Why the fuss over Polytheist vs. Pagan?

This is a subject near and dear to my heart as I actually have a preference for the term “polytheist” when self-describing my religion. My religion is NOT “earth-based” or “nature-based” but rather a religion that honors the Gods. Pagan is very often viewed through the monotheistic filter of ‘nature/earth-based’ and I think that is one of the reasons that I feel strongly that I may be a pagan but am NOT Pagan.

Unfortunately, in the small-p pagan community, this is a distinction that is currently raising a lot of dust and controversy because that distinction is being portrayed as divisive instead of inclusive. But what IS a pagan if not a follower of a non-Christian religion who has AT LEAST two foci of worship (ie a Goddess and God) if not many foci? I cannot divorce my religion from the Gods and feel that more than a brief look at our collective faiths will show that the “Powers-that-be” cannot be separated unless someone wants to call themselves “spiritual” without taking the time to consider what that spirit IS.

I have written before about the confusion between pagan and Pagan and how in MY opinion they are not the same thing. But with the current fuss I cannot stay on the sidelines and simply say that one side or the other is wrong to create the fuss. I find “polytheist” to be the most accurate term because it is like saying “monotheist” , where “pagan” is like saying “muslim” and (to take the analogy to its final point) “Pagan” is like saying “Shiite”.

In my opinion to say that we are “nature/earth-based” or that we worship some nebulous “Divine” is an intellectual cop-out and is about as satisfying as ending a book with ‘the boy woke up’ after describing the boy’s adventures for the greater part of several hundred pages. If we are going to be accurate, we have to reclaim the terms “pagan” and “neo-pagan” from the dustbin of inaccuracies. We also have to be able to say that we are worshiping the Gods that we are trying to bring back to the modern world. Otherwise, what do we leave our children?

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