I have a dear friend who is a Pagan, much like I was, although she belongs to an organized Orthodox Egyptian Temple. Even in my Witchcraft years, I gave this org the side-eye, because *my* paganism wasn't organized; there were no tithes, no set scripture (my paganism was very Earth-centric, so me and my ilk went by what the land was telling us, whatever that meant - I guess I still use that in gardening).
I wrote a Live Journal post comparing and contrasting the good science has done for humanity versus what Religion has done. She got a bit vitriolic regarding that post and an earlier one (which was really quite frivolous) regarding sexy older men. She said she couldn't find Richard Dawkins sexy because he spoke against faith. I find his passion is what makes him sexy, and I got a thing for scientists (I finally found my own!).
Now there's this thing with almost all the pagans I have ever met: They love to rip on Christians. they love to rip on christians, maybe a little n Muslims (most pagans tend to be feminists, so the misogyny really rubs them the wrong way - me too. Most are a little more gentle with jews, because you can't say anything bad about Jews without getting tarred with the anti-semetic brush. The only exception i found was with some certain groups of Satanists that I communicated with.
What I found though, is these pagans figure their polytheism makes them different from the war-mongering Abrahmaic religions, and I would agree to a point, but woo is woo. As I wrote before, it was one of the hardest things I ever did, letting go of the woo that was my religion, finally admitting that I was deluded, and all the time and effort wasted in learning how to read cards, cast a really good circle, etc.
When you talk to a Pagan, you can rip on those religions, but don't you DARE to call them on their woo, because they spew back the same sort of crap any other religious person does. It's like someone in drug or alcohol recovery who switches from booze or pills to meetings or a book. One drug for another.
So my friend comments on my post, where I state just a few of the great things that science has done to give us better longer healthier lives, and what religion has done - next to nothing. she comes back with, "Religion and science are neither god nor bad, but it's what you do with them. Science has given us WMDs, and that's not good, etc, etc."
Two problems with this. First of all, she's totally wrong. WMDs, that's all you can come up with? Hell, some of my old pagan friends could go on for HOURS about what wickedness science is; franken-foods, vaccination, crop spraying, the vanishing ozone, global warming...and how only natural things were good. These are people who may not eat meat, buy only organic produce, or like myself grow most of their own food, but they drove cars, rode on buses, used telephones and computers, wore clothes that were probably not all hand made, had hot running water and plumbing in their houses...you see where I'm going with this.
Second problem: I still can't see the good that religion has done. Sorry, just can't. There are some charities out there, but you usually have to swallow a sermon with your bowl of soup, or if you work at the thrift shop, you get an earfull, or if you go to a religious school (because they're so much better, right?) you get the scripture pounded into you.Pagan are late getting on the charity train, but we did some; coastal clean-up days, gave excess produce from our gardens to the food banks, and other groups I heard of did more. The pagans did it different, and I am somewhat ashamed to say that I di it too - we sold oor woo to unhappy people. I rarely met a Witch or Druid, or whatever who either had a book in the works, made velvet Tarot bags, jewelry, potions, did readings for 'donations' or outright charged (which in some traditions was a must - anyone who gave away spells or reading was considered no good). I made soaps, bath mixtures, incenses and oils to be used in magic and sold that stuff to people wanting a change in their lives. Even though all my products were labeled as 'Curios Only - no supernatural properties are inferred or guaranteed' (to cover my ass legally) I made rea magical products and blessed those suckers during the right phase of the moon, and used only the best ingredients I could find or grow.
I made lovely things, but they were lies. Funny how my best sellers were fruit scented guest soaps with no supernatural ties whatsoever. It is a lie to sell a weekend to learn how to harness Earth Energy for healing, or Reiki (I am a second degree, BTW). My friend has the attitude of "What's the harm? I feel something when I pray at my altar, I am comforted, and I don't hurt anyone else." she also goes to expensive retreats, where priest tell her who her tutelary god is (which I always thought was fishy - being a pagan in my mind meant you were a priest by default - you need no intermediary).
The harm is it is still lies, even if it is wrapped in free-trade hemp and sparkles with fairy-dust, it is delusion. The delusion that a god, or an orisha, or a spirit loves you is very heady stuff; it is so hard to let go. even after giving up religion and woo, I still had an Ellegua, and got his sigil tattooed on my ankle. I still have all my pagan images of gods and goddesses, because they are pretty and they are part of the map of who I am.
Arguing with christians got old a long time ago; just about any rational skeptic can get them in a froth in five minutes. Arguing with pagans is another kettle of fish, because they seem so benign, but they are not. Near where I live is a very affluent town that is filled with bored rich people who attend these weekends or seminars, and they are so desperate for answers, for some peace and a sense that there is meaning in our existence. I have seen many of the same people at talks and seminars I used to go to, and it dawned on me that we were getting a fix. Once the magic of one seminar/book/series wore off, another would come and take its place. For the longest time I would put the monotheists in one camp, which I despised, and the polytheists in another, where I was much more merciful (because I came from that?).
Being atheist or non-theist is hard. You have to admit that there probably is no afterlife; there is probably no god that loves you, warts and all, that any mystical magical experiences you have had are delusion, and that this is all there is, so you beter make it good while you're here.
I still struggle, but I would rather be working with truth than fairy tales.