What is Paganism?

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Forums -> Misc Topics -> What is Paganism?

What is Paganism?
Post # 1

Paganism , also known as heathenism , is a blanket term used in various different contexts to refer to groups who are defined by either their religious beliefs, or in some cases lack thereof. In keeping with this, there is no one universally accepted definition of "paganism", with it being used alternatively to refer to a wide variety of different groups.

The widest definition of the term uses it to refer to all religions that are not in the Abrahamic category (i.e. the monotheistic faiths with their origins in the Middle East, like Christianity, Judaism and Islam); within this category can therefore be found agnostic, atheistic, pantheistic and polytheistic religious movements which are otherwise unconnected. Another definition, currently used by some religious studies scholars, uses the term to apply to religions which adhere to a belief in polytheism, animism and a concept of divine immanence; under this category therefore comes the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic religions of Europe and Asia, the indigenous religions of the world and new religious movements that consider themselves to be a part of the Contemporary Pagan movement.

A third definition narrows the pagan category down further and chooses to use it not in reference to world indigenous religions but only to the pre-Christian religions of Europe and the contemporary Pagan groups which are influenced by them. In certain contexts the term "pagan" has also been used to simply mean "irreligious"

The term "pagan" originated as the Latin paganus , which was used amongst early Christians in southern Europe to refer to those who were neither Christian nor Jewish; the reason for the adoption of this word by Christians is however still an area of debate amongst scholars. The term pagan is a Christian adaptation of the "gentile" of Judaism, and as such has an inherent Abrahamic bias, and pejorative connotations among monotheists, comparable to heathen and infidel also known as kafir and mushrik in Islam. As European Christian explorers navigated and settled across other continents in the Early Modern period, they encountered the wide variety of non-monotheistic religious traditions in these new lands, which they also called "pagan". In the 19th century however, ethnologists began to reject the term "paganism" for these faiths, instead referring to them as "folk religions", "ethnic religions" or "indigenous religions". Meanwhile, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, various new religions were forged that attempted to resurrect the pre-Christian religions of Europe; these included Wicca, Thelema, Neo-druidry and Germanic Heathenry, and they would come to be referred to under the banner of contemporary Paganism or Neo-Paganism .

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