Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • David WaldronEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_485

The Origins of the Term Paganism

The term pagan etymologically derives from the Latin adjective Paganus which, typically, is taken to mean of the rural countryside. It is also a term which has been used pejoratively from its inception as uncivilized, uncouth, and rustic. However, this interpretation has come under criticism by historians Robin Lane Fox and Pierre Chauvin due to the term being utilized widely in Early Christian Rome when the bulk of the urban population remained pagan in today’s terms. Like Chauvin, Ronald Hutton proposes that a more accurate meaning of the term in antiquity is that of followers of the customs and religions of locality (i.e., pagus) rather than one of the many cosmopolitan, universalist, and transcendent faiths of the early Christian period (Hutton 1991).

Paganism and the Countryside

The perceived high prevalence of localized pre-Christian customs, idolatry, and ritual surviving in the countryside led to the association of the Paganuswith the...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Science and the HumanitiesUniversity of BallaratBallaratAustralia