c.1375, from late Latin pāgānus “pagan,” in classical L. “villager, rustic, civilian” (cf. peasant), from pagus “rural district” (cognate to Greek πάγος, pagos “rocky hill, marker”), originally “district limited by markers,” thus related to pangere “to fix, fasten,” from PIE base *pag- “to fix” (cf. pact/peace, page, pale,/pole). Religious sense (paganism/paynimry) 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. mīlitēs “soldier of Christ,” etc.), i.e., pagans are civilians to the Church’s soldiers.
While we soldiers of Christ (or the other Abrahamic prophets) were/are all pagans before we were/are soldiers, there is another sense in which some of us are pagans. Pagans are those who dwell outside the polis, which is the site of modern neonomadism, where uprooted pagans go to settle or through which they transit, the place of the coming race. Those who live a relatively fixed existence—provincials (like me), indigenes, and other immobile non-nomads—remain beyond the pale of the modern, despite our attempts to get into the race.
But, if we sidestep the race and sidetrack the stragglers, it gives us a strength: a primitivism (f. L. primitivus, “first of its kind” or original) that is not necessarily atavistic (“ancestral,” thus, behind) or mediocre (“middling [i.e. from medius “middle” + ocris “sharp peak,” i.e., halfway up the mountain],” thus, beneath), but appropriate and/or appropriative (“made one’s own,” thus, beside).
We pagans of the pagus Anglorum are not inside, we’re beside, which paratactic orientation has virtues of its own.
Arnoldus Montanus, “Pagus Hispanorum in Florida” [St. Augustine], Die Nieuwe en onbekende Weereld . . . (Amsterdam, 1671), repr. in John Ogilby‘s atlas America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World (London, 1671).