From: The t'aint of the Midwest -- Indiana
The main reason I am not a practicing Pagan, or a practicing anything, is that I got majorly sick of hearing shit like, "I was initiated by my grandmother, who was the last of the great Elvish ninja masters from Atlantis, and when I put an amethyst crystal on my third eye chakra, I can read the Tarot cards and have this total psychic bond with my pet canary. My Indian spirit guide is named Dances With Credit Cards."
Yeah. That's fluff. But every single religion, none excepted, attracts a fringe element of crazies and fluffies. They tend to be the loudest and most obvious, so they're the ones you see first. My family has had some very, very bad experiences with nut case Christians, but that doesn't mean all Christians are violent criminals who slash tires and throw bricks through windows and try to kill people. Nor do all Christians allow their diabetic children to die with no medical treatment because they decide to "put their faith in God" and ignore modern medicine. But some do, and they tend to make the six o'clock news when they do their thing. That still doesn't justify being rude to all Christians or blaming them for the unbalanced behavior and beliefs of their most visible fringe element.
I grew up in the Pagan community and I've seen plenty of fluffies. They upset my digestion, and I won't speak to them as it would drive me batty in short order. I am a scientist and a rationalist, and any form of religious crazy-talk that confuses spirituality with hard physical reality will upset my digestion. I don't care whether you package it as Jesus or the Goddess, if it doesn't work in the real world as a reliably replicable effect, I don't want to hear about it. I've also met some brilliant people who appreciate a simple, earth-based spirituality without letting it cloud their intellect or their rationality. And those are the Pagans I respect. In general, I think the Pagan and Native/earth based religion outlook on responsible stewardship of natural resources is a hell of a lot more functional than any of the monotheist views in the bigger picture of long term species survival.
As for myself, I see the Goddess - archetypal and mythical perhaps, but still Gaea and Goddess - in the unseen spiral of DNA, in the long inexorability of evolution itself, in the laws of physics and nature that hold us all. For She is those things, no more and no less. I don't believe in deities as literal beings with sentience, certainly not the kind that peer in your bedroom window and care who you have sex with or what you ate for breakfast. But I do have a sense of awe and wonder about the mysteries that are constantly revealed to us by science. And I have a deep respect for the importance of our responsibility to the ecosystem we live in and depend on for the very air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Fuck that shit up at your peril; poor stewardship may condemn your children or their children to death or starvation. And so it is not entirely senseless to call her Gaea and to honor her as the Mother who nurtures us. Because in a very literal biological sense, that is what She is - life itself, and the continuation of life.
I can't think of many better things for a culture to call sacred, or many better models for responsible management of natural resources. The fluffy stuff and the fringe element is not the core of any religion, and it's worth looking at the bigger picture and the more serious elements of any faith before passing judgment on how healthy and functional it is.
Rather profound for a fast reply.