This is a response to the first discussion for "The Witch's Circle" from the blog The Deepest Well (<click to visit).
I found Paganism at a very young age. I had been raised in a strict, Christian home and taught that there were NO other religions, period. I lived in a very rural area with more churches than you could count and no diversity. When I was 8, I moved and from my new school I met a girl who would become my best friend and whose family would introduce me to Paganism (specifically Wicca and Witchcraft).
Granted, at that age I couldn't FULLY grasp every detail of the new religion I felt so drawn to, but I feel that I got the gist of it. Not to make myself seem arrogant or anything, but by 5th grade I was reading and comprehending what I read on a college level. I understood more than enough to know that I had found something wonderful, something that really and truly felt "right" for me. Looking back, I'm not sure if it's really accurate to say that my interest in Paganism began with Wicca. I was always drawn to the Greek Gods and Goddesses, and to this day I still am. But, I suppose my "formal" introduction came through my Wiccan friend and her mother.
I continued to study Wicca for several years, even after moving back in with the Christian family members who had raised me for those first 8 years. In my early teen years, I experienced a lot of internal conflict between wanting to be the person my family wanted me to be and wanting to follow my heart. Thus began my experimentation with forging my own path. I believed in the ancient Gods and Goddesses, but I also believed in the Christian God, Mary, etc. I didn't believe that either was superior to the other, though. I felt that they all had their place and that no path was the "one and only path." Because of this internal conflict and various other factors, I experimented with Christian Witchcraft. Anyone who likes can feel free to disagree with me on this and say whatever you like, but this is MY personal belief which stems from nearly a decade (at that point in my life) of studying different things. Based on what I had learned about the Bible and translations, changes, etc., I believed (and still believe) that it is more than possible to be a Christian AND a Witch. Christian Wiccan, not so much. I believe that you can be Wiccan with a Christian influence, but I'm not sure how I feel about blending two religions. I also need to point out that I do not view Witchcraft as a religion. I view it as a practice/craft/way of life which can be blended into any religion, or lack of religion.
Obviously Christian Witchcraft didn't work out for me. I tried it, it didn't feel wrong, but it didn't feel perfect, either. So, we fast forward to me at 17/18. I was a recent high school graduate, new college student, and about to become a newlywed. I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and something clicked inside me. I knew what was right for me and I began my journey down the path of a Pagan Witch once more. I studied for almost 2 years, and then when I was 19 (or nearly 19) I formally dedicated myself to my Path and only my Path. I started off with Wicca, following what I knew and felt comfortable with, but after a few months I realized it was too narrow for me. I then considered myself "Eclectic" and took bits from here and there and began to really make my own path.
Within Paganism, I don't think it's appropriate to ever say that you must choose between two things, or that you have to give up something to commit to something else. To me, that's like saying that you have to give up print books when you receive an eReader. No one, in my opinion, can tell someone else what they can and can not believe and do with their own life.
But, I do believe that if you're going to consider yourself a Pagan (or anything else) you do need to commit to it. Whether it's Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, or any other path (including one you create), you need to fully believe in it and feel that it's right for you. Religion is not an article of clothing that you can take off and put back on whenever you like, it's serious and should be treated thus (in my opinion). If you believe that a certain religion and Witchcraft can not co-exist, then it's illogical to consider yourself a Witch of that religion.
So I suppose it comes down to this: I gave up my former religion formally (at least to me). I came from a Christian family and it didn't feel right for me, so I found something that did feel right. I wasn't searching, I didn't know TO search. In a way I suppose it found me. I've studied various religions since learning about Paganism, and I feel confident saying that my path is the right path. For me. However, I have a close friend that I've known for half my life who is a Christian and a Witch. That's a whole other story and I think I have a blog post about it somewhere on here. I think that when you come from one religious background, and then discover a new path later in life, you don't have to abandon everything, but you can. Or, you can use morals or anything else that feels right to you within the path you choose.