I have been mulling over what makes a Pagan a Pagan for quite some time now. At first I simply thought, "Well, Perhaps what makes a Pagan a Pagan is the belief in multiple Deities" and this was simply shot out of the water by the presence (and acceptance of) Humanistic Pagans. Obviously the quantifying trait of a Pagan is not the following of the "Wheel of the Year" since many Pagan persons do not observe or celebrate said days. So again, I ask, what makes a Pagan a Pagan? Allow me to ramble for a bit. (Also, by circles, I mean social circles, not ritual circles.)
The first thing that is vital to being a Pagan is to not be Christian. This is absolutely essential, since while clearly we don't have to actually believe in any Gods, if a person believes in the Christian God they are automatically shunned from Pagan circles.
Next, it is absolutely vital that one identify either as an Independent or a Liberal, and it is absolutely *essential* that one by sympathetic to Gay Rights and Environmental crusades, to do otherwise will undoubtedly get you shunned from Pagan circles.
Thirdly, it is essential to make sure that everybody knows that you are a free spirit and won't be simply confined to hierarchies and that anyone who follows a specific set of rules and practices is just being far too rigid.
Of course, I am being a bit factitious here, but really we must ask ourselves, why? Paganism has devolved (and I truly mean this) less from a set of religious beliefs, and more towards simply a social clique. If you don't share a specific set of core attitudes (i.e. being sympathetic to Liberal causes, rejecting the Christian God, and generally believing that correcting others is "bad", except in times when they are so wrong that only fluffy bunnies would feel bad about correcting them) then you are excluded. I personally find more than a few of the attitudes of the Pagan community to be more than a bit hypocritical, Christian Pagans (since obviously the word Pagan has come to identify a social group, and not a core set of beliefs, and therefore what at first may appear to be a contradiction, is in fact not.) are shunned while Humanistic Pagans don't even have a bat of the eye, but my question is why? Ultimately, I do not know. The word Pagan has become cheap and meaningless. It no longer even relates to the worship of ancient deities. Paganism has become a social club, a social club who I fit in well with, but a social club none the less.
We could change this of course, however, I strongly feel that being the disorganized mass we are, there will never be a meaningful use of the word. At one point it may have meant a person who worships many Gods, but now. . .