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"Pagan" and "Heathen" redirect here. For other usages, see Pagan (disambiguation) and
Mayan priests dancing around fire at a ceremony
Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller, rustic") is a term which, from a
Western perspective, has modern connotations of spiritualist practices or beliefs of any
folk religion, and of historical and contemporary polytheistic religions in particular.
The term can be defined broadly, to encompass the faith traditions outside the Abrahamic
monotheistic group of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The group so defined includes
many of the Eastern religions, Native American religions and mythologies, as well as non-
Abrahamic ethnic religions in general. More narrow definitions will not include any of the
world religions and restrict the term to local or rural currents not organized as civil
religions. Characteristic of pagan traditions is the absence of proselytism and the presence
of a living mythology which explains religious practice.
The term "pagan" is a Christian adaptation of the "gentile" of Judaism, and as such has an
inherent Christian or Abrahamic bias, and pejorative connotations among Westerners,
comparable to heathen, and infidel, mushrik and kafir (????) in Islam. For this reason,
ethnologists avoid the term "paganism," with its uncertain and varied meanings, in
referring to traditional or historic faiths, preferring more precise categories such as
polytheism, shamanism, pantheism, or animism; however others criticise the use of these
terms, claiming that these are only aspects that different faiths may share and do not
denote the religions themselves.
Since the later 20th century, "Pagan" or "Paganism" has become widely used as a self-
designation by adherents of Neopaganism.