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Zoroastrianism is a small religion with about 140,000 members, yet its importance to humanity is much greater than its current numbers might suggest. 

The Zoroastrian theology has had a great impact on Judaism, Christianity and other later religions, in the beliefs surrounding God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, savior, resurrection, final judgment, etc. It is one of the oldest religions still in existence and may be the first monotheistic religion. For example, Zoroastrian monotheism has had major influence on the religions of the middle eastern monotheisms in adaptations of such concepts as heavens, hells, judgment day and messianic figures.

The religion was founded by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster in Greek; Zarthosht in India and Persia). Conservative Zoroastrians assign a date of 6000 BCE to the founding of the religion; other followers estimate 600 BCE. Historians and religious scholars generally date his life sometime between 1500 and 1000 BCE on the basis of his style of writing.

Zarathushtra lived in Persia, modern day Iran. Legends say that his birth was predicted and that attempts were made by the forces of evil to kill him as a child. He preached a monotheism in a land which followed an aboriginal polytheistic religion. He was attacked for his teaching, but finally won the support of the king. Zoroastrianism became the state religion of various Persian empires, until the 7th Century CE.

When Muslim Arabs invaded Persia in 650 CE, a small number of Zoroastrians fled to India where most are concentrated today. Those who remained behind have survived centuries of persecution, systematic slaughter, forced conversion, heavy taxes, etc. They now number only about 18,000 and reside chiefly in Yazd, Kernan and Tehran in what is now Iran. The 1991 census counted 3,190 Zoroastrians in Canada. The actual number is believed to be much higher.

In India the Zoroastrians are called the Parsis (Persians), they acquired vast fortunes, in the cotton and steel industries, they have the highest literacy rate in India, and their cultural and economic importance is far out of proportion to their small numbers.

The present-day sects are three: Shahenshai, Kadmi and Fassali.

Man's life, according to Zoroastrianism, is a moral struggle, not a search for knowledge or enlightenment. He is put on the earth to affirm and approve the world, not to deny it, not to escape from it. Salvation is found in obedience to the will of Ahura Mazda as revealed and taught by His prophet, Zoroaster. Man has but one life. He also has the freedom to choose between good and evil, the latter being embodied in Angra Mainyu who rebelled against God. At death, each is judged and consigned to his deserved abode.

Zoroastrians hold truth as the greatest virtue, followed by good thoughts, words and deeds. They value the ethical life most highly. Though there will be a resurrection of the dead, a judgment and a kingdom of heaven on Earth, followed by punishment of the wicked, all sins are eventually burned away and all of mankind exists forever with Ahura Mazda. Hell, for the Zoroastrian, is not eternal.

The priesthood is hereditary, and the "sacred fire" is used in purification rituals in "fire temples", as the Fire-Altar shown... eventually, the priests practiced magic, divination and astrology.

Every man has to choose good or evil: If he chooses "good", after death he will go to Eternal Heaven. Those who choose "evil" will go to Hell, but despite the terrors, there remain opportunities for the soul to escape if it undergoes reform.

To the Zoroastrians the Sun and earth are sacred, so much that the dead can not be buried on earth. The Parsis in Bombay, place the dead on the top of three "towers of silence" set in gardens on a hill, where vultures consume the flesh, because death is caused by the devil and the corpse is evil. Jainism have the same thoughts and practices on the dead.

Zoroastrianism was thus the first to teach clearly the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For he shall give his angels
charge over thee.
to keep thee
in all his ways.

Psalm 91:11


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