For many people today, in America, and Europe, perhaps, because of the Environmental movement, the Back-To-The-Earth movements of the 60's and 70's and dissatisfaction with their own Christian and Judaic upbringing where folks witnessed bigotry, hypocracy, sexism, warmongering, outright deceit, physical and sexual abuse, (not to mention Nazism and its evil Neo-Pagan politico-system) many people who have not fallen on the hard ground of atheism, or the softer field of agnosticism with or without angst, call themselves Pagans. It is a catch-all for various beliefs that are an amalgam of faiths that pre-date organized Christianity. Being a mixture of sorts, some are genuine sects and religions, others might be called 'cults' which generally has a negative connotation. Some are simply like-minded individuals who find friends and kind of invent their own rituals as they go along.
In Ireland for instance it is called their "Pre-Christian"(takes the curse off de whole t'ing) Heritage and protected. Sometimes those who call themselves Pagans have become more nasty than the people in the religion they have given up, & use the "L" word for only like-minded or those they like. I have heard some preach "Love" while in the same breath talk about they HATE Christians. They usually have some kind of idea of what the spiritual beliefs of their ancestors were before Christianity came on the scene, but many have latched on to beliefs that may not have a single connection to the beliefs of their Pre-Christian ancestors, or to the variety of occidental Pre-Christian belief systems. Some do not even have a single iota of the ancient culture of their own heritage.
They may call themselves Pagans but what they believe in may be more further removed from what Paganism was in Europe and more a modern packaging of various sorts, not realizing that probably the Catholic Church, especially when it had the Latin Mass, more closely resembled orthodox Druidism and Paganism than the sect they belong to. There is also the Goddess worshippers who seek to other continents for their Deity and reject the Marian, "whitewashed" Goddess aspect of Catholicism, where the faithful 'saints' daily pray to "the Mother of God". There are as many different forms of Neo-Paganism as their are sects of Christianity, both Catholic & Protestant, not to mention, and we won't, California. (We have not time here for the gradual movement of Islam into the West, nor the variety of smaller Proto-Christian sects in Asia Minor such as Nestorians, Druzes, or the myriads of Spiritist or Paganlike sects in Asia & Africa, So. America, etc.) The development of Religion/Spiritual Belief Systems in the Western World date back from an amalgam of beliefs that existed as interrelated and combined European-Druidic, Pythagorean & Proto-Buddhist-Hindu-Mongolean-Taoist Oriental Systems that themselves are remnants from Pre-Deluge civilizations and have been copied & pasted into new belief systems. Some point to prior civilizations with names such as Lemuria or Atlantis or Pre-Dynastic Egypt as a possible source. Some even claim it is all a corruption of other dimensional or extraterrestial knowledge brought here by teleportation or spaceship.
Pagan literally is Countryman, i.e Hick, Rube, Sticks, Peasants, Farmers, Country people, or non-town/city dweller.
The Celtic Christian Church, closer to Judaism w/it's calendar, and unique for its giving up the sword for the 'Word', their tribal monasteries, wandering aesthetes, and pellegrini monks who traversed the known and unknown world, blending easily the Druidic beliefs of their forefathers and mothers into the new, radical Nazarene message of Equality and Love; with its equal rights for women who served the altar with their man, art and nature loving aspects, was overcome by the wealthier and more physically attractive stained glass, golden ornamental churches of the newer Roman Empire Catholicism with its mix of Mithraism and their ancient and well organized system of official ancestorial religion, much like today when movies and tv weaned people away from radio and storytelling.Those who hung on to their Celtic Christian beliefs, the so-called Celi Dei(Kelly-Jayee) or Servants of God, were restricted to the countrysides and their name was corrupted into a word now used in the cities of Ireland for country bumpkins: Culchee.
When you strip away the Costumes, Rituals, Customs, Ethnic & Racial Variations of all the Socio-Political Organizations called Religions, there are some very basic beliefs that unite them all and yet some very opposing viewpoints as to how those root beliefs are to be administered: The New Agers vs. the Math-a-Magician; The Dark Magus vs. the Great White Brotherhood; the Illuminati vs. the Rosucrucians; the Atheistic Purist vs. the Dogmatic Agnostic; the Scientific Materialists vs. the Religious Fundamentalists; the Darwinistic Evolutionists vs. the Intelligent Designers; or The Left Hand Eye Path of Horus vs. the Right Hand Buddhist Path, for a few instances, etc. As one who enjoys to focus on all this from the Jane Roberts Seth Material and its viewpoint of the REALITY of the Present as the Point of Power, & that we Create Our Own Reality and Fun-da-Mentally live in a Safe Universe of multiple universes/alternate realities as the most pleasing to me both aesthetically & praxistically; I'm still having problems with my Mind to Brain coordination. I daresay I'd still like to make a bundle selling bumperstickers that says "My Belief System is Better than Yours.(1975)".
Be true to your self, but remember that in the Religio-Capitalistic Game, its doG eat doG, (or sesseddoG eat sesseddoG) even for those so-called enlightened Neo-Pagans: "Caveat Emptor!" (Let the Buyer beware). But then if it wasn't for all the outcasts, convicts, gangsters, escapees, pirates, perverts, runaways, dreamers, scallywags and rum, pot and whiskey there would not be any America atall, nor would China & India be trying to out do us. We need a great socio-religious- political novel similar to John Barth's "The Sotweed Factor" to really enlighten us all. James Joyce tried to do it with Finnegan's Wake, but sadly he might as well've written in Sanscrit for only a select few get his witty psycho-historical gist. And finally I believe that those Higher Powers, those Secret Chiefs, those Super Swamis, those Beautific Buddhas, those Christed Great Ones, those Astarisis Goddesses, those Venerable Green Men, those Shining Ones of the Siddhe and all the High Spirits of the Animistic-Ahayuasco Otherworld-Dimensionalists who seem to dabble with manipulating us in various ways are all ,really Cosmic Comedians, and that includes the great GodEssence All-That-Is of LOVE, the Greatest Comedian of All.
And as one who after a near fatal Motor Vehicle Accident has had a Out of Body and a Near-Death-Experience, that was not from drugs or a chemical reaction in my brain, and really saw Light Beings, Angels or whatever one wants to call them, that in the long run we are all Eternal Children of this Beyond Explanation Essence that has LOVED us into Beinghood. It is up to us now to take the Baton and Become the Best We Can Be and create a World where all believe Nature is Good, and We Are All Nature, regardless of your Religion or Beliefs. Gra agus Solas.