In pop culture today, the word “Pagan” rides on the wings of a stigma often erroneously associating it with godlessness, witchcraft, even Satanism. These associations couldn't be further from the truth. The word is actually derived from the Latin paganus, which simply means “civilian”. Most pre-Christian religions of the ancient world were polytheistic and worshipped various gods, each symbolic of an aspect of mankind's existence. It was a golden age of learning, philosophy and enlightenment. A time that gave rise to great civilizations such as Egypt and Rome. It also served as a breeding ground for some of history's greatest thinkers including Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Plotinus.
That is, until the first Champions of Christianity conquered Western Europe, imposing their religion on the population and unleashing a fury on all those who didn't adhere to church doctrine. They changed the word's definition to "heathen" or "heretic", meaning non-believer in a rather successful attempt to stifle all voices of dissent down to the inaudible whisper. They did so in a fashion that would've garnered the approval of men like Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Those not enrolled in the army of Christ were labeled evil by the early Catholic Church and hunted feverishly. The Church burned the flames of wisdom and learning at the stake and reduced their literature to smoldering ash, plunging the continent into a darkness that would endure for more than a thousand years.
The surviving pagans salvaged what documents they could and formed secret societies. They met secretly, deep in the woods or far from the prying eyes of the church giving birth to another word fallaciously affiliated with evil; occult. Again these men were labeled evil and sought out by the church for execution but despite it's best efforts it couldn't extinguish all the lights of antiquity.
It did however, cast a long, dark shadow on Paganism and it's practice which still pervades to this day.