Paganism or Paganism (from Latin paganus, pagan '; Latin pagus ' place' ) describes as a religious studies class, within an embossed Christian cultures, different forms of belief in multiple gods, sometimes the nature religions.

In historical research, the terms Heiden / Paganism and Pagan / Pagan cults are related to the ancient value-neutral used in order to distinguish followers of the old gods cults of Christians, Jews, Manichaeans, etc., without implying a depreciation is made.


At the time of early Christianity, which, differentiated from an internal Jewish sect, the Jewish Christianity to the Gentile Christianity, were the dissenters and supporters of Pauline theology and mission, comparable even as a kind of heathen. Later, within the early medieval Christianity, the term then initially served as a simple distinguishing feature of the converted from Judaism Jewish Christians from the non- Jewish Gentile Christians. Since the European Middle Ages, it was mainly from the point of view of monotheistic, evangelizing religions, Christianity and Islam, often used pejoratively for religious opponents outside of their own tradition.

In the concrete Christian missionary confrontation and violence, the notion is already belonging mainly in the Nordic cultures very early as delimiting self-designation, as for their own domestic religious community, detectable.

Paganism can be used as self-and external designation also means the revival of ancient religions in the present. In this case, the term synonymously with the more precise neo-paganism ( neo-paganism ) will be used.

The Jewish tradition has compared the delimiting, not derogatory Hebrew term ger ( from the peoples '), which means about a non-Jew or a foreigner. The Islamic tradition has similar denotes the bounding Arab-Islamic legal concept kaafir, the unbeliever or " atheist ".


There are several theories about the etymology of the word pagan. The training heiþna, haiþina be classified as very old formations. Formerly the word was considered as a loan translation to paganus. This word is, however, emerged only in the second half of the 4th century, when the suffix -ina has not been used more. For the assumed time of the origin of the word Heiðinn as " Heather" the word was in Latin, but gentiles used for " heathens". The Indo-Europeanist Wilhelm Schulze tied to the Armenian word hethanos ( loan word from the Greek ἔθνος ( ethnos ) ) to which had been passed down through complicated changes in the Gothic to the Germanic. Jost Trier has the " Heide" identified as common land and etymologically connected with heimr, World, home '. So he comes to the meaning of " heiðinn " as " for their own domestic religious community belonging ".

First was " heiðinn " a thoroughly accepted by Christians, but not pejorative designation North Germanic non-Christians. The skald Eyvindr Skáldaspillir (around 920-990 ) wrote ( see for discussion Icelandic pronunciation ):

Deyr fé, deyja frændr, eyðisk country Lad ok; SITS Hákon fór með pagan god, mörg it þjóð of þéuð.

The cattle dies, The friends die, The land become desolate, and the kingdom. Since Håkon drove to the pagan gods, If plagued hard the people.

Only the advancing Christian missionary, also forced missionary, led to a certain devaluation in terms of " primitive", projecting maybe until today.


In the Christian-European tradition, the term pagan is used as a collective term for each other, that is, those who are outside of their own Christian- Trinitarian traditions. The term was originally a polemic category to the devaluation of the other, which the membership is denied to a religion. Is closely associated with it the notion of false religion. Depending on the context may therefore Heath and paganism take different meaning. At times, as were all other nations named outside of Christianity during the Reformation and the confessionalisation also referred to the other denomination as pagan. The semantic content of the Germanic word Heide overlaps here with the meaning of the Latin paganus, the country dweller who stands in the conceptual contrast to city dwellers.

Religions outside of the major world religions, which were passed earlier in Christian understanding and tradition of higher education under paganism, now called indigenous religions (see also Animism ).


In Jewish writings on the one hand between the people of Israel and the goyim (singular goy ), a distinction which in the Septuagint with ΕΘΝΟΣ ( ethnos = 'people' ), in the Vulgate with gentes ( =, tribes, peoples ' has been translated), on the other hand but both expressions are also common ( eg Genesis 35:11 ) was used as a self-designation. This ambivalence in the use you'll also find in the New Testament, but the majority are followers of the Greek and Roman polytheism meant, in some cases, the non-Jews converted to Christianity. A distinction is made between Jewish Christians ( Jews converted to Christianity ) and Gentile Christians ( converted to Christianity followers of other religions). Paul referred to himself as an apostle to the Gentiles ( nations ) because he saw himself commissioned to teach and preach to non-Israelites.

Traditionally, the pagans ( Gentiles ) have benn considered by the followers of monotheistic religions as infidels and treated.

The Jewish, Christian and Islamic rejection of paganism was directed initially mainly against the Greek and Roman polytheism, in the course of the mission, inter alia, against the Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Baltic and Native American Paganism.

At the end of the classical paganism, therefore, can be regarded as popular or state religion in each case the development or the introduction of Christianity or Islam, without prejudice to those realized in the regional transition times forms of syncretism, ie the mixture of religious and cultic tradition and the accommodated Christian content, rites and cults.

Later paganism was localized outside one's own culture, often dismissed as superstition or seen as a task for the conversion in Christianity. Although Christianity in the late fourth century, with the Constantinian turn the state religion of the Roman Empire and was tried in the subsequent period, to Christianize many pagan customs, can still find the whole Late Antiquity through pagan or at least syncretistic beliefs and practices.

Islam also differed from the outset between the religions of the book (Christianity and Judaism ), where a " limited knowledge " and a minor tolerance is granted, and the infidels who should be proselytized. Followers of polytheistic religions have tried under Sharia law to date no legal status and are not protected.

In contrast, focused within Christianity, the term heath during the Crusades almost exclusively on the Muslim Saracens. Only in the course of the mission on the back or newly discovered continents of Africa, America and Asia, he was arrested again broad in the sense of breaking new ground, combat engineer or Gentile mission. Today the term is used in the context of evangelization and inculturation of most Christian denominations hardly more; Rather, today the members of the newly burgeoning polytheistic tendencies call themselves pagans, without seeing in it a form of contempt.