Too many times, I hear people referring to themselves as “pagan” when the discussion of religion comes up. You really need to stop doing this, let me tell you why.
Firstly, you should know where the word comes from. We can trace its origins way back to the Roman Empire. Just a few centuries after we started counting years in positive numbers, the Roman army was spending a lot of time watching over the people of various conquered nations. These soldiers would spend their days watching poor, uneducated dirt farmers. The word they used for these backwards people, was “pagan”. That’s right, pagan started off as the ancient roman word for rednecks. After a while, the Christian army started noticing something about these rednecks.
They all worshiped false idols. Not a single one of these simpletons pushing around mud trying to grow turnips and what not were Christians. The word changed over time from being a derogatory term for uneducated peasants, to being a slur for anybody that wasn’t Christian. This was a word that was used for the next millennium and a half to disparage anybody that wasn’t Christian. If you were a pagan, it not only meant that you weren’t educated, but that you were going to Hell. When you call yourself a pagan, you are saying the same thing about yourself. It’s an insult. Why the hell would you want to insult yourself like that? What are you, an idiot?
Even if you want to claim that you are “taking it back” or some other such nonsense, there is an even better reason as to why you shouldn’t say that you are a pagan:
It’s completely meaning less as a description of a religion. It only means that you aren’t of an Abrahamic religion. And even then, various Christian sects have even used the term to describe other Christian sects.
There is no Pagan bible.
You don’t get a Pagan membership card.
There isn’t a Pagan church.
There are no Pagan rituals.
Pagan is like the Jewish word “Gentile”, only more insulting. Gentile means: Not Jewish. That’s it. You may be Buddhist, Mormon, Raelian, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Muslim, Amish, or any other religion, they’re all Gentile. If someone asks you what religion you are, and you answer, “Gentile,” you aren’t really answering the question. Answering, “Pagan,” is the same damn thing. It’s meaningless and tells you absolutely nothing.
If your religion doesn’t have a proper name, then maybe describe it as best you can. “I worship nature spirits,” or “It’s a form of ancestor worship.” If you don’t feel like talking about it, then at the very least, you could not use a slur to describe your religion. Maybe just tell someone you don’t follow an organized religion or tell them you worship old gods or at the least, tell them you are gentile¹.
If they still push you for more details, then just bust out in an awesome song and dance routine or invite them to a movie or something.
¹Yes, I know that gentile has been used as a slur, but it was not originally meant as such. It’s only a slur when one intends to use it as such.