Om is an omnipotent, omnipresent (only within the boundaries of the Omnian church) god in the country of Omnia. His temple resides in Kom, presumably the capital, and his followers are known as Omnians. Unlike the major Discworld gods, who exist within a pantheon, Om is a monotheistic deity whose followers insist that he is the one and only true God. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Omnians also insisted, up until a hundred years ago, that the world is a sphere. Omnianism is the most oft-mentioned religion in the Discworld series.
Small Gods Edit
The desert country of Omnia is a theocracy on the Klatchian continent, ruled by the Cenobiarch. At the time of Small Gods (a hundred years previous to the time explored by other Discworld novels according to Thief of Time), the Cenobiarch was a very old man, and the country was actually ruled by his advisors, chiefly Vorbis, a character who is believed to be based on Ximenes de Cisneros. A major factor in Omnian affairs at this time was that very few people actually believed in Om himself, only in the clerical hierarchy and in the superficial trappings of religion.
Because of this lack of belief — the substance of the gods — Om had virtually no power for most of Small Gods and was trapped in the form of a tortoise. He only vaguely remembered the seven prophets who claimed to have delivered his commandments and precepts, and Brutha, his lasts believer, had to come to grips with the fact that the Great God Om was, in fact, insulting, arrogant, frivolous by self-admission (when he manifested to one of the prophets, his words had been 'Hey, look what I can do!' and nothing more), and not nearly as knowing, powerful, or present as Brutha had been raised to whole-heartedly believe. Om was also selfish and in some regards, amoral. Difficulties also arose because Om would immediately recognize other gods, even tell Brutha some gossip about them, but the Omnian religion put to death anyone who suggested other gods existed. The god at first cared for Brutha only because Om's own survival depended on Brutha's belief, but eventually grew to the realization that individual people are worth fighting for and agreed with Brutha that there would be no commandments unless Om adhered to them as well.
The Quisition Edit
Although no one in Omnia at the time of Small Gods actually believed in Om himself, they all believed in his clergy; in particular the Quisition, and in more particular what the Quisition did to unbelievers. What the Quisition (consisting of the Inquisition and the Exquisition, or people who can say "exquisite" with a straight face) largely did was torture people, as evidenced by their unofficial motto, "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum," which Pratchett loosely translates as "When you have their full attention ("by the balls"), you have their hearts and minds." (The line is a reference to a quote attributed to Richard Nixon counsel, Charles Colson). It is also attested by their use of the Torquus Simiae Maleficarum ("The Monkey Wrench of Witches"; a reference to the real-world Malleus Maleficarum or "The Witches Hammer"). The Book of Om says that witches shall not be allowed to live, although this may be a mistranslation since it also says that they may be caught in traps of treacle. This has led some to believe the word may in fact be cockroaches. A theory has also been advanced suggesting that, in a later passage stating they bring lascivious dreams, the word might actually be translated as "boiled lobsters." This is a parody of the controversy surrounding the translation of verse 22:18 in the book of Exodus. The verse is rendered as "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" in the KJV; but the word translated as "witch" is sometimes claimed to actually mean "poisoner".
'Modern' Omnianism Edit
The reason for Omnianism's previous intolerance was not that Om was an intolerant god, but because he was largely an indifferent one. After spending some time trapped in the shape of a tortoise in Small Gods, his perspective was changed, and he allowed Brutha to turn Omnianism into one of the Discworld's more moderate religions, although they still insist Om is the only real god, or at least the only god worth worshipping. Om now refuses to manifest directly and demands that his followers develop their own theology and ethics based on faith in his existence and his last few commandments, redacting the former Omnian creeds into a simple code of nonviolence and moral uprightness. Omnianism now demands that Om triumph over competing gods not through military force but in the "marketplace of ideas". The church has thus become more evangelical in its methods, and its followers can be seen going from door to door to convert unbelievers. Omnianism is consequently proving popular, because a god that doesn't actually do anything is somewhat comforting. Owing to Brutha's allowance of opposing viewpoints, the church also schisms every couple of weeks.
Many modern Omnians are given names like "Smite-The-Unbeliever-With-Cunning-Arguments", "Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets" and "Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om". This in contrast to older Omnians, who were given bloodier names. The names parody Puritan "hortatory names" like "O-Be-Joyful", "Fear-the-Lord", "Job-Raked-Out-of-the-Ashes", and "If-Jesus-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned" Barbon. The ancestor of Samuel Vimes, Suffer-Not-Injustice, is also named in the Puritan manner, based as he is on real-world Puritan Oliver Cromwell.
Omnianism as a whole is Pratchett's parody of the less admirable aspects of Christianity, such as the Inquisition, and later intrusive doorstep evangelism. The treatment can be seen as ambivalent, however; one of the more sympathetic characters in the Discworld is Mightily Oats, from Carpe Jugulum. He is an Omnian priest who has begun to doubt his faith due to Om's putative absence and the bloodless, seemingly pointless nature of his commandments, and secretly longs for the old "fire" of the bloodthirsty Omnian prophets. Mightily Oats' conversations with Granny Weatherwax constitute a dissection of the social and psychological role of modern liberal Christianity, and ends with Mightily Oats finding some measure of faith in the nature of his faith itself and of "holiness", if not in his faith's tenets per se.
Interestingly, Mightily Oats loses his "holy tortoise of Om", a holy symbol — based on the form Om took in his long sojourn as a tortoise (replacing the "holy horns" of Om's previous incarnation as a mighty bull), as well as the metal tortoise that the prophet Brutha was sentenced to death upon, an allusion to Jesus on the Cross — and to replace it Jason Ogg makes him an amulet of a double-headed axe to symbolize his moment of true faith, when he managed to slay a vampire with an ordinary hatchet that his faith transformed into a holy weapon. Probably intentionally, the symbol of a "double-headed axe" has often been one way of referring to the symbol of the Cross, though it is clearly more like a Labrys — that said it may well be intended to allow for both readings.
See also Edit