Some time ago I wrote an essay, When Words Weigh More Than Bricks and published it on this blog, 10-14-2012. Even though it was a short piece, it was well received. The essay hammered away at how negative words between spouses and parents to kids can have a gross negative impact. The message was to think before you speak and if need be, run around the block to blow off steam before you opened your mouth. Truly, I believe that I gave some sage advice. But, there are a few words that still exist within our English language that continue to create a problem for a growing number of people. And, they need to be put into their proper place. These words are Heathen and Pagan.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition defines the word Pagan as:
1: HEATHEN 1: exp : a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome). 2: one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person.
The same source describes Heathen as;
1: an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible 2 : an uncivilized or irreligious person.
As I understand it, Merriam-Webster ties in locality (geography) as a source for these names. Heath refers to a wild, expansive, and uncultivated land with poor soil. This word has old German and old English root sources. Pagan references a country dweller, a suburbanite country bumpkin. The word has it origins in the Latin, paganus, originally meaning a civilian. Roman Legionaries, at times, used the word paganus to refer to some civilians as"slackers," or useless people. Both words existed before the beginning of the Christian era. Unfortunately, as time passes, things change, including the meaning of words.
The three Abrahamic, monotheistic religions quickly latched on to these ancient words and used them to describe anyone who did not adhere to their vision of the one true God; one god, not just above all others but the only real god - all others being not just false but devils in disguise. In short order, it did not matter where you lived, if you did not embrace their god, you were in biblical terms, an abomination and had to be dealt with, either through rigorous conversion, or execution. The use of these words in such a derogatory manner continues into our modern times.
The Pagans and Heathens of the past, like those in our modern era, certainly were not godless. Today just as in the past, Pagans and Heathens have more Gods than the fingers to count them on. And dear reader, whether you like it or not, six out of the seven days of the week are named after Germanic Gods and Goddesses - I do not believe this to be an accident. Pagans and Heathens today, as in the past, certainly are not and were not hedonistic: all of that wild and goofy sex stuff comes from sexually repressed monks and the biblical authors that came before them. On the contrary, the word best suited is altruistic. Pagans and Heathens in the past as well as in the present feel a connection not just to the Earth, but to all life in general. So, life is good, worthy, and wholesome. To the Monotheists this was then, as it is now, a threat to their unfounded belief, and thus their very existence. Here is a tasty tidbit: the word ain't can be found in the same Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It is included as a valid word based on its vigorous usage over a period of time by the populace, just as the words Pagan and Heathen are still defined by their false, monotheistic definitions. There was a time not that long ago when the word ain't was vigorously discouraged. It was considered to be something verbally used by the ignorant, and not a real word. The words Pagan and Heathen today are still used in a negative and derogatory manner and it is time for attitudes and definitions about the words Pagan and Heathen to change into a more positive light. A reading of my old essay, When Words Weigh More Than Bricks could be a start. You could say, boy, ain't that the truth!
copyright @2015 Terry Unger