Considered by some to be a Satan-worshipping cult, or leftover New Age esotericism, the Neopagan movement is continuing to add new adherents, according to recent research.
"Today, there are at least 200,000 American Neopagans and estimates of twice that number are not implausible," write Professors Danny L. Jorgenson and Scott E. Russell of the University of South Florida in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (January). The authors show the Neopagans are not the stereotypical "under-rewarded status discontents" believed by many. Rather, as the article suggests based on self-administered questionnaires, those studied participate in a movement which is "exceptionally fluid, diverse, and eclectic." Their religious ideas reflect an overwhelming preference for feminist, ecological, occult, anti-patriarchal synthesis not readily definable by contemporary standards.
On social characteristics, the Neopagans reflect much of current American religious life; most have dropped out of participation in Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish groups. They are more highly educated than Americans in general. Indeed, most stated that their rejection of traditional religion was "the principal reason for their involvement" with Neopaganism.
They practice their faith both individually and in groups, which are constantly being reorganized and recreated. The authors conclude that the participants are neither reactionary nor revolutionary, but reformist in their response to traditional religions. They see themselves as freed from certain aspects of scientific rationality and technology. They are, the authors conclude, highly individualistic, preferring experience over doctrine, pragmatic on governance and authority, relativistic and syncretistic. They are, in brief, people who are living on the edge of current religious life.
(Journal for the Society of the Scientific Study of Religion, 872 SWKT, Sociology Dept., Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602-5388)
Used with permission from Religion Watch.