There has been quite a debate about this recently. Some people who were, apparently, prominent in the "community" as podcasters have closed down their site because they consider themselves to be no longer pagan. This has prompted a lot of responses which can be read here, many of them highly articulate and interesting with their talk of philosophy and academic rigour. I can see where they are coming from and appreciate what they have to say.
I am, however, puzzled that so much time and effort can be expended over the decision of two human beings that their path had deviated from one route to another. Surely this is what has happened to most self-identified pagans at some time in their lives - otherwise they would still be christians, jews, atheists or whatever. That it should happen again to some is surely no surprise. And, in the end, is no loss. For surely it is better that people be honest and open than they should stick to a lying appearance of consistency in order to remain in a perceived community? It is painful to break from those with whom one was once very close and strike off into unknown territory - but it is something that may become essential. I wish these two individuals, of whom I have never previously heard, joy in their future explorations.
And , in many ways, I can see where they are coming from. It took me decades before I could admit to myself that I was a follower of the Goddess and another few years before I could say that She was, in particular, Inanna. I am aware that my experience of Inanna may lack academic rigour - that is one of the reasons I was so reluctant to articulate it. My experience in Higher Education is limited to a first class degree in English as a mature student and an abortive attempt, (I was unable to combine study, aged 50, with a full time job in a night shelter), to gain an MA. But this limited experience of academia was enough to give me a deal of respect for the virtues of the academic method. And I am aware that, if challenged on my own perceptions of Goddess, of Inanna, then I must ultimately retreat into the realm of personal experience. Put simply, I heard Her voice. More than once. Telling me that She wanted me to do certain things. That is what overrode all the scepticism with which I was all too abundantly supplied.
So I was left with two possible conclusions. The first, which dominated my life for a very long time, was that I was simply mad. Deluded. I ran from the voice and hid in drugs and alcohol. The latter I can still do. The second was that, perhaps, the call was real and the voice I heard was Hers. This was, in fact, the more functional conclusion. When I accept it and refuse to listen to the inner sceptic then life becomes simpler and I feel happier and more empowered. And doors open in my life. When I reject it, telling myself I am being "realistic", then I feel diminished, small and depressed. The evidence leads me, therefore, to the conclusion that She is a real presence in my life and one that cannot be explained or philosophised away.
I am aware that there may be all sorts of psychological explanations for the way I am but I really do not care. I may simply have an "imaginary friend", as Dawkins would say, but so what? Acknowledging Her has made me a happier human being and therefore one who is more likely to survive -therefore, assuming I were still fertile (which I am not) - more likely to reproduce. Which in Darwinian terms is what the whole thing is about.
I do not tend to call myself a pagan - for many reasons, but primarily because I am purely focussed on Goddess and have no real concept of the God. But I will use it for the sake of simplicity and because that is historically what I would have been called by the Christians. In this sense, it has taken me very many years to grow into paganism. I cannot see myself growing out of it.