Kim Warthman

Sorry, I have to pipe in, both as a Christian who doesn't like getting blamed for things we aren't responsible for and as a Classics/Religion major at university.
Originally the word "pagan" meant "from the countriside."  It was used by the Greeks in a way that we might use "bumpkin" or "hick."  In religious terms it was used to describe anyone who was too backwards to realize they should be worshipping Zeus et al.  The early Christians actually WERE pagans in the original definition, rather than using it as a derogatory term of their own. 

The idea that what is being called "paganism" now is not one religious heritage but a pulling together of many things from a spiritualized, Earth-centered worship is correct.  As far as I know, very little of what is espoused as paganism in Western culture can harken back to ancient times.  None of my (self declared) pagan friends sacrifice goats, doves, lambs, or humans.
The accepted definition, as far as I can see from research both in texts and asking people (both who should know and laypeople) is that paganism is any religion that is loosely organized and tends to be Earth centered.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are not pagan.  My opinion is that the original "bumpkin" definition still applies subconsciously.  If there are enough people in a religion to make it a "major religion" then it isn't paganism.  Even Shintoism, which emphasizes the spiritual nature of the entire world doesn't qualify as paganism.
I am not saying there is any less validity to the beliefs of someone who practices modern paganism.  Even most "major" religions do not follow their ancient laws and practices.
I had better stop now.  We have stumbled into one of those areas that, had I been unschooled as a child, I would have spent all my time delving into and studying (rather than the trigonometry I can no longer remember.)
Kim Warthman
Slan go foill!

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Sandra Dodd

-=-Originally the word "pagan" meant "from the countriside." It was
used by the Greeks in a way that we might use "bumpkin" or "hick." -=-

And in English the similar term was "heathen."

Etymology online says:

O.E. hæðen "not Christian or Jewish," merged with O.N. heiðinn.
Historically assumed to be from Goth. haiþno "gentile, heathen woman,"
used by Ulfilas in the first translation of the Bible into a Gmc.
language (cf. Mark 7:26, for "Greek"); if so it could be a derivative
of Goth. haiþi "dwelling on the heath," but this sense is not
recorded. It may have been chosen on model of L. paganus (see pagan),
or for resemblance to Gk. ethne (see gentile), or may in fact be a
borrowing of that word, perhaps via Armenian hethanos. Like other
words for exclusively Christian ideas (e.g. church) it would have come
first into Gothic, then spread to other Gmc. languages.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]