The Corner

Citified Christians, Redneck Pagans

From a reader:

Hi Jonah,   I greatly enjoyed LF and am deeply appreciate your work and humor.  In regards to your observation about reactionary movements and urban populations it is interesting to note that early Christianity was largely an urban movement (see for example the works of sociologist Rodeny Stark).  The Roman Empire Christianized from the cities out to the rural areas.  So much so that some believe the word “pagan” derives from the word pagus, or marker between the city districts and the rustics.  As to whether universal Christianity actually was and is a ”cosmopolitan” movement, especially in relation to the national and particular deities of the Roman world (and perhaps the secular gods of our time) is a different question.   From an online etymology dictionary,   Pagan   c.1375, from L.L. paganus “pagan,” in classical L. “villager, rustic, civilian,” from pagus “rural district,” originally “district limited by markers,” thus related to pangere “to fix, fasten,” from PIE base *pag- “to fix” (see pact). Religious sense is often said to derive from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for “civilian, incompetent soldier,” which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (e.g. milites “soldier of Christ,” etc.). Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908. Paganism is attested from 1433.

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