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Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest living religions. It was the religion of the ancient Persian Empire. Its origins are a mystery. Today, it is a relatively small religion with only about 250,000 followers. Even so, this religion cannot be overlooked because of its great contributions to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
The major scriptures are the Gathas. These are hymns of early Zoroastrianism and are considered the very words of the prophet Zoroaster. All remaining scriptural books are based on them. The ancient inhabitants of the land that later became the Persian Empire are a group of people know as Aryans. The Gathas indicates that the Aryans were nature worshipers who venerated a series of deities. It also tells of the prophet Zoroaster. Little is known about his birth or early life, but it was said that he discounted all gods but one.
Zoroaster grew up and became the only founder of a world religion to be trained as a priest. He preached that there was one true God and his name was Ahura Mazda. This name is translated to “Wise Lord.” He is understood to be the invisible and intangible creator and ruler of the universe. Zoroaster preached that Ahura Mazda revealed himself to mankind through six “Holy Immortals.” Western scholars have equated these “holy immortals” with the archangels of Christian theology.
Zoroaster’s greatest contribution to the religions of the world was in the area of the problem of evil. The world is full of good and evil and it is easy to say that good comes from God-- but where does the evil come from? To solve this, Zoroaster taught that two spirits emanated from Ahura Mazda: one good and one evil. These spirits do not exist independently but meet in unity with the forces of both good and evil under the control of Ahura Mazda. People can relate these two spirits to yin and yang of the Islamic religions.
Zoroastrianism is truly an influential religion. It remains monotheistic with the belief that even though there is a good spirit who is responsible for all the good in the world and an evil spirit who is responsible for all of the world’s evil, both these forces unite under the domain of one true God. Its sacred scripture, the Gathas, holds important information that is reflected in other biblical books. Zoroaster himself has devised many great concepts which have been adopted into many world religions today.