I've left paganism more than once. Each time I've left, it's because I can get right with being lumped into the greater perception of the word "pagan".
The first time I left, I couldn't deal with all the in-fighting in the eclectic wiccan groups. This was before the internet. The arguments were all the same. Are eclectics real pagans? Is there room in paganism for soft polytheism? Back then, atheists had absolutely no staked claim in paganism. You were either a hard or soft polytheist, or you weren't a pagan. End of subject.
But, everything evolves. Paganism has been no exception to that statement. Today, there are more types of pagans than I care to shake a stick at. The part that really bakes my noodle is that I'm usually seen as someone who wears all black, drips in pentacle engraved gear and wears enough eyeliner to make ancient egyptians jealous. When I say I'm pagan, people automatically think I worship Zeus, or that I am really good at dark poetry and I wave my hands mysteriously over my cauldron the stove.
Depending on what they've heard about pagans, I'm perhaps seen as an environmental extremist. Someone who rides bikes to work in the snow, eats granola and tries to reduce my carbon footprint to inhuman levels. I'm supposed to protest animal fur wearers and be against hunting for sport.
Or maybe they've heard that all pagans go to Ren faires and are member of the SCA.
My point here is that the word "pagan" has become pretty meaningless. All of those types of people are represented in greater paganism. So, when do we just become a regular old crowd of people on the street, and less a community?
John Halstead over at The Allergic Pagan has this to say about a recent exodus of hard polytheists from the greater pagan community. I appreciate his point in that post. We should embrace and appreciate our polytheists, both the hard and soft boiled versions. We shouldn't strive to run them out of the community. However, I understand why they're doing what they're doing. I understand why they're upset. I've been in their shoes. I was tired of being labeled by the mainstream as anything but what I was in reality. The "hards" are tired of the atheists taking over the term "pagan". I can 100% understand that.
I'm dodgy on the word "pagan". I've been trying to avoid it for longer than I care to admit. It's polarizing on both sides of the coin. It really means nothing. Pagans are so diverse a group of people that on the outside, we look like any other group of people. It's kind of like the work "geek". Everyone is seen as a geek now! "I wear glasses.....I'm such a geek!". No one even understand the term, anymore.
I'll wager that the same is true of "pagan". Does anyone really understand it's meaning anymore? It's been redefined so many times......
So, should we use it? Or at the end of the day, should we really just be using our specific labels and drop "pagan" altogether? I'm a naturalist. I'm a humanist. I'm a witch. I'm an atheist. I'm a naturalist witch. Maybe, I should just use that. Maybe the BTWs had the right idea when they moved away from the word "wiccan".
Here is what hard polytheist, Star Foster, has to say on this topic and I agree with her 100%. The last sentence in that post is very profound, perhaps that should happen. Perhaps we do need to re-examine how we classify our beliefs. Maybe we all really don't have anything in common aside from maybe a few holidays. Star left the pagan blogosphere in 2012. I don't pretend to know the specifics of her departure, but reading a few of her other posts before the last one, I've gathered an idea. I've felt exactly the same as she has, just on the other side of the coin.
I know what makes people disconnect from the greater pagan community. It's very tough to actually find common ground. Moreso now than before the web.