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Used to refer to primitive non-Christian religions. Currently used as catch-all term for movements like Wicca, Magic, polytheism, etcetera.
Although some religious scholars have dubbed paganism ''the fastest growing religion in the nation,'' reliable numbers of pagans in the United States -- or in Las Vegas -- are difficult to assess as pagans are a loosely knit group. Some estimates put the U.S. pagan population at 500,000; local pagans estimate that there are about 3,000 in the Las Vegas area.
What makes the task of characterizing paganism's place in today's culture that much harder is that few agree on exactly what paganism, or neo-paganism, or ''the Craft,'' actually encompasses.
Apparently it's many things: It's different things to different people, and appealing specifically because it is different from mainstream Judeo-Christian religions, from churchy traditions and from the status quo.
Generally ''paganism'' is accepted as an umbrella term for Wiccans, Shamans, Druids and an assortment of others whose spiritual beliefs are polytheistic and nature-oriented, or in some way focus on ''magick'' (spelled with a ''k'' to distinguish the belief in using the ''universe's energy'' for spiritual purposes from the magical illusions performed by entertainers.)
Like the paganism dating from ancient times, it incorporates a mix of gods, goddesses and superstition. But today's paganism draws from a larger selection of spiritual traditions from various continents and eras, combined with the modern-day politics of gender equity and environmentalism.
Outsider religion gains in Las Vegas, Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 30, 2000
Items added after August, 2002:
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(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database) » See also news items at the Wicca entry
(Apr. 24, 1999) Pagans prefer to say they're 'nature based'
(Apr. 18, 1999) Pagans ponder their bruising encounter with notoriety
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