There has been a Pagan explosion since 1990, increasing more than thirty-eight-fold in the USA between 1990 and 2001, said James Roger Lewis (University of Wisconsin) during the Contemporary Pagan Studies Consultation at the November conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in Washington.
While statistics should be handled with caution and are not always based upon sufficient research (not even mentioning the fact that people who used to be reluctant to acknowledge their Pagan orientation may now consider it as more socially acceptable) there is no doubt about a rapid and significant growth. Moreover, Lewis has collected data from several other countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), which show a similar pattern, even if not always as strong.
Lewis suggests that the Internet has played an important role in making Paganism more popular and more accessible: “Pagans invaded the Internet,” Lewis observed. Lewis expects further increase in years to come, though not as dramatic. The total percentage of Pagans in the US population may be around 0.145 percent. This small figure is complimented by an academic trend, judging by the existence of academic periodicals devoted to Pagan issues and by the growing number of academic publications and doctoral students in that field. At the Junior Scholar-Senior Scholar Roundtable of the New Religious Movements Group at the AAR, most of the “junior scholars” attending were found to be in Pagan studies, and often practicing Pagans themselves– something which certainly would not have been the case only five years ago
Growth also means that there will increasingly be second-generation Pagans. While NRM research on second-generation is on the rise, it is still practically non-existent on Pagans. Of special interest at the AAR was the presentation of a pilot study on second (and third) generation Pagans in Western Massachusetts, conducted in 2005-2006 by Laura Wildman-Hanlon (Cherry Hill Seminary). Despite the small size of the sample, it does already provide some useful indications. According to the results, the second-generation is indeed staying, which is seen by Wildman-Hanlon as evidence that the Pagan movement will survive and not just be a passing fad.
Second-generation Pagans tend to identify themselves as generic Pagans rather than to relate primarily to a specific tradition. This may partly be due to the crucial role played by Pagan gatherings for conveying a sense of belonging. Young Pagans report to have received little or no religious training from their parents (“at least, my parents had something to reject”, one of the interviewees remarked). They were often not involved as children in rituals, hence the crucial role of gatherings. In addition to the lack of religious training, second-generation Pagans expressed dissatisfaction to Wildman-Hanlon about the loss of family traditions involving all generations, from grand-parents to grand-children: several of them feel that they will have nothing of that kind to pass to their own children. Those are probably issues which will need to be addressed for future retention of younger generations.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religion.info)