The term Paganism is rooted from the Latin and originally meant as rural or of the country. It is not entirely clear how it came to mean non-Christian or heathen but it is reported it started in the 4th century.
The Oxford English Dictionary gave rise to a synonym “paynimry” which is used to describe its practices.
There are three theories as to this change in meaning:
It could be that ancient idol worship remained in the cities and towns of the Roman Empire after Christianity had been accepted. Christianity spread far more quickly in the larger urban centers than in the rural areas. It word came to mean “not a Christian” to the early Christian missionaries.
The more common meaning of classical Latin pāgānus is "civilian, non-militant" (adjective and noun). Christians called themselves mīlitēs, "enrolled soldiers" of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were "not enrolled in the army".
The sense of "heathen" arose from an interpretation denoting a person who was outside a particular group or community, hence "not of the city" or "rural”.
Both "pagan" and "heathen" have historically been used as a pejorative by adherents of monotheistic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to indicate a disbeliever in their religion, although in modern times it is not always used as a pejorative.
The word frequently refers to the religions of classical antiquity, most notably Greek mythology or Roman religion, and can be used neutrally or admiringly by those who refer to those complexes of belief.
However, until the rise of Romanticism and the general acceptance of freedom of religion in Western civilization, "Paganism" was almost always used disparagingly of heterodox beliefs falling outside the established political framework of the Christian Church.
The word came to be equated with a Christianized sense of "epicurian" to signify a person who is sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future and uninterested in sophisticated religion.
Neopaganism also known as Neo-Paganism identifies many religious movements especially influenced by European pre-Christian pagan beliefs.
These beliefs include polytheism, animism and pantheism.
Some neopagans practice something that is modern while others attempt to reconstruct historical religions.
This is a postmodern development in the industrialized countries, found in particular strength in the United States and Britain, but also in Continental Europe (German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Slavic Europe, Latin Europe and elsewhere).
This includes Wicca, Neo-ruidism, Germanic and Slavic movements. The term was coined in the 19th century in reference to Renaissance and Romanticist Hellenophile classical revivalism.
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