Zoroastrianism

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Zoroastrianism is a Persian religion dated to at least as early as the 7th century BCE. Though it has been largely replaced by Islam in modern times, it was at one time among the top five religions in the world. It is generally considered a monotheistic religion, though like Christianity that concept breaks under the tensions of direct scrutiny,[1] and was likely one of the first monotheistic religions.[2]

The earliest physical evidence of Zoroastrianism dates back to roughly 450 BCE,[3] though scholars suggest it is an outgrowth of a proto Indo-Iranian religion that existed as early as 4000 years ago. There are currently ~150 000 - 2.6 million members, most in India, about 25,000 still live in Iran, where they are a constitutionally protected minority and are called "Parsis" or "Iranis" (after Persia or Iran, their original country).

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[edit] Beliefs

Ahura Mazda Miata is the Creator and the One God, and all that he has created is necessarily good. Unlike the God of Christianity, Mazda is transcendent; his existence can only be experienced through the immortals, the Amesha Spentas. Evil, (expressed as an entity Angra Mainyu, and as a force druj or "chaos") is the antithesis of the ordered creation.

The religion is essentially the contest of goodness, truth, and order against chaos the end result of which should be the eventual triumph of Good, bringing about the end of time with the subsuming of all creation into Ahura Mazda.

Avesta is the main holy book in Zoroastrianism. The translations in most widespread circulation are the English language and Farsi language versions, although it was originally in the Avestan language. Zoroaster composed the most important portion of this book, the Gathas.

[edit] Funeral rites

Water and Fire are pure, and are used to establish areas of ritualized purity. Death is the realm of chaos (druj) and as such, the dead must never touch fire or the physical earth, so the corpses are laid on constructed platforms (The Tower of Silence) for the vultures to pick clean.

[edit] Zoroastrianism and Christianity

According to ancient Jewish scripture, the Jews were released from exile in 538 BCE by Cyrus the Great, a Zoroastrian king. Either through that connection—trade routes established in the late 5th century—or though some other means, the Zoroastrian religion had a profound effect on Judaism, in effect spawning Christianity from the Jewish religion (and launching Islam as a counter consequently).

  • Battle between Good and Evil - Up until the late 5th century BCE, Judaism did not really have a concept of a Good and Pure god battling an evil divine being. The god of the ancient Israelites was human-like, expressing a range of human emotions like anger, jealousy and love. As a war god, he acted as evil upon other tribes if they did not succumb to the Israelite demands. Zoroastrianism introduces the one pure Good God, Ahura Mazda, and his battle against Angra Mainyu for human souls.
  • Good pure souls go to pairi.daeza (now, paradise), where they live in eternal peace with Ahura Mazda.
  • There will be a god made human savior for the people. Prior to 600BCE, the notion of an anointed one (in Hebrew, Messiah) does not exist. Within Judaism, the concept of messiah takes on more and more deification in line with the Zoroastrian image of savior (moving from God's chosen, to "one with god in his soul", to "god as flesh") as time goes on.
  • After contact with the Zoroastrian culture, the notion of angels and demons is refined. Angels are no longer just messengers of the gods, or some other 'race' of beings created by god, but are in fact a distinct part of the battle of Good and Evil, each having a counterpart in the other world.
  • Satan becomes an evil being, and not just the adversary (Devil's advocate) of Job.
  • Each and every human being is embodied with their own personal spirit, the fravashi.
  • Eschatological writings begin after encounters with Zoroastrianism. Prior to this, the Israelite religion does not really contemplate an "end time"; certainly it does not suggest one of such epic proportions of a final battle of good and evil and day of judgement as later Christian writings will record.
  • Every person must make an active choice whether he wishes to be part of the Order of Good or of Evil. His soul is "won" by that particular side, and in the end, the souls will be counted and the god with the most human followers will win the universe.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Like Christianity, the mythology of Zoroastrianism posits a parallel "evil" being, who directly and symbolically battles the "forces of good".
  2. Atenism in Egypt existed in the 14th century BCE, but how "monotheistic" it was is always debated.
  3. The Histories, Herodotus, 440BCE)
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