Give Me That Old Time Religion

I hate it when history can’t decide how to spell someone’s name and this is the case for Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra who lived in a time that is not firmly established (anywhere from 1400 BC to 500 BC) was a unique Persian thinker.  Zoroaster was a prophet who worked as a priest and he was said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazdā (the supreme god known as the Wise Lord), who appointed him to preach the truth.  Zoroaster lived in a time when the Iranian people were evolving a settled agriculture, and he broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, espousing the idea of a one good God.  Initially these people were opposed to his teachings, but he was confident in the truth that was revealed to him so he spread his monotheistic message. He placed his god at the center of a kingdom of justice that promised immortality and bliss and he attempted to reform the ancient Iranian religion.  His referred to those who opposed his views as the followers of the Lie.

After the Jews were exiled and held as captives in Babylon, Cyrus the Persian king liberated them and one of his successors Darius, organized and funded the return of some of the captives to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  Ezra focused on the rebuilding of the temple, while Nehemiah focused on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Ezra concentrated on religious reform, while Nehemiah concentrated on political issues.  From this a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion, emerged what it is known as Zoroastrianism and the Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting.

Zoroaster was a family man, with a wife, three sons and three daughters.  He rejected the current religion because of the multitude of gods, the oppressive class structure, the use of animal sacrifices and the hallucinogenic rituals.  When Zoroaster was thirty years old he had a divine vision of God during a ritual purification rite.  This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others.  Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship.  He also said that some of the deities of the old religion appeared to delight in war and strife and Zoroaster said that these were evil spirits and were God’s adversaries.  After Zoroaster was granted a vision from god, he said, “Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss!”

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