Paganism is the oldest religion known to humanity. Its origins are obscure, but conjectured to have arisen with humanity's own desire to explore the unknown, and seek unity with the divine force (however that may be perceived). Therefore, Paganism has no founder or founders, no earthly leaders, no prophets, no messiahs, and no saints.
The spiritual or religious beliefs of Pagans are that deity is both imminent and transcendent. Deity is therefore a part of the fabric of our being, of our environment, and of that which is beyond anything we can imagine.
Deity is perceived as male, female and androgynous, depending upon the tradition. God is seen in many ways, and expressed as the male principle; Goddess is seen in many ways, and expresses the female principle. Some Pagans perceive a deity which is both male and female. All of these expressions of deity are acceptable within the broad parameters of Paganism.
Pagans do not believe in a dualistic viewpoint of absolute opposites; of "good versus evil". Pagans believe that all things exist in their own place, and that we should strive for dynamic balance and harmony. Extremism of any form does not have a place within the Pagan philosophy.
Most Pagans believe in reincarnation. There is a strong affinity with the idea of cyclical life patterns, which do not cease with the death of the physical body. Most Pagans have no concept which could be described as heaven or hell in the commonly-used Christian sense. However, Northern Pagan traditions encompass both a heaven and a hell, with a sophisticated philosophy which describes the operation of these realms. Unlike Christianity though, in the Northern Traditions, Hel is not a place of damnation or torture.
The Wiccan religion has what is called "The Summerlands"; a place where souls find rest before being re-born into the physical world.
The Druid belief in reincarnation is confirmed many times in classical sources; e.g. Posidonius (quoted by Diodorus): "... [Druids believe that] the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body." Julius Caesar: "The cardinal doctrine which they seek to teach is that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to another; and this belief, as the fear of death is thereby cast aside, they hold to be the greatest invective to valour."
Each Pagan religion has its own philosophy about the afterlife, and about reincarnation. Individual Pagans may also have their own philosophy about these subjects, for the Pagan religions do not have a dogma, or strict set of teachings, which all Pagans must follow.
Paganism is one of the so-called "Mystery Paths", where each individual has direct experience of divinity. Although it is becoming more common for Pagan Priests and Priestesses to administer rites to a group of people, individual experience of divinity remains the primary objective for most practicing Pagans. This differs significantly from most State religions, where a figure of authority performs rites, and mediates the divine force, on behalf of a congregation. In most Pagan religions, each individual is a Priest or Priestess in his or her own right.
Pagans do not "worship" trees or rocks; however, they do revere the divine force which is contained within trees and rocks; indeed, is contained within every part of the universe.
Pagans do not worship a saviour, or other spiritual leader. The emphasis is upon each individual's spiritual enlightenment, and responsibility for this is not abdicated to another person. The practice of Paganism is a voyage of self-discovery, and the discovery of one's own place within the divine realm. Paganism is not, therefore, a cult, for a cult has a leader, and Paganism has none. Individual groups will often be led by one or two people who are experienced in the practice of the religion, but such people have no influence outside of their own group or tradition.