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Old 12-09-2005, 07:11 AM   #1
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Zoroastrianism - Are you aware of this religion?

I wonder howmany of us are aware of a religion called "Zoroastrianism" which currently has less than one hundred thousand followers.

I first learnt about Zoroastrianism when I was 18 and in my college and had a friend who believed in Zoroastrianism. ( He never told me that he believed in Zoroastianism but I figured out that myself). The religion however never matters to me. What I liked about him that he never was keen on flaunting his religon or telling me how great his religion is and stuff like that.

I have had Christian and Sikh friends who at some time mentioned to me how great their religion is - and why Chrisitanity or Sikhism was necessary ..all plain rubbish to my ears.

Coming back to Zoroastrianism, it was founded close to 3500 years ago and it would was one of the most important religion thousands of years ago. Then came more aggresive religions - who killed all those followed Zoroastrianism or converted them .

What once was a big religion now has 69,601 followers ( in 2001) - most of them in secular India.

Zoroastrianism originated in Iran and Afghanistan from where they were kicked out.

What a shame that guys with peaceful philosphies and religions were/are lessened at the expense of real fanatics.

"In the 7th century the Islamic Arabs invaded and conquered Persia. The disastrous effect this had on Zoroastrianism surpassed that of Alexander. Many libraries were burned and much cultural heritage was lost.

The Islamic invaders treated the Zoroastrians as dhimmis (People of the Book). This meant that like Jews and Christians, they could retain their religious practices, but must pay extra taxes. There were also many other laws and social humiliations implemented to make life difficult for the Zoroastrians in the hope that they would convert to Islam. Over time many Iranians did convert and Zoroastrianism became a minority religion in Iran."

"Zoroastrianism suffered again at the hands of the invading Turks. Even more damaging were the Mongol invasions which destroyed more religious texts. This time Islamic texts also suffered irreparable loss.

Within half a century of the conquest, Gazan Khan converted to Islam and Zoroastrianism dwindled even further through renewed persecution."

"In the 10th century a group of Iranians fled Iran as refugees in search of somewhere to practice their religion freely.

They finally ended up on the shores of Gujarat and were granted leave to stay there, thus founding the Indian Parsi community (Parsi being Gujarati for Persian)."


http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religi...an/index.shtml

http://altreligion.about.com/b/a/111012.htm

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Old 12-09-2005, 07:17 AM   #2
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I´m aware of it and heard it has some valuable insights, but don´t know much about this religion and its principles. Maybe you want to tell me more?

from your links:

History/Founder: Founded in Persia around 1200-1600 BC by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra), Zoroastrianism is the world's oldest continuing monotheistic religion. Some scholars believe that Zoroastrian doctrines - those of heaven and hell, the struggle of good versus evil, and a redeeming messiah- have deeply influenced the Jewish and Christian religions.
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Old 12-09-2005, 07:26 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by whenhiphopdrovethebigcars
I´m aware of it and heard it has some valuable insights, but don´t know much about this religion and its principles. Maybe you want to tell me more?

from your links:

History/Founder: Founded in Persia around 1200-1600 BC by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra), Zoroastrianism is the world's oldest continuing monotheistic religion. Some scholars believe that Zoroastrian doctrines - those of heaven and hell, the struggle of good versus evil, and a redeeming messiah- have deeply influenced the Jewish and Christian religions.
I know only as much as is present in the BBC website whose link I have posted to you.

All I can say is based on Parsis I have met, Parsi people are one of the nicest, friendly and peaceful people you can ever meet.
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Old 12-09-2005, 07:35 AM   #4
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Just to add, I am NOT a Parsi ( it should be evident from my 1st post) ..

All I am try to do is to get comments on....why this religion is on the verge of extinction.
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Old 12-09-2005, 07:47 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by AcrobatMan
All I am try to do is to get comments on....why this religion is on the verge of extinction.
Well, Zoroastrianism isn't helped by the fact that some (not all) Zoroastrians believe you have to be born into a Zoroastrian family to become a Zoroastrian. I've read about this a few times, and there's a bit more detail on Wikipedia under 'Other concepts' in Principles of modern-day Zoroastrianism.

Also, there are more than just under 70,000 adherents according to another part of the Wiki article:

Until 2002 the worldwide population figures for Zoroastrians had been estimated at anywhere between 180,000 and 250,000. NOTE: diaspora or worldwide population figures include both Parsis and Iranians; there is no way to estimate numbers of Parsis alone except when referring to India and Pakistan. India's 2001 Census found 69,601 Parsi Zoroastrians, in Pakistan they number 5000, mostly living in Karachi. North America is thought to be home to 18,000-25,000 Zoroastrians of both Parsi and Iranian background. Iran's figures of Zoroastrians have ranged widely.

Since 2002 population estimates have been sharply increased. Recent publications of many major encyclopedias and world alamanacs include population estimates of 2 to 3.5 million ...
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Old 12-09-2005, 07:48 AM   #6
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Islam wiped out Zoroastrianism as Christianity wiped out Druidism.
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Old 12-09-2005, 08:05 AM   #7
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If you do a search in this forum, you'll see I've written way too much on it.

Anyway, with absolutely no judgment on any of its current believers, I do blame Zoroastrian influence for many of the negative aspects of Judeo-Christianity. Our obsession with "good versus evil" and apocalypticism likely comes from them. Plus, they are also likely the origin of "Mosaic Law," contrary to tradition, as the Avesta has many of the legalistic laws and purity codes found in the Old Testament. Evidence for this infiltration of Judaism is found with the Book of Ezra, as Ezra, appointed by the Persian King Cyrus the Great, is charged with setting the moral tone of post-exilic Judaism.

On the other hand, Zoroastrianism, while traditionally preoccupied with good and evil, is also known for its relative pacifism. The Zoroastrian-influenced Jews, the Pharisees, likely only survived the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 because of this pacifism. The Sadducees, who rejected Zoroastrian-influence on Judaism, were also very militant, and were subsequently slaughtered, with the few remaining enslaved and dispersed through the Roman Empire.

Anyway, between the spread of Christianity and the Islamic conquest of Iran, Zoroastrianism was all but wiped out by the end of the first millennium A.D. The Parsis in India were permitted to live there, contingent on them not being allowed to accept converts. To this day, they still generally do not accept converts, and that's probably really why the religion is in such huge decline.

And, just to note, while modern Zoroastrianism can be characterized as "monotheistic," it was most noted for its dualism between the good god of light, Ahura Mazda, and the evil god of darkness, Angra Mainyu. Our concept of Satan is modelled after him, but was demoted to an angel in keeping with Judeo-Christian monotheism. But that does explain why Satan has so much power in comparison with the other angels; he was fashioned out of a god. But, even then, early Zoroastrianism had even more deities like Mithras, who was not quite like a full blown god, but is probably comparable to the status of Jesus in Christianity. Those, however, had generally fallen well out of fashion by the Islamic conquest.

Anyway, that's just what I've surmised from my studies. If anyone has any better perspective, they can feel free to correct me.

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Old 12-09-2005, 08:59 AM   #8
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Originally posted by Axver


isn't helped by the fact that some (not all) Zoroastrians believe you have to be born into a Zoroastrian family to become a Zoroastrian. .[/i]
yes but that doesn explain the (almost ) extinction of Zoroastrians.
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Old 12-09-2005, 09:38 AM   #9
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Yes, I'm aware. We've studied this religious at length in my history and theology courses in college. I don't like the dichotomy between good/evil so I haven't looked into it much personally.
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Old 12-09-2005, 09:39 AM   #10
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There have been hundreds, if not millions, of religions over the millenia. Step back far enough and you can find common items in all of them. That does not mean that one religion flowed from or "influenced" another.
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Old 12-09-2005, 10:28 AM   #11
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
There have been hundreds, if not millions, of religions over the millenia. Step back far enough and you can find common items in all of them. That does not mean that one religion flowed from or "influenced" another.


or it could mean that religion is a product of human thought, built with the same basic set of blueprints from culture to culture and the similarities we see between these religions are little more than similarities between human beings who might be separated by mountains or oceans, but their same basic thought patterns -- as well as needs to explain that which cannot be explained -- remain the same.
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Old 12-09-2005, 12:05 PM   #12
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I have a couple of dear friends in Mumbai who are Parsis, whom I always visit when I'm there doing research. I can't say I would broadly characterize the Parsis I've met as kinder or more hospitable than other Indians, though like other small diaspora minorities (and perhaps too because of their strong presence in trade and banking) they do seem to have a noticeably cosmpolitan worldview. On the other hand, as I'm sure AcrobatMan knows, some of the most important figures of Indian nationalism, such as Navroji, were Parsis, and they played an important role early on in breaking the monopoly of the British over industry.

It's my impression that Axver is broadly correct about the reasons for the declining size of their community. They do not accept conversions, and to intermarry is to cut oneself off from membership in the religious community, forsaking one's right to participate in worship at their fire temples and other key rites. In this regard they have a far more unforgiving view than the Jews, for example--though our numbers, at least outside Israel, are also threatened by intermarriage in the long term.

I had the honor of being invited to some of my friends' Parsi New Year observances one summer when I was there. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Day of the Dead celebrations observed by Christians in Latin America (though only coincidentally) as they "invite" the souls of all the dead and departed to celebrate with them, with fire rituals held on the hearth at home etc. They also took me to see their fire temple (I could not go into the sanctum, of course, but was allowed to observe some ceremonies from a distance) and to see the Towers of Silence on Malabar Hill, where they expose their dead. I was told the flame in their temple was 1000 years old, though I must admit to being skeptical about that part! Also they had some very unique and delicious celebration foods --lots of interesting dishes involving eggs.

As melon mentioned, they historically had some significant influence on Judaism, Christianity and other Ancient Near Eastern religions, though a Jew or Christian visiting a Parsi home or temple today will see little they would recognize, either in ritual or in theological discussion. They do indeed have messianic beliefs, for example, but it was clear to me from talking to my friends that the concept of the messiah as a historic figure was unimportant to them, whereas for Christians it is everything. They believe in judgment of the soul after death, in heaven and hell, and in a resurrection of all souls in the future (this was how they described their eschatology to me in English, at any rate; I'm relating how they actually put it, not necessarily what I've read in books). The Jews have never had uniform or consistent beliefs on such matters, only certain sects at one time or another (continuing through to today) which endorsed widely varying interpretations, and it was interesting to me to compare some of these to their views.

I have some knowledge of Sanskrit, and was amazed to see how similar the Old Avestan their scriptures are written in is to it. It's a shame, in a way, that they keep to themselves so much about theological matters, and generally engage little in formal interreligious dialogue, because I think the results could be quite fascinating. Anyhow, if you are lucky enough to befriend a Parsi and be invited to their homes or ceremonies, I highly recommend it!
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Old 12-09-2005, 02:37 PM   #13
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Another thing that occurs to me in recalling my discussions with my Parsi friends, and which melon touched on, is the profound pervasiveness of dualism, especially good-vs.-evil, in their worldview. In Judaism and Islam (well, Sunni Islam anyway--it's interesting in this regard that Persian-derived Shia Islam is different), the focus tends to be much more on everyday "right living," on what is and is not holy according to the law. There tends to be much less time spent on contemplating the "cosmic," overarching dimensions of the struggle between good and evil--that is generally relegated to the back shelf and left to the mystics, who are always present but never prominent. I got the distinct impression that for the Parsis though, this more abstract, metaphysical contemplation of the struggle between good and evil is kept close to the surface, theologically speaking, and is a frequent subject of reflection. I suppose Christianity would fall somewhere in between, given how the understanding of the Messiah as God intervening in history changes the equation.

Quote:
Originally posted by A_Wanderer
Islam wiped out Zoroastrianism as Christianity wiped out Druidism.
Actually I believe it was the case that most, if not all, of the Druids themselves were killed by the Romans well before Christianization. I'm pretty sure Caesar discusses this in The Gallic Wars. They were the leaders of their communities, and that made them a target. But of course, many of the beliefs and practices they presided over did live on for centuries--perhaps that's more what you meant.
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Old 12-09-2005, 02:38 PM   #14
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Originally posted by Irvine511
or it could mean that religion is a product of human thought, built with the same basic set of blueprints from culture to culture and the similarities we see between these religions are little more than similarities between human beings who might be separated by mountains or oceans, but their same basic thought patterns -- as well as needs to explain that which cannot be explained -- remain the same.
The way God explains it:

"since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20

To the extent we all have a "God shaped hole" - people have been trying to fill it.
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Old 12-09-2005, 02:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


The way God explains it:

"since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20

To the extent we all have a "God shaped hole" - people have been trying to fill it.


makes sense. i fully understand the almost biological need for faith)

and a reason why, one day, the Bible and the Koran might wind up on the same shelves with Ovid's Metamorphoses and The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
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