Exploring the overlap and relevance of Modernist philosophy, literature, art, music, culture, and modern life with paganism.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The meaning of Pagan

I have written much about my feelings of the word "pagan" on my primary religious blog, Of Thespiae.  I've written about how the use of the word in the pagan community has become so loose that it's meaningless for all practical purposes.  I've written about how, in spite of regular protests from the pagan community, the implicit "positive definition" of "paganism" ("positive definition" meaning "defining what something is"; whereas "negative definitions" define by what a word is not) is incredibly Eurocentric [2].  I've even mentioned how the "negative definition" of the word "pagan" isn't necessarily true, as the tradition of Christopaganism certainly makes it hard to say where the Christianity ends and the paganism begins.  I've written about the incredibly secular climate of the pagan community in current culture.

The word "pagan" is not one I've been terribly fond of.  Early on in my spiritual journey, earliest possible point being around either 1989 (when a nun at my old Catholic school gave me a copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and, I swear, I felt touched by Apollon in ways that Jesus and El Shaddai just never really could) or 1993 (when I first really started exploring ostensibly "pagan" paths), the word "pagan" was practically interchangeable with "Wiccan" or "witchcraft", or so it seemed  when trying to find any books on the topic; there was a minority of books about Heathenry, Celtic polytheism, and neo-Druidry, but there was no uncertainty to the dominance of witchcraft-based paganism, and frankly, that only barely interested me, and not enough to really look too deeply into it.  For a very brief time in high school, I practised a hodgepodge "Celtic reconstruction" of my own design, but I eschewed the word "pagan" because this didn't fit the common idea that most people had of "pagans" in the modern days, which was pretty much synonymous with "witchcraft", even if one knew that religious witchcraft wasn't as phantasmagorical as scenes from The Craft or even Practical Magic, they didn't really conceptualise it as simply "worshipping the gods of the British Isles", which is what I did, then.  Toward the end of high school, I just gave up on my self-made Panceltic religion, cos most of those gods barely seemed "real" to me, and I joined the Church of Satan briefly, which is adamantly not pagan, in its self-definition, and though most members describe Satanism under the definition of Anton LaVey as "atheistic", further reading into LaVey's later essays, and not to mention certain interpretations of passages in The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, suggest that he himself was better defined as Maltheistic (a word of earliest use in print traced to Usenet in 1985, and defining one who ostensibly believes in one or more gods, but deems It/(S)He/Them as unfit for human worship; see LaVey's "God of the Assholes", which appears in Satan Speaks! ©1997, for the most clear evidence of LaVey's maltheistic, rather than atheistic beliefs).  I was never a good atheist, somewhere in my head, I always believed in the gods of Hellas, and I was never maltheistic, either, because even if some deities don't want, need, or even deserve my worship, there are others that do, and by the time I was twenty-two, I basically outgrew the need for LaVey's church that I briefly had. But pagan?  To see if that word fit, I put a toe in the on-line pagan community for the first time in six years when I was about twenty-four, and at that time, I'd discovered a vibrant and thriving community of Hellenic reconstructionists, most of whom had mixed feelings about the word "pagan".  I pretty much only interacted with other recons for about another two or three years, and though I forget what ultimately teased me out, I had never really fully embraced "pagan" as a part of my religious identity.

Now, I say "religious identity".  This is important.  Though there are certainly a handful of people who describe their religion as simply "pagan" or "paganism", there is no single, positively-defined religion called "paganism".  The word "pagan" is generally assumed to be a collection of religions, generally of European or Mediterranean (including the Near and Middle east and Northern Africa, specifically countried along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) origin, that either a) pre-date Christianity, b) attempt to reconstruct or revive said, or c) are newer religions that are at least somewhat influenced or inspired by said (like Wicca or Feri).  Prior Christianity, none of the local religions of Europe and the Mediterranean called themselves "pagan"; indeed, one's religion was usually just a part of the local lifestyle and was, at most, simply the way of worshipping the local gods --the ancient Greek dialects don't even have a word for "religion", the closest being "ta hiera", which is often translated as "the sacred" or "sacred things". "Pagan" is a thoroughly modern religious identity; similarly, "gay" is a thoroughly modern sexual identity, as in ancient times, most cultures didn't compartmentalise human sexuality with terms like "heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual" and sexuality certainly had less to do with the gender ofthe person one was attracted to than it had to do with the activities one engaged their sexual partners with.  These identities certainly exist, but they lose all meaning outside a modern context, and even within that context, are subject to change in their subtlety of meaning due to many factors, including time, location, implications by the speaker, and inference of the listener.

The Roman word "paganus", often translated as "of the countryside", was often a colloquialism roughly equivalent to the modern American English "hillbilly", with connotations of being "backwards" and ignorant.  When early Roman Christianity adopted a militaristic means of enforcement, the "paganus", not necessarily of the countryside any-more, were those who held to the old ways.  (Exactly how long those "old ways" were held to is still debated in some circles, but contrary to what some academic pagans may believe, the witch cult hypothesis hasn't been completely discredited.)

The first appearance of the word "neopagan" actually came in the 19th Century, in a critique of a wave of English poets and writers who were utterly fascinated with Greco-Roman pre-Christian literature, and so Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and others were criticised as "neopagans".  I can't think of a single one of those people who identified with the word "pagan"; Shelley described himself as Atheist, Oscar Wilde was a Catholic.

The words "pagan" and "neopagan" came to be reclaimed by the community of Wicca initiates, Dianics, and others by the 1970s.  Then some time in the 1980s, Heathens decided that what they were doing was different enough, and made efforts to divorce their community from the pagan community, and nowadays, most Heathens (at least in my experiences) have nothing to do with the pagan community, no matter how many "pagan 101"-type books include Heathenry in a list of pagan religions.  And that's just fine.  People are certainly welcome to describe themselves in whatever words they like, especially when a community is very small (much smaller than it is today) and only people who are kind of similar are looking for common traits to band together under.

Since then, there have been a great many strides made for the pagan community --socially and legally-- even though there is clearly so much more to be done.  One of the major improvements is that the pagan community no longer encompasses people practising Wicca or something based on it, and even fewer are "starting out Wiccan, first"; at one time, I was the only person I knew in the Hellenic community who was honestly never a Wiccan or something like it prior to Hellenismos, but of the people I actively engage with in the Hellenic community now, I can't think of a single person under the age of thirty who says they were previously practising Wicca.  While Wicca still manages to dominate the mainstream media image of "paganism", it's no longer the unyielding monolith of the pagan community while us chimps standing around it struggle with rocks and sticks just in hopes of being seen.

So what does "pagan" mean, now, given the clear change to the landscape?

As best as I can say, "pagan" is an experience that one practising certain religions may face.  The pagan experience includes, but might not be limited to:

  • fear of losing custody of one's child because of one's religion
  • fear of threats to one's personal safety or property because of one's religion
  • fear of loss of employment because of one's religion
  • fear of losing friends or of becoming estranged from one's family because of one's religion
  • having one's religion unfairly caricatured, ridiculed, or dismissed as something "no-one practises any-more"
  • a gross misunderstanding, from those outside one's religious community, of what one's religion practises
  • inaccurate dismissal by a society of one's religion as "just mythology", indicating a societal ignorance of and disregard to the etymology of "mythology" from the ancient Hellenic meaning "sacred texts".

Since ancient times, the word "pagan" has been used by a mainstream of society to "other" people who were different.  It's been attached by urban and military Romans onto a rural population; it's been attached by Christians onto polytheists (including animists) and atheists alike. It's not our word, it's theirs, some of us have just reclaimed and repurposed it.

The trend to self-identify with the word "pagan" is a very new thing in recent years, and is a practise eschewed by most Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, Shenists, Taoists (and others of Chinese religions), Native American / First Nations and Aboriginal Australian, Maori, and people of indigenous Polynesian peoples.  The word has decreased in popularity among reconstructionists practising European and Mediterranean religions because in spite of clear growth in the pagan community, misunderstandings of what makes Eclectic Wiccans and, say, Kemeticists distinct continues to fall on deaf ears both outside and within the pagan community, as some people are still very insistent that the various religions under the alleged "pagan umbrella" share "common roots" when that hasn't been indisputably true since the Indo-European nations deviated from Sanskrit (or perhaps earlier).

I therefore posit that focusing on the idea of "pagan" as a religious grouping is all wrong.  The better idea is to focus on the idea of "pagan" as a social experience, not unlike the social experiences of race, sexuality, and gender.  To be "pagan" is less about how one relates to one's own religious path, and is more about how the ostensibly Judeo-Christian, or more broadly, Abrahamic society relates to religions that it decrees to be "pagan", and if we go to the sources of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, this experience of being "paganised" (to use the modern term) is one that pre-dates Roman dominance, and is as old as proto-Monotheistic/Monolateral Semetic religion.  To be "pagan" is to be the "Other" of a society.

Last modified on
Rate this blog entry:
3
Ruadhán J McElroy is a Helenic polytheist recon (Boeotian traditions) currently living in Lansing, MI, and maintains a blog focused on Boeotian religion and his own Neo-Cyrenaic Pluralism philosophy that blends the fragments of Cyrenaic Hedonism, the pluralistic philosophy of Empedocles, and some proto-Hedonism from Democritus. He also writes a series of fiction focused on the Mod subculture, has a shop on Etsy, and occasionally works as a DJ of Mod Revival and Ska music.

Comments

  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette Sunday, 12 May 2013

    You make some very valid points. I have also been re-thinking the idea that these many religious paths should all be lumped together, even though many practitioners loudly reject the label. My one defense of it - not that it matters - is that because we are *all* subject to the same kind of discrimination, because we are all lumped together by the mainstream Christian society, we should be willing to take that label as a sort of truce, a banner to stand together beneath as we fight for *all* our rights to practice the religions we have.
    All this nit-picky infighting in the Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen/Druid/etc/etc/etc community infuriates me; it's so counter-productive and divisive. Heathens, Wiccans, Celtic Reconstructionists ...society labels us all as "Satanists" or "in a cult" and uses that label to persecute us. We need to stand together to fight against it, and practice our own, unique path without feeling the need to trash others' paths.
    Maybe we could do like the LGBTQ community, and come up with some kind of acronym to encompass all these diverse paths. Maybe PDHR, for Pagan, Druid, Heathen, and Reconstructionist (I know I'm probably leaving someone out...it's just an idea at this point). I think that sharing a common name can help pave the way to sharing a common goal: equality!

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Thanks for your comment.

    Just to be clear, though, "pagan" seems a perfectly fine word to describe the experience of being an "out" Wiccan, or Heathen, or Canaanite, or Gaul, and so on, in current Western culture. It doesn't describe what those religions actually are, but it describes a range of experiences that people of those religions have had, and regularly continue to have (to varying degrees).

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    I am a Pagan...PLEASE capitalize Pagan..it is a proper Noun.I am Wiccan...also capitalized. I have gotten after a reporter for doing just that..it is disrespectful. Would you not capitalize Christianity?
    Back in the 70's we were Witches in private and Wiccans in public..But always Pagans. I am a Child of the Earth...there is not some title without meaning to us who carry it proudly. There are people who have suffered to keep their honor of that title. I was beaten and ended up in surgery because of it, people have lost their children, their jobs, family because of it. And we are to just drop it? Lose the awareness... the self identifier?
    What Heathen means People of the Heather... they are the northerners..and Reconstruction is not a religion... if you are reconstructing what it was to be Norse..then you are a Heathen...with a history fetish. It has nothing to do with following the religion...

    Not that long ago Wiccans/Witches finally got their Religious emblem on the headstones of our fallen warriors...now the Heathen have Thor's Hammer.
    Maybe we need to know what the common equation is of what a Pagan is. I know what it is to me.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Where did I say you should "just drop" any personal identification that works for you? Please show me, and I'll be more than happy to retract or at least clarify.

    And you're correct, "Reconstruction" is not a religion, per se, but it's a method of practise, and one that many people have united under and found meaning in, so why you're telling people that they just have a "history fetish" with "nothing to do with following the religion" seems a mite hypocritical, if you ask me.

    As for your insistence that I capitalise the word "pagan", I was an English major, and the status of "pagan" as a proper noun is only just barely, at best --and that's being charitable. You might as well insist on capitalising the word "transgender", and as someone who is himself of the transgender community, I think that'd be silly. You're certainly welcome to make that stylistic choice in your own writing, but I haven't been given that guideline as a condition for writing here, this isn't WitchVox.

    Your etymology of "Heathen" is wrong, too.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Tuesday, 04 June 2013

    Transgender is a gender. Pagan is a religion. We don't capitalize "male" and "female". We do capitalize "Christian" and "Hindu". Your refusal to capitalize the word is a function of your statement that Paganism is not a religion, not a grammatical issue. You should own up to it.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 04 June 2013

    No, "transgender" is a community of gender identities that are othered by cisgender-normative society. Sometimes people in that community state that "transgender" is, indeed, their gender, but that doesn’t mean the "big tent collective" under the term "transgender" ceases to be.

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Oh PS...as far as neopaganism...is there a NeoChristianity? You can not say that this Christianity is what was practiced 2000 years ago.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 12 May 2013

    And yet there are many in the pagan community who have accepted and identified with the word "neopagan". Isaac Bonewits had even famously repurposed and redefined the term "neopagan", and I've seen literally hundreds of people in the pagan community embrace that redefinition.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 01 June 2013

    >"I can't think of a single one of those people who identified with the word "pagan"; Shelley described himself as Atheist, Oscar Wilde was a Catholic."

    I believe Rupert Brooke and his circle referred to themselves as Neo-Pagans:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Neo-pagans-Friendship-Rupert-Brooke/dp/0333445724/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1369417817&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Neo-Pagans%3A+Friendship+and+Love+in+the+Rupert+Brooke+Circle

    Also, I suspect that Swinburne and many in his circle also identified with the word "pagan", as did Thomas Taylor (although he was earlier).

    BTW, I am one of those in the Pagan community that embraces Bonewits repurposing of "Neopagan": http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/defining-paganism-and-neopaganism/

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 02 June 2013

    Unfortunately, I'm going to need more than just a title to confirm that assertion about Brooke, and last I knew, Taylor described himself as a Platonist, not "pagan".

    I'm really not a fan of Bonewits' pseudoetymologies and neologisms -- for starters, even in the "pagan community" his definitions are very seldom used outside the circles where he had the most direct influence, so even at this point, his definitions are practically ADF jargon and using terms like "mesopagan" and Bonewits' definition of "neopagan" outside certain very specific pagan populations will raise at least as many eyebrows as using the sociological definition of "racism" on the IMDb fora. For someone who apparently was so "groundbreaking" and "influential", the terms and definitions he invented are barely used outside the areas he most-directly influenced; more often than not, even on sites like this one, or The Wild Hunt, his words are still just curiosities. Yeah, neologisms don't enter the common lexicon of even a relatively small community without regular use, so by not using his words and definitions, I'm only making them harder to understand, but the thing is, I see very few others using his words, either. I think, aside from yourself, the only person I've seen who comments regularly on these big pagan blogs referring to the entire current community as "neopagan" and even terms like "mesopagan" has been his widow, Phaedra Bonewits. That fact doesn't really speak well of the long-term potential of his terms.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Sunday, 02 June 2013

    The group was dubbed the "Neo-Pagans" by one of the members of the group Virginia Woolf, and it stuck. It's well known and you can google it.

    As for Taylor, when people of his time spoke of pagans they usually meant citizens of Rome during the imperial period when Roman paganism was in its Neoplatonic phase, so the two terms are used interchangeably.

  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette Monday, 03 June 2013

    Re: the Roman Pagans (paganus): you're right, but it was specifically used to describe Romans who lived out in the country, and it had a distinctly disparaging connotation, like "bumpkin" or "hick."
    Still, being a barefoot, hairy-legged tree-hugging dirt worshipper from the Arkansas Ozarks, I'll take it.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Monday, 03 June 2013

    Actually, when I searched your assertion just now (Virginia Woolf neo-pagan), the most-conclusive statements I've found actually support the statement I made in the article I wrote: Woolf used the term "neo-pagans" to refer to the Robert Brooke group, a group she didn't really consider herself a part of, and the moniker was chosen by her specifically in reference to their fondness of skinny-dipping and professed fondness of nature. It was basically the same level of ribbing that was intended when critics of Byron and Shelley called them "neo-pagans". I see no real support for the notion that Brooke and his friends self-identified with the term, at all, nor that shares an especially stronger allegiance with the modern connotations of the term than it does. I hope you only just misunderstood this, rather than intentionally tried to manipulate the facts to support your ideas.

    I'm also going to need more just just an assertion that in 18th and early 19th Century England, that "Neo-/Platonist" and "pagan" were interchangeable words, if only cos I still see no reason to believe that Taylor didn't remain at least somewhat Christian, due largely to the fact that his criticisms of Christianity were more toward its corruptions than its values. Indeed, among most of the Hellenists I personally know, the compatibility of Neoplatonism with Christianity is pretty well-accepted, even though Platonism pre-dates Christianity by several centuries and even among those who remark on the compatibility, most still assert that "true Platonism" is necessarily polytheistic. As for Taylor, specifically, his apparent high regard of Iamblichos at least suggests (and suggests all over the place) that Taylor was of the camp that did see a clear compatibility between Neoplatonism and Christianity, and I see no reason to believe that he ever scrapped Christianity as a whole in favour of polytheistic Platonism. At most, he was Christopagan in practise, personally identified himself as a Neoplatonist, and only may just barely count as a pre-Twentieth self-identified "pagan" of some variety.

    I think my original point still stands: There is no practical reason to believe that prior the Midtwentieth, anyone --clearly and in no uncertain terms-- identified themselves as "pagan" or "neo-pagan", but instead had those words applied to them. There is no clear reason for a pagan self-identity to be religiously motivated, but instead, to unite as a shared experience amongst a wide variety of religious and non-religious groups that are outside the Abrahamic mainstreams. I thus repeat:

    I therefore posit that focusing on the idea of "pagan" as a religious grouping is all wrong. The better idea is to focus on the idea of "pagan" as a social experience, not unlike the social experiences of race, sexuality, and gender. To be "pagan" is less about how one relates to one's own religious path, and is more about how the ostensibly Judeo-Christian, or more broadly, Abrahamic society relates to religions that it decrees to be "pagan", and if we go to the sources of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, this experience of being "paganised" (to use the modern term) is one that pre-dates Roman dominance, and is as old as proto-Monotheistic/Monolateral Semetic religion. To be "pagan" is to be the "Other" of a society.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Tuesday, 04 June 2013

    Woolf was part of the group
    Except when she said that she wasn't.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Monday, 03 June 2013

    Hey, I've only asked you to back up what you've said, but "whatevs", you've clearly already made up your mind about my intentions.

    You've done a greatjob of outlining the history of the term "pagan", but I don't see how that history leads to your conclusion. You say it is "their" (Judeo-Christians') word, not ours; but Paganism is all about reclaiming. We define "witch", "magic", "woman", "man", "earth", "body", "darkness", "god", "heathen" ... "pagan".

    To be "Pagan" is to be "Other" in our society, just as you say -- it is to be consciously, and proudly "other". It is to willingly opt out of many of modern Western civilization's basic assumptions. There! I think you may actually have hit on a workable definition of Paganism.


    No, actually my "conclusion" was that the word "pagan" says nothing about religion, but it speaks instead to an experience in a society that devalues non-Abrahamic religions. I know what I said, thanks.

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Monday, 03 June 2013

    Woolf was part of the group and I do believe Brooke at least adopted the term. I'm not going to track it down for you, because I don't honestly care that much, as you seem intent on believing otherwise, to the point of casting aspersions.

    Thomas Taylor, who I know more about, sacrificed animals to pagan gods, and he and his wife spoke ancient Greek to each other when alone. So, you can call that a Christopagan if you want, but you're sticking your head in the sand, IMHO.

    You've done a greatjob of outlining the history of the term "pagan", but I don't see how that history leads to your conclusion. You say it is "their" (Judeo-Christians') word, not ours; but Paganism is all about reclaiming. We define "witch", "magic", "woman", "man", "earth", "body", "darkness", "god", "heathen" ... "pagan".

    To be "Pagan" is to be "Other" in our society, just as you say -- it is to be consciously, and proudly "other". It is to willingly opt out of many of modern Western civilization's basic assumptions. There! I think you may actually have hit on a workable definition of Paganism.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Monday, 03 June 2013

    While I haven't done quite the research that you have, it's been obvious to me that "Pagan" was never self-applied before around the 1950s or 60s. However, I don't think that invalidates it. I like your very succinct explanation: that it's really a term used to contrast Christianity, that is, to be the religious "other." Sort of like how some have embraced and repurposed "queer." Pagans, it seems to me, are the "queers" of religion in the West!
    Exactly! And there is certainly something good that can come out of different groups banding together as "others", but that doesn't necessarily mean those groups are inherently equal. Take the GBLT/Q community --people who study gender and sexual politics tend to rightfully point out that the way mainstream "straight" society treats gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and TS/TG individuals separately is inherently unequal, even if the human rights interests and social goals of each group has significant overlap, to the point that it's easy to see a "sameness" to the origin of that treatment. Hell, until fairly recently in Western society, essentially every religion except for Christianity and Judaism, sometimes Islam, was "pagan". Hindus were "pagan", Buddhists were "pagan"; T.S. Eliot even referenced the "Heathen Chinese" in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which was published in 1930, and he wasn't referring to Odin worship in Beijing, he was referring to Tao and shenism and the philosophy of Confucius. But India won her independence from Britain and very clearly rejected the colonialist pejoratives. Japan gained economic power, Communism in China asserted an international "atheist" image, but the traditional religion of her land also continues (my brother-in-law is Chinese, albeit from HK, and his family practises the traditional religion). Even Native American populations, around the 1960s and '70s, started rejecting both Christianity and the notion that their old religions were "pagan". For the most part, the only people left who seem interested in the word are Wiccans / Eclectics and maybe half of all polytheism reonstructionists (it really does seem to vary based on religion), but some from Eastern and Indigenous American and African diaspora religions do still hang out with pagans out of socio-political solidarity.

    It's not a completely useless word, but it really only says as much about my religion as "queer" says about my sexuality and / or gender.

  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette Monday, 03 June 2013

    While I haven't done quite the research that you have, it's been obvious to me that "Pagan" was never self-applied before around the 1950s or 60s. However, I don't think that invalidates it. I like your very succinct explanation: that it's really a term used to contrast Christianity, that is, to be the religious "other." Sort of like how some have embraced and repurposed "queer." Pagans, it seems to me, are the "queers" of religion in the West!
    Even though I've never liked "Neo-Pagan," I understood its context, as Bonewits and others coined it to show the difference between us Wiccan/Pagan types vs. the Reconstructionist/Pagan types.
    I still say everyone gets to give themselves whatever label they want, and no-one outside that label has any right to "correct" them. We can debate the history till the cows come home, but I'm still a Pagan, and for me that means the Earth is the primary force that I revere, align myself with, and take my lessons from.

  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette Monday, 03 June 2013

    Not wanting to start another war of words, I still feel I have to address the main point of this post: that Pagan doesn't have a concrete enough definition to be used as a religious label (but could be a valid cultural label).
    That is not my experience. I have known and worked with many fine and educated people who identify as Pagan. There are a lot of differences around the edges, but the core of the beliefs we share has to do with honoring the Earth as divine. Some of us are polytheists, some are monotheists, some are animists, some are non-theists (not the same as atheists). That's OK. Our definition of Pagan is such that it doesn't matter how you (of if you) experience God/Gods. Our beliefs are Earth-centered.
    It seems to me that the criticism of our use of the term "Pagan" to identify our religion is mostly leveled by those who do not accept that label. It's perfectly fine for you to assert your religious identity, to resist being placed in a tent that you don't want to be in. I respect and honor that. But don't tell us who are already in the tent, building it and tending it, that the tent doesn't really (or shouldn't really) exist.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Monday, 03 June 2013

    There are a lot of differences around the edges, but the core of the beliefs we share has to do with honoring the Earth as divine
    And, in my experiences, there are plenty of people who self-identify as "pagan" and do not fit that description at all. Clearly we know and have met some very different people. The breadth of one's knowledge is inherently empirical --it's something that must be experienced, be it on the physical or "metaphysical" plane-- and when two people have such inherently different experience of others as you and I clearly do, then we're more likely to just talk around each-other than even inch toward persuading each-other.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information