Religion of Iran: How ancient and obscure Zoroastrianism influences the world to this day


Iran's history is punctuated by a rich tapestry of religious and cultural traditions dating back thousands of years. Among these ancient beliefs, Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, has exerted a lasting influence in the region and beyond. 

Origins of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world, has its roots deeply intertwined with the history and culture of ancient Iran. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, but it was formalized and systematized by Zarathustra (or Zoroaster), a prophet who lived in Iran around the 6th century BC.

Zarathustra was born at a time of change and upheaval in ancient Iran, a period marked by social conflict, religious uncertainty and philosophical challenges. According to tradition, at the age of 30, Zarathustra had a divine revelation in which Ahura Mazda, the supreme god, transmitted to him the fundamental principles of Zoroastrianism.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Zoroastrianism is its dualistic approach to reality, represented by the duality between good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu or Ahriman). This duality is evident not only in the spiritual sphere, but also in nature and society, reflecting a cosmic struggle between opposing forces.

The concept of free will also plays a central role in Zoroastrian theology. Followers are called upon to make conscious choices between good and evil, thus contributing to maintaining the moral order of the universe. This emphasis on individual responsibility and personal ethics is one of the most striking features of the religion.

Furthermore, Zoroastrianism was one of the first religions to develop an eschatological worldview, i.e. a vision of the final destiny of humanity and the universe. According to this vision, history will culminate in a great confrontation between good and evil, where good will finally triumph and an era of renewal and happiness, known as Frashokereti, will be inaugurated.

Fundamental Principles

Central to Zoroastrian belief is the concept of Asha, or Truth, which governs the moral order of the universe. Followers are encouraged to live a life of righteousness and ethics, fighting against the forces of evil. Fire is revered as a symbol of Ahura Mazda's presence and is often used in religious rituals.

Evolution and diffusion

Over the centuries, Zoroastrianism has played a significant role in Iran's history, influencing not only spirituality, but also politics and culture. During the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion and helped shape government policies, such as religious tolerance and the promotion of social justice.

With the arrival of Islam in Iran in the 7th century, Zoroastrianism began to decline in terms of followers, but it still left an indelible mark on the country's cultural identity. Many of the festivals, traditions and moral values that were fundamental to Zoroastrianism have continued to play an important role in Iranian society.

Contemporary Influence

Although the number of followers of Zoroastrianism is small compared to other global religions, its ethical principles and philosophies continue to resonate around the world. Concepts such as the struggle between good and evil, the importance of truth and justice and reverence for nature find an echo in various contemporary religious traditions and ethical systems.

Zoroastrianism has also played a role in shaping Iran's national identity and has influenced the country's politics and culture. Elements of the religion, such as the sacred fire and the emphasis on justice, are often evoked in ceremonies and official speeches.

The predominance of religions

Although often overshadowed by the predominance of religions such as Islam, Zoroastrianism remains an influential force in the history and culture of Iran and the world at large. Its ethical principles and philosophies resonate through the centuries, offering a unique insight into fundamental questions of life and human existence. By understanding the depth of this ancient faith, we can gain a broader appreciation of the religious and cultural diversity that enriches our world.

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May 30th, 2024