Since the early 1990s, I have been working in my small way to get the word Pagan capitalized in books and articles — of course, I was not the only one doing that. Ironically, the most resistance seems to come from certain British academics. Neither of the two conflicting editing gangs has published an official statement yet, so it’s up to us. I was looking today at the copyedited ms. of Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, and it looks as though the Brit copyeditor is leaving our capital P’s alone.
When people vocally announce that they are not going to call themselves “Pagan” anymore, they are acting right within the mainstream of contemporary Paganism, where individual choice, transaction-based relationships, and the voluntary joining and leaving of groups trump any notion of organic community. (That was the point I tried to make when Heather from The Wild Hunt asked me to comment on “solidarity.”)
If I read him right, Peter Dybing suggests that this kind of behavior guarantees that contemporary Paganism is a long way from having oppressive institutions.
Pagan studies scholar Lee Gilmore writes on her Facebook page, “All this hand wringing over terminology is, I think, indicative of both Pagans’ struggle to construct authenticity, and also of larger social anxieties about religious boundaries, which also seem to increasingly locate authenticity outside of ‘religion’ (i.e., the whole ‘spiritual but not etc.’ thing).”
To further complicate things, some people persist in using the word “pagan” — and here I would lowercase it — in ways like this:
Paganism is a sustainable way of life that has existed for thousands of years. Sometimes mistaken as a religious path (true pagans do not worship deities), paganism will appeal to anyone who cares about the environment or is interested in maintaining an organic lifestyle.
You silly people who thought you had a religion! Go cultivate your gardens!