Zoroastrianism is considered the oldest monotheistic religion in the entire world. It began close to 3500 years ago, and although uncommon still practiced by many. Zoroastrianism has many similarities to more popular religions such as Christianity and Islam. The motto of Zoroastrianism is: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds, which all Zoroastrians try to live by every day. Although Zoroastrianism is old, it still has a lasting impact on religious practices to this day. This religion is practiced mostly in Iran and India, but it is practiced worldwide by close to 190,000 people.
The founder of Zoroastrianism was the prophet Zoroaster. Zoroaster founded the religion in Iran. Although the exact date of the beginning of Zoroastrianism is unknown, most historians agree it began sometime between 1200-1500 B.C. When Zoroaster was 30 years old, he claimed have seen a shining being made of light and it claimed to be Vohu Manah which means good mind. This being then led Zoroaster to the god of Zoroastrianism who is called Ahura Mazda meaning Wise Lord. Vohu Manah is one of the six Amesha Spentas or Holy Immortals. The other immortals include Asha Vahista (justice and truth), Spenta Ameraiti (serenity and kindness), Khashhathra Vairya (just rule), Jauravatat (wholeness and health), and Ameretat (long life). Zorastrians believe that Ahura Mazda is the supreme ruler, and he created the whole world and controls it. Ahura Mazda is considered omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. The main maxim that every Zoroastrian is suppose to live by is: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. They revolve their lives around this motto. Zoroastrians believe that there is a constant battle between their good god, Ahura Mazda, and an evil being, Angra Mainyu. Angra Mainyu opposes everything that Ahura Mazda stands for, and Angra Mainyu is responsible for death, natural disasters, disease, etc. Zoroastrians also believe that once you die your body becomes impure and is taken over by evil. Death is considered impure while the earth, wind, fire, and water are pure. The dead who are in hell will be taken to heaven on the day of judgment when Ahura Mazda defeats Angra Mainyu.
Zoroastrianism spread the most through the powerful Persian Empire. Zoroastrianism was the official religion when Cyrus the Great, Darius I, and King Xerxes ruled the empire. The religion grew as the kingdom grew. It spread to many parts of Europe, and even though Cyrus the Great and Darius did not force this religion on any of its people which proves that it is an ethnic religion, many converted to Zoroastrianism. Contagious diffusion helped spread this religion through the empire because it diffused through the word of mouth. Cyrus also let the Jews living in the empire to return to Jerusalem because of his benevolent actions. After the Persian Empire fell, so to did the spread of Zoroastrianism. It remained dormant for hundreds of years. During the rule of the Sassanian Emperors, Zoroastrianism began to spread again. During this time, the Zoroastrian calendar was reformed to contain all 365 days of the year. Zoroastrianism once again became the official religion of the empire, and it was used to rebel against the Roman Church. The Sassanain Empire changed Zoroastrianism more than any other empire. They made fire worship a major ritual for Zoroastrianism and this practice is still used today by almost every Zoroastrian. The Sassanain Empire fell when Arabs from Iran took over bearing the Islamic flag. The new religion of Islam restricted the spread of Zoroastrian in the Middle East. Muslims severely persecuted the indigenous Zoroastrians which caused a group of Iranian Zoroastrians to create a Diaspora to Western India. This group of people were called the Parsis. There are two major groups of Zoroastrians today, one group that still lives in Iran and the other group is the Parsis living in India. Today, close to 80% of all Zoroastrians live in India. Parsis in India have also helped the spread of Zoroastrianism eastward.
Although Zoroastrianism is not a major religion, and has not spread rapidly all over the world, its impact is still noticeable in many other more popular religions. Zoroastrianism has had a major impact on Christianity and Islam. One major concept that is shared between Christianity and Zoroastrianism is the concept of dualism. Zoroastrians believe there is a clear heaven and hell which many Christians believe true as well. Zoroastrians also believe the concept of their savior being born of a virgin. Zoroaster was born of a virgin, just as Jesus was born of a virgin in the Christian faith. Zoroastrians believe in a second coming just as many Christians believe as well. Zoroastrianism is also extremely similar to Islam. Muslims strive for ritual cleanness which comes directly from the teachings of Zoroaster. Also, Zoroaster is also considered a prophet from Muhammad himself drawing a direct connection from Islam to Zoroastrianism. Since Zoroastrianism is the oldest religion, it has definitely had an influence on younger monotheistic religions. There is no doubt that Zoroastrianism has had a major impact on Islam and Christianity.
Although not significantly large or well known, Zoroastrianism is an important religion in the world today. It is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion and was discovered in ancient Iran by the prophet Zoroaster. Zoroastrians concentrate on being pure and free thinking. Zoroastrianism spread the most during the Persian Empire. It was the religion of many of Persia’s rulers thus spreading the religion to the different places that the Persian Empire conquered. The religion also spread when a group of Iranians fled to India after Muslim persecution. This group of Zoroastrians are called the Parsis. Zoroastrianism has clearly had a major impact on Christianity and Islam despite its small size. Zoroastrianism is continued today and its symbols can be seen in the cultural landscape in the Middle East and India.
Because Zoroastrianism is so small in the United States it is difficult to find a place of worship, but this Zoroastrian center in Houston, Texas represents a place for Zoroastrians to worship in the U.S.