontested tenant of Omnianism, as contained in the Book of Om, is that there is only one god, Great God Om, and that He is responsible for the creation of both Heaven and Earth. Omnians believe that faith in their god is the only path to salvation and to enter into Paradise, and that this salvation is a gift given by the grace of Om. The Omnian Church teaches that mortal life is but an illusion, a test before Om, and those who fail to follow His Commandments will be denied at the gates of Paradise. The Commandments contains the detailed list of forbidden activities, actions and thoughts required to live a good Omnian life.
Omnianism decrees that after death the soul must walk the Lonely Desert before being judged by the Great God. Those who have lived their lives according to the Commandments and the Church will be rewarded with a mere century or two in one of the countless hells before being granted a place in Paradise. Sinners, unbelievers, infidels, heretics, atheists and those who fidget in sermon will be consigned to a hell of Om’s choosing until the end of time. This threat of never-ending heavenly fire, and the rather more imminent threat of earthly fire, tends to give the Church the upper hand in any religious debate.
This leads on to the ever controversial, outside Omnia at least, Church practice of subjecting the heretical, sinful and plain unlucky to torture and flames in the cellars of the Quisition. This was first practiced (and they’ve been practicing so long they’re pretty good at it now) after the Prophet Wallspur declared, Let the holy fire destroy utterly the unbeliever. This "cleansing fire" is the process by which the unrepentant heretical may be saved by burning off the worst of their sins alongside the flesh. Today the sentiment is often expressed as "Give the body hell to send the soul to heaven".
While religious teachings are usually open to certain degrees of interpretation and flexibility, the Omnian Church jealously guards the doctrinal integrity of Omnianism. Over the years some alternate theories as to the nature of Om have been put forward and the Church’s responses have typically been short and brutal. As a result the key dogma as laid down in the key religious texts - the Book of Om, the Septateuch and the Commandments - remains virtually unchanged from Ossory’s original draft.
Book of Om
While Omnianism has an almost countless number of religious books, articles and theses, none can approach the significance attached to the Book of Om. The Book, as it is often simply known as, is a slim tome whose size belies its extreme importance in the Omnian religion. Made up of a mere 185 chapters (as opposed to the Septateuch or the Ego-Video Liber Deorum (Gods: A Spotter’s Guide) with 1189 and 627 chapters respectively) the Book lays down nothing less than the core teachings of Omnianism. These are told through the story of the Prophet Ossory and his time spent wandering the desert with the Great God Om. It was here that Om first enlightened Ossory as to the true nature of the world and the Covent between the Great God and his people was made.
Instead of dwelling on the Commandments or Church, the Book illuminates the foundations of the faith, the truth of this world and the wonders of the next. Ossory’s questions to Om on his travels are faithfully recorded and the answers that he received are held by Omnians to be the infallible truth. Unchanged since the first copy, the Book of Om can be found in almost every Omnian household and forms the basis for the entire religion.
Aside from the Book of Om, the Septateuch is the holiest of Omnian books. While the Book forms the "skeleton" of the faith, the Septateuch fleshes out the bones by providing a detailed set of instructions as to what is required to be deemed worthy in the eyes of Om. The Septateuch is divided into seven separate books, which contain the writings of the last seven Prophets (Ossory’s legacy is kept in the Book of Om). These include teachings, essays, new Commandments, rituals and testimonials spanning the entire history of the Church. Often considered a "living book", the Septateuch grows with the appearance of each Prophet and it is the definitive source of Church doctrine and canon.
In order to follow a good Omnian life, and therefore minimise time spent in the hells, it is essential to study and follow the Commandments issued by the Prophets and recorded in the Septateuch. These are treated as direct instructions from Om and play a central role in everyday life for all followers of the Great God. There are currently 284 Commandments, undoubtedly the next Prophet will add to them, and they are embossed on the great golden doors to the Temple of the Holy Horns in the Citadel. These cover every aspect of Omnian life including alcohol – The fruits of fermentation mock the minds of man (Ossory)- to swearing – Woe onto he who defiles his mouth with curses for his words will be as dust (Abbys). Other notable Commandments forbid the use of mirrors, women being ordained as priests, art (unless glorifying Om or his Prophets) as well as detailing the complex calendar used for fast days. The Commandments form the basis of Omnia’s code of laws (such as it is). Apart from a few added centuries in hell, breaking a Commandment will draw the attentions of the Quisition, a much more immediate punishment.
Main article: The Omnian Church
The only authority on the Word of Om consists of the Omnian Church and ultimate judgement rests with the highest levels this byzantine organisation – the Hierarchy. All decisions relating to Omnian doctrine, judgement, interpretation and justice are made in the Citadel, the capital of the Church (and therefore Omnia). From this rocky outcrop, the entire faith is administrated and information on all judgements and cases brought before the clergy, as well as registration and dues records, are kept for every member of the worldwide church.
The nominal head of the church is the Cenobiarch however in reality that position is merely ceremonial. The Hierarchy consists of the few levels below that – in particular the Council of Iams and Thirty Archbishops – and this small group of old men are effectively responsible for the running of the region wide Church and its domains. Below this there is an almost countless number of deacons, priests, novices and hermits.
All authority in Omnia stems from the Word of Om and the Church’s role as interpreter of His teachings. Any deviation from the established dogma therefore challenges not only the Church’s moral authority, but its governance and administrative roles as well. As such it is very much in the interest of the Hierarchy to maintain total control over all interpretations of the Word. Unsurprisingly, those who do challenge the authority of the Church are immediately branded as heretics.
There are no worse crimes in Omnia than perverting the Church’s teachings and there is long list of penalties awaiting those judged guilty of such. While most involve fire and torture, there are a number of more imaginative endings. For example those believed to be guilty of witchcraft - as judged in reference to the Torquus Simiae Maleficarum (the Monkey Wrench of Witches) - are usually drowned in barrels or treacle, an age-old punishment first advocated by the Prophet Ceno. Other serious crimes include adultery, polygamy, homosexual conduct, apostasy, and teaching false doctrines
The responsibility of safeguarding both the Church and the Faith from heresy lies with the Quisition. This branch of the Church is believed to be guided by the Hand of Om and its cellars and dungeons are rarely less than full of those undergoing repentance.
Among the corridors of the Citadel, its not uncommon to hear the phrase “Om holds the world up, prayers make it go round”. This should give some perspective on the important of mass and prayers within Omnian society. Mass is compulsory at least three times a week, but daily attendance is expected. Even small chapels fill up on a daily basis and thousands of pilgrims throng the Citadel for the Cenobiarch’s morning mass. In addition to mass there are the eight compulsory prayers a day. These prayers have set times at which the entire population stops work to give thanks to Om. Fast days are also popular with the Church. Meat is forbidden on Tuesdays while on holy days only bread may be eaten.
OriginsWhile Om is believed by His followers to be older than the universe itself, the history of the Omnian faith only goes back to the fourth century AD in the Gregorian calendar. The origins of the religion and its initial struggles are recorded in detail within the pages of the Book of Om. Omnians believe that the Great God spoke to Ossory after choosing the young shepherd from Ur-Arash to be his first Prophet. When the priests of the local false god, Ur-Gilash, learned of this they chased Ossory deep into the desert. While few could survive in the blistering heat, Om provided for his Chosen One and spoke to him often. After seven months of wandering in the desert and learning from his god, Ossory returned to Ur-Arash and confronted the priests of Ur-Gilash. With the aid of Om, in the shape of a mighty bull, Ossory tore down the temple and slew its guardians. After demonstrating the strength of Om, the Prophet began to preach and convert to the people of Ur-Arash. After 17 days of bitter sectarian violence between old Ur-Gilash believers and the new cultists, Ossory left with his faction and resettled at Kom (lit: City of Om). It was here that the foundations of the Temple of the Holy Horns were laid.
The Early Church
The first record of the followers of Ossory being referred to as Omnians by non-Omnians was by neighbouring tribes after they had fled persecutions in Ur-Arash and settled on the site of Kom. After the competition of the Temple and Ossory's death, a council of disciples lead by Bohemond of Tsort complied the Book of Om and continued to teach doctrine as laid down by Ossory. The settlement slowly grew over the decades and, despite all the challenges of the time, by 600 AD the town and its surroundings contained almost ten thousand souls. At this time there was no formal church, with the tribe being guided by the teachings of Ossory and governed by a council of elders.
This changed drastically when a minor priest by the name of Ceno left the Temple and trekked far into the desert. Here he spoke at length to Om and learned of his destiny. On returning to Kom as the second Prophet, Ceno established the Church proper by instilling most of the modern ranks and extending the priesthood’s power to the material world. Ceno also established the aggressive expansion and conversion policies that would guide the Church until today. By the time of his death in 689 AD, the Prophet Ceno had seen both his congregation and territory more than double in size.
Under the Prophets Tobrun, Wallspur, Hashimi, Abraxas and Abbys the course of the Church remained broadly the same. Vast tracts of land were conquered and many peoples converted. The Prophet Brutha did introduce some mild reforms that curtailed the growth of Omnia but there have been no major internal changes to doctrine in many centuries.
Modern Omnianism remains an intolerant and oppressive religion with the teachings of Ossory and the Prophets remaining virtually unchanged over the years. Modern and pressing issues for other religions such as the roles of science and women, contraception, drugs and other liberalising trends have had little impact on the faith. Since the Prophet Brutha there has been a slight easing of the fire and brimstone rhetoric but due to the diligent policing and efficiency of the Quisition, those Omnians who do hear of any of the previous notions dare not speak of them. Nonetheless dissent, public or otherwise, is rare within Omnia and the vast majority of the population readily accept the teachings of the Church.
Despite its strict Commandments and suspicious Hierarchy, the Church has a relatively cooperative attitude to those who delve into the workings of the world. This is often seen as a price the Church has been willing to pay so that the Word of Om may be spread more rapidly, either by the guns of the Divine Legion or new media. In order to skirt some of the more restrictive Commandments, certain interpretations have been put forwards. For example, while mirrors are forbidden throughout the country (for they encourage vanity), an exception is made for those engaged in optical or other research as well as the military. The same applies to art - it is forbidden to draw bodies, unless glorifying the Prophets or for medical purposes.
Reasons for this odd, or at least out of character, outlook at religion’s traditional enemy are many but most observers attribute some of it to the initial vagueness of the Prophets. Ossory merely said that the world was created by Om without going into any real detail. As such the Church is happy to allow scientists to probe the material world, confident in the knowledge that, no matter how complex it may be, the universe was created by Om. This approach is all the better if it allows the Church to keep abreast of its rivals’ militaries. Naturally the Quisition keeps a close eye on all developments in case some researcher decides to adopt the same inquisitive approach to Church doctrine.
Since 2004 the Omnian Church has waged an impressive evangelical campaign to win over converts in other European nations. Eschewing the previously violent approaches to expansion and conversion, this crusade is built on the significant reaching power of new media, including both satellite television and the internet. While ordinary Omnian citizens are forbidden from travelling abroad, the Church regularly sends its missionaries to foreign nations and most major European capitals house an Omnian mission.
However recent European disruption and a waning of Hierarchy support has produced mixed results. Nonetheless there are growing Omnian communities in a number of European nations including Liechtenstein and Qantrix. The Church considers these new converts, as with Omnians of all nationalities, to be its direct subjects, a stance which will no doubt cause trouble in the future.
While the Church’s contempt for all unbelievers and infidels has been tempered to allow for conversion efforts, officially all unbelievers are to be considered enemies of Omnia. This attitude has greatly complicated foreign relations and ensures that contact with other religions is kept to a minimum. Often foreign churches take offence to an Omnian mission opening in their neighbourhood while Omnia itself remains firmly closed to all foreigners.