Paganism is a term that developed among the Christian community of southern Europe during late antiquity to describe religions other than their own, Judaism, or Islam–the three Abrahamic religions. Throughout Christendom, it continued to be used, typically in a derogatory sense. In the 19th century, it was re-adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-description by practitioners of contemporary pagan, or neo-pagan, religious movements.
There has been much scholarly argument as to the origin of the term paganism. Paganism has also been understood by some to include any non-Abrahamic religions, but this is generally seen as insulting by adherents of those religions. While paganism is often considered to exclude monotheism and to express a worldview that is pantheistic, polytheistic, or animistic, there are some monotheistic pagans. Once monotheistic religions, such as Christianity and Islam, started to become more prominent (in processes known as Christianization and Islamization), names to encompass polytheistic worshipers started to develop; some of these include Hellene, pagan, and heathen, and at times these names were used as slurs.
Modern knowledge of old pagan religions comes from several sources, including: anthropological field research records, the evidence of archaeological artifacts, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regardin . . . more