Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pagan?

To anybody interested in matters religious, the words I have already written might have caused the word Pagan to pop into their mind. It's a loaded word, a them and us word.

Like most words of this kind it has a simple origin. The latin word paganus meant "country dweller" or "rustic". It became a pejorative term to describe those that had not adopted the new, sophisticated, imperial Christian religion. People clinging to old superstitions and polytheism, people considered backward. Religion aside, use of this word as an insult must have been pretty offensive to country people, but Rome was intensely heirarchical and engagement in civic life was considered the apogee of cultural achievement.

The word pagan does not seem appropriate to our age. In its literal sense it depends on where you stand in society and on having a contrasting, state sponsored religion generally accepted as "true" by all persons that are considered "normal" and part of "society". But our world view has grown since Roman times and normality and society are now accepted as variable and relative.

So I will avoid the word Pagan here. By all means consider me a Pagan if you wish. I guess I can be a little bit rustic at times...

In the spirit of exploring fundamental British beliefs and values I would urge the use of one word above all others:

Tolerance.

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