Paganism or to be pagan, comes from the old Latin word pagus. During the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, Christians used this word to describe anyone who lived in the country. Pagus denoted the non-urban dweller still steeped in the mysticism of inferior cults and beholden to numerous celestial or Mother Earth related deities. The untutored country bumpkin as it were. A very good depiction of Islam's power base.
The Christians had created an advanced and sophisticated form of monotheism by the 4th century. Of the Roman empire's 100 millions most likely 40% or more were Christian or Pagus-Christian following the Christian scripture with some pagan non-Christian artifacts sprinkled in. This mass of followers was for the most part urbanized – mimicking the city-centric configuration of the Roman empire. Rome's power was built on urbanization; the benefits of public hygiene, water, spectacular shows, markets, accessible culture, and the education and sophistication which could be employed in a city setting. Simply put people had a better life under Rome – still terribly difficult for many – but better than the alternative.
Though the economy was majority pastoral and agriculture, industrialization and production was vibrant as evidenced by the minerals and carbon found in Arctic ice rings dating from the late Roman empire. Rome was fast becoming a modern, industrial society, replete with large workshops or factories, long distribution routes, depots, retailers, and a myriad of markets and sectors catering to every possible taste. The pax-Romana created a diverse and dynamic Mediterranean world. Trade, ideas, and culture were international. So too was pride in being Roman even if cynically, the right for anyone to claim citizenship was proclaimed in order to increase taxation.
Into this rather modern looking society, Christianity developed as the most determined and certain of various spiritual programs and cults. By the time Constantine converted to Christianity in 313 AD the Roman empire was probably dominated by a few cults with the most well connected and urbanized being that of Christus.
From the original base of the poor, the sick, the common laborer and the powerless, the Christian takeover of many urban centers had transformed it by 350 AD into a cult supported by the educated, the wealthy, the aristocratic and the merchant class. It was a remarkable transformation and one which gave the Christians increasing political power ending by the 4th century the once numerous pograms of Christian persecution. At some point in time it became clear that no Emperor would be foolish enough to wage a civil war against such a large and embedded cult.
For the Christians the superstitious cults of the countryside were anathema to their religion. The Book of Matthew is the strongest ethical document yet created and it forms the basis of spiritual Christianity including humility, gratitude, charity, and the Golden Rule. Most of the pagans outside the Roman urban centers were animists, Mother Earth worshipers or transfixed by celestial objects such as the Moon or Sun. Many of these rural theologies were death cults. Animal sacrifices, drinking of blood, obsessions with death encoded in bizarre rituals, incoherent belief systems and naked hierarchies of power and abuse including in some cases the killing of children – these dominated the non-urban areas of Rome's empire.
Islam which was not created until 610 AD, was one of these pagan cults on the outskirts of Rome's borders in the poor heartland of Arabia. Mecca was an entrepot and trading center but was a poor village compared with the urban colossi of Rome's world. Moon cults had been established in Mecca for some 3.000 years before the Romanization of parts of the Near East. It was in essence an Arab death cult where 360 idols vied for power. Slavery, child sacrifice, female mutilation and abuse, violence, brigandry – all these were the hallmarks of the moon cult society. No Book of Matthew and no Golden Rule. The savagery of this moon cult would of course transform itself into Islam and find its hysterical expression in the gibberish called the Koran.
For early Christians the pagus was in essence an illiterate, uneducated, and unreformed country side hick. One can well imagine the urban, educated and Roman inspired Christian laughing at the country boys and girls, making fun of their clothes, their lack of teeth, their funny hats and the savagery of their superstition. They would be classed as irredeemably moronic and barbarian and utterly pagan, praying to moon deities, rocks, trees, asteroids, or throwing stones at little devils as Muslims still now do. If any 4th century Christian did know about the Arabian moon cult, it would have been dismissed as just another form of pagus inspired nonsense. A laughingstock.
And that rather crude reaction was and is the right one. Islam is no more a religion than any cult which would have a moon, a rock, an asteroid, or little devils as centralities to a system of ritualization. Islam is an Arabian invention premised on thousands of years of pagus worship. It has nothing in common with Christian theology, ideals, ethos or even the Christian concept of creating a modern world to ease pain and suffering.
The Arabs and Muslims could care less about the modernity of our world, or the advancement of Christian inspired Enlightenment and Rationalization. It was Christians after all who built the European revolutions of the mind and of matter and science. No such undertakings have ever been performed by Arabs or Muslims. This was as true in the 4th century AD as it is today.
What is also true is the pagus spirit of Islam. Early Christians were right. There is something barbaric, immoral and uncivilized in the pagus of the countryside – the base of power for the Islamic cult today as it was 1400 years ago.