Question: "What is a pagan? What is paganism?"
Answer: From a Christian viewpoint, pagans are generally characterized as those who are caught up in any religious ceremony, act, or practice that is not distinctly Christian. Correspondingly, Jews and Muslims also use the term pagans to describe those outside their religion. Others define the term paganism as any religion outside of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity; whereas some argue that a pagan is anyone with no religion at all.
Pagan comes from the Latin word paganus, which means “country dweller”; paganism can refer to polytheism or the worship of more than one god, such as in ancient Rome. A pagan is also considered to be one who, for the most part, has no religion and indulges in worldly delights and material possessions; someone who revels in sensual pleasures; a hedonistic or self-indulgent individual. Another, more modern term is neo-paganism, which refers to some of the contemporary forms of paganism such as Wicca, Druidry, and Gwyddon.
These modern “pagan” practices are actually similar to their ancient counterparts in that they rely heavily on hedonism—sensual gratification and self-indulgence and the pursuit of happiness and pleasure to the exclusion of everything else. In ancient times, sexual ceremonies were a major part of pagan religions. The Old Testament references these perverted religions in such passages as Deuteronomy 23:17, Amos 2:7–8, and Isaiah 57:7–8.
Though they are numerous and varied in their practices and beliefs, pagans do hold to some similar beliefs. For example:
• The physical world is a good place, one to be taken pleasure in by everyone.
• Everyone is considered to be part of this Mother Earth.
• Divinity reveals itself in every facet of the world.
• Every being, man and animal, is a derivative of the Divine. As such, all are gods and goddess.
• Most pagan religions do not have gurus or messiahs.
• Doctrine is superseded by one’s own responsibility.
• Solar and lunar cycles are significant in pagan worship.
Any form of paganism is false doctrine. Paul addressed this perversion of the truth in his letter to the believers in Rome (Romans 1:22–27). The people Paul described were worldly and materialistic, worshiping created things rather than the Creator. They worshiped trees, animals, and rocks, going so far as to abuse their bodies in deviant sexual practices to revel in their passions. Paul then goes on to tell us why they did this and the end result:
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).
In spite of common assumptions, most pagan worshipers claim they don’t believe in Satan. However, there’s no question that Satan is their chief source of influence and control. Though they will deny it, they deify him in their worldly and sensual practices. Paul tells us plainly how Satan works in the lives of people without God, through his power, his signs, his deceit, and his lies:
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12).
That Satan is alive and well is powerfully evidenced in these pagan practices. This was not only clear in the times of the first-century church, but also in today’s postmodern world. To the faithful believers who know the Lord, pagan worship is what it appears to be—the power and deceit of the prince of this world, Satan (1 John 5:19), who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As such, paganism should be avoided.