Pagan and the Misuse of Words


For a while now I have been troubled by people’s lack of understanding of the word “pagan.” When I was about 19, I discovered that my mom thought pagans were people who don’t believe in gods. Both the Merriam-Webster and the Oxford dictionaries offer that as one of their definitions too. There is a problem with that definition though: first, that is the definition of an atheist, and second, I’ve met many pagans and they all believe in many gods. But I’ve also heard “pagan” used regularly by religious people to refer to people who don’t share their beliefs. Since that was the original use of the word, I have less problems with it. But, from a contemporary standpoint, it’s still wrong. A pagan is “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.”

Earlier today I came across a post where the author referred to Muslims as pagans. Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Given the above definition, Muslims aren’t pagans any more than Christians are. My biggest problem with the misuse of this word has to do with the lack of respect that it entails. A Muslim would not consider themselves a pagan. This is a way to demean and degrade their beliefs. Likewise, it is belittling to actual pagans, because it shows contempt for their beliefs too. You are saying “you don’t believe what I believe, therefore you’re less than me.”

I’m brining this up because I don’t like it when people purposefully misrepresent my beliefs to degrade me. I doubt anyone does. It’s creating a strawman. It’s dishonest and rude. So please, before you use a word to define someone when you know that they’d object to the definition, make sure it’s accurate first.

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18 responses to “Pagan and the Misuse of Words

  • Stan Day

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  • johnspenn

    We’ll just call you “heathen” instead, how’s that?

    JUST KIDDING. Once terms become associated with being pejorative, they have lost their force in rational discussion. While i’m no fan of being overly PC, I do want to engage the actual issues and ideas, and not just try to push people’s buttons with unnecessary labeling.

    By the way, religious folk aren’t the only ones who engage in this type of activity.

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  • Mike Bruno

    Nice post. Similarly; people use “atheist” as a term that connotes a positive assertion that god does not exist. Like “atypical” simply means “not typical”, “atheist” simply means “not a theist”. I’ve begrudgingly taken to using “non-theist” at times to avoid the unfair baggage foisted on “atheist”.

    I know of noone that positively asserts that there is no god … at least intentionally. It is easy, after all, to come off as making a positive claim that there are no unicorns.

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  • bornfromabove7

    Edit: it should say, “In the world today there are many people that claim to be speak truth, but actually speak false because they have been taught wrong

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  • bornfromabove7

    Nice post, but I’m not sure if people that call Muslims “pagan” or misrepresent another person’s beliefs do it on purpose, I think it has more to do with people being taught wrong, of course there are some people that do things on purpose to cause trouble, but I think the majority of people that say something that is false have been deceived into thinking that what they are saying is true, and that is why they say what they say

    In the world today there are many people that claim to speak the truth, but actually teach false because they have been taught wrong,

    I was one of those people, I’m Christian, I was born of the Spirit 19 yrs ago, but for 18 of those yrs I was deceived by false teachers that claim to be Christian & because I was taught false, I taught false, it was only after I was removed from the false church that claims to be Christian, that I saw how deceived I was and then I stopped speaking the false things that I was taught

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  • ravensmarch

    I’d understood that it was derived from Latin, where it originally meant something like “yokel”, and got the religious overtones from church Latin, when it took on the implication, “those dummies out in the country that haven’t heard we’re not following Jupiter et al anymore,” both of which are still relatively derogatory. I’ve always preferred the connotations of wildness and unconventionality attached to the word, as a mere differentiation from organized, hierarchical religions. I’m not pagan, nor Pagan, myself, but I certainly wouldn’t use it as a put-down and absolutely not as a substitute for atheist.

    As far as the dictionaries go, let’s not judge them too harshly; they describe rather than proscribe, so if enough people misuse a word, it gets an added definition.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      Pagan was a Greek or Roman term, I can’t remember which, to describe people who worshipped gods other than their own. It’s much like “barbarian” was a Greek word that meant non-Greek person. The negative conotation came much later.

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  • Godless Cranium

    Many people use the word ‘pagan’ as a slur. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Rhino House

    Historically I think you will find many English & American christian sermons & pamphlets in the 18th & 19th centuries used the term “pagan” in the way moslems used the term “k’fir”, to mean “unbeliever”. I think it was used in this way as a specific reference to a (varying) particular faith, rather than in the more general sense of “atheist”. The modern adoption of the term to cover the “wiccan” system of beliefs is another example of the words use (& misuse); while it’s annoying I don’t think this is going to change any time soon – I just wonder what it will be used to cover next.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kelly Grace

    Words can hurt or heal, build up or tear down and they can bring clarity.
    Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh, born of a virgin, to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin.
    Islam teaches that God does not beget neither was He begotten. ( This is the very inscription above the entrance to the Dome on the Rock mosque in Jerusalem). Many Muslims say Jesus was a great teacher, but they deny His deity and thereby
    rob His sacrifice of the power to cleanse us of our sins.
    Both faiths call Abraham father, but Jesus Christ is the focal point of Christianity. Jesus is not a counterpart to the prophet Mohammed, He is God, Savior, and Redeemer.
    That’s the crucial distinction and eternal salvation hangs in the balance.
    Christians are most effective at sharing the gospel when we speak the truth in love and offer an authentic example of a Christ-follower. When others see Jesus in us it should be His love above all.
    Thanks for raising this issue.
    The lack of respect is primarily a lack of love and a little religious pride—which is a contradiction in terms for sure!

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    • bornfromabove7

      The bible doesn’t support the statement that says, “one must believe Yeshua is God, to be born of God.” “these have been written that you may believe Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:31)

      The statement ‘in his name’ in John 20:31 is referring to believing that Yeshua is the Messiah, it is not referring to the name “Yeshua”, no one has to believe in the name Yeshua to be born of God

      In order to be born of God, one must believe God’s Son, Yeshua is the Messiah and after that ,one must stop practicing sin

      1 John 5:1 whosever believes Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God

      1 John 3:9 No one born of God practices sin

      In the world today there are many people that claim to be born of God that say, “you have to believe Yeshua is God, to be born of God”, no one led by the Spirit of God would ever say something that is contrary to what the bible says, therefore those who say, “you have to believe Yeshua is God, to be born of God”, are not led by the Spirit of God, those who are not led by the Spirit of God are led by the flesh, those who are led by the flesh are not the children of God

      Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God

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    • bornfromabove7

      The letter “J”didn’t exist during the time of the Apostles, therefore they never said Jesus is the name of God’s Son, they never said you have to say a prayer to be born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8) & they never said you choose the Messiah by freewill (Jn 1:12-13 & Jn 6:65), that means that the gospel that is preached in the world today isn’t the same gospel that the Apostles preached

      Gal 1:8 though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than that which we preached to you, let him be accursed

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    • bornfromabove7

      The gospel of Jesus Christ is the exact opposite of the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah, the gospel of Jesus Christ is false, while the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah is true

      The gospel of Jesus says, “say the sinner’s prayer and you will be born of the Spirit”,
      Yeshua never said anyone has to say a prayer to be born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8)

      John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit

      The gospel of Jesus says, God gave man freewill to choose Christ,
      Yeshua said, no one can come to me unless it has been granted from God (Jn 6:65)

      The gospel of Jesus says, anyone that believes in the name “Jesus” will be born of the Spirit,
      Yeshua said those that believe that He is the Messiah that don’t practice sin are born of the Spirit (Matt 7:21-23)

      Matt 7:21 Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven [the will of God that the Messiah speaks of, is not to practice sin]

      1 John 3:9 No one born of God practices sin
      1 John 5:1 Whosoever believes that Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God

      The gospel of Jesus says, “Jesus died for everyone”,
      Yeshua said, He was going to die for the sheep (Jn 10:15)

      The sheep are the people that believe Yeshua is the Messiah that don’t practice sin

      The reason why those that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ suffer persecution is because they are preaching another gospel, Gal 1:8 is a warning to anyone that preaches another gospel

      No one led by the Spirit will ever preach the gospel of Jesus Christ because that is not the gospel that was preached by the Apostles

      Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed

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    • bornfromabove7

      The gospel had already been preached to every creature under heaven by the time that Col 1:23 had been written, that means that everything in the New Testament has already happened

      Matt 24:14 & this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth & then the end shall come

      Mark 16:15 Go into all the world & preach the gospel to every creature

      Col 1:23 be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard & which was preached to every creature under heaven

      The whole purpose of preaching the gospel was so that God’s chosen people would be saved from the coming destruction that was going to happen to Jerusalem

      The end of the age in Matt 24:3, is the end of the Mosaic age, that age ended when the temple was destroyed, the gospel had to be preached before the end of the age happened, the temple was destroyed in AD70

      The letters in the New Testament were written to teach the church the truth about Yeshua the Messiah, to warn the church about the Lord’s coming judgment upon Jerusalem & to teach the church about what it means to be led by the Spirit

      Everything in the New Testament has already happened, the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23), Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 & those who have been predestined by God to be born of the Spirit are born of the Spirit (Eph 1:11), those who believe Yeshua is the Messiah that don’t practice sin are born of the Spirit A.K.A. born of God

      Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to God’s purpose who works all things after the counsel of His own will

      1 John 3:9 No one born of God practices sin

      1 John 5:1 Whosoever believes Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God

      Like

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