A cult is defined as: “A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.” While some may consider Paganism to be a cult, it is not.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Since Paganism is an umbrella term used to describe a wide number of non-Abrahamic belief systems, it’s possible that there are Pagan cults. However, in a general sense, Paganism is not a cult, nor are any of its subtypes.
If we break this idea down into pieces, you can see the truth. Pagans aren’t extremists. While they often stand strongly for their beliefs, they’re not getting in people’s faces or making wild claims. They don’t necessarily live in an unconventional manner. Most of them have normal homes, jobs, friends and everything that everyone else has. They don’t have a leader. Some groups, covens or sects have a leader, but there isn’t one who rules them all, and Pagans are always encouraged to challenge anyone in authority if they believe there’s reason to do so. You wouldn’t get away with that in a cult.
Cults also brainwash people into all believing the same thing, no matter how outrageous it may be. Pagans encourage free thought, questioning and learning. They admire those who step outside the box and look for new thoughts and perspectives. Cults also tend to have strict rules with severe punishments for disobedience. Paganism has no such rules, they only expect people to be good to one another and have mutual respect.
Though fear may cause some to make this accusation, there is no proof or even reason to believe that Paganism or any of its popular subgroups classify as cults.
*Disclaimer: I no longer practice Paganism, but I’ve left these Pagan Myths articles active because I believe they’re still valuable in helping people to understand Paganism and reduce negative stereotypes.*