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Zoroastrianism

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Zoroastrianism (also sometimes known as Mazdaism) was founded by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) in Persia around 600 BC (although some scholars estimate as early as 1500 BC). Persia at that time followed a polytheistic religion probably similar in its teachings to the Indian Vedas. Zoroastrianism combines elements of monotheism and dualism. Some modern scholars believe that Zoroastrianism had a large influence on Judaism and Manichaeism, and thus indirectly influenced Christianity and Islam.

The holy book of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta. Of the Avesta only the Gathas (the hymns) are attributed to Zoroaster.

Ahura Mazda (literally: "the Wise Lord"; later transcription: Ohrmazd, Ormazd or Ormus) is revered and worshipped by Zoroastrians as the good God. Opposed to Ahura Mazda stands Ahriman (compare the Hindu Angra Mainyu), who in some traditions is Ohrmazd's twin brother. According to Zoroastrianism, the earth was created by Ormazd as a battlefield to fight Ahriman (where Ohrmazd is destined to win approximately 3000 years after Zoroaster i.e. ~2400). Human beings have free will to choose between Ohrmazd and Ahriman, however once this choice is made it is impossible or nearly impossible to change. Those who align with Ohrmazd are believed to go directly to Heaven after death or resurrection (depending on the tradition) whereas those who align with Ahriman go to Hell for a period of time before then going on to Heaven. Unlike Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism does not associate matter with evil. On the contrary material pursuits such as raising a family and creating wealth are considered to aid Ohrmazd. "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds" is a common slogan.

However, Zoroastrianism is not simply the purely ethical religion it may at first seem. Purification[?] rituals are important and Zoroastrians practise sacrifice as well as confession. Indeed a religious Zoroastrian must constantly be involved in a meticulous struggle against the contamination of death (which is associated with Ahriman) and of the many other causes of defilement, and against the threat - even in sleep - of demons. Fire is an important religious symbol, and once started a ritual fire must be kept continually burning.

Small Zoroastrian communities survive in Iran and in India totalling 140,000 followers. Zoroastrians who immigrated to India from Persia beginning in the 10th century, are called Parsis (a reference to their Persian origin). Iranian Zoroastrians are called Gabars[?] (a name deriving from the Arabic word kaffir meaning infidel[?]). Although the religion was originally missionary, Parsis do not accept converts and are strictly endogamous[?] (a person must have two Zoroastrian parents to be considered Zoroasterian). The reasons for this change are unclear but probably relate the disdain Persians generally and traditionally feel toward Indians.

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