I appreciate your post and your perspective. It makes a great deal of sense to me that some people want to return to the faith of their ancestors and reconnect with that heritage. The fact that modern versions of old religions aren’t exactly the same isn’t a problem for me. Religions are aspects of culture and cultures change, understandings of our relationship with the cosmos change, and sensibilities change. We are no longer primarily agrarian, so animal sacrifice is no longer a major part of religious practice the way it once was.
Some people also find a connection to a faith that is not of their ancestors, converts. I know people of a wide variety of ethnic backrounds that follow Kemeticism, and other faiths that were once associated only with people of a specific locality. They resonate with that religions pantheon, perspective and metaphors.
Generally I have found non pagans to consider pagans to be people who are play acting and who don’t take their faith seriously, but being part of the pagan community, I have found that description to be no more accurate than saying the same of folks of any faith. There are always those who dabble, play and are in it for the holidays and community, rather than taking the faith seriously. That’s just human nature. Then there are those that are very orthodox, serious and to whom the faith is the core of their life. That is just as true of pagan faiths as any other.
Recon pagans, who seek to experience the beauty and power that their ancestors did in a faith that is part of the history of their culture, are like Catholics who enjoy Gregorian Chant, Latin Mass and various other practices and traditions from the past. Those came from a culture that is largely lost, but they are a part of the Catholic heritage and are still meaningful, even when they are used outside of their original context.
One doesn’t have to recreate and observe every aspect of Catholicism from the old days to be deeply, truly and spiritually moved by Gregorian chant. The same applies to other faiths with a long history.