The religion was founded by Zarathushtra in Persia -- modern-day Iran. It may have been the world's first monotheistic faith. It was once the religion of the Persian empire, but has since been reduced in numbers to fewer than 200,000 today. With the exception of religious conservatives, most religious historians believe the the Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs concerning God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, the virgin birth of the savior, the slaughter of the innocents, resurrection, the final judgment, etc. were all derived from Zoroastrianism.
Zoroastrians believe that Zoroaster is the prophet of God. Zoroaster himself is not worshipped, but through his teachings man can become close to God by following the path of truth and righteousness (asha).
Zoroastrianism does not teach or believe in reincarnation or karma. Zoroastrians believe that after life on earth, the human soul is judged by God as to whether it did more good or evil in its life. Those who chose good over evil go to what Zarathushtra referred to simply as the "best existence," or heaven, and those who chose evil go to the "worst existence," or hell.
Some Zoroastrians believe in "cosmic" dualism, others in ethical dualism. The teachings of the Gathas, the original work of the Prophet, tend toward ethical dualism.
Zoroastrians believe in one God, called Ahura Mazda (meaning 'Wise Lord'). He is compassionate, just, and is the creator of the universe.
Ahura Mazda is:
Omniscient (knows everything)
Omnipotent (all powerful)
Omnipresent (is everywhere)
Impossible for humans to conceive
The Creator of life
The Source of all goodness and happiness
For three centuries after the Muslim conquest of Persia, Zoroastrianism remains of importance in the region. But gradually the majority of Persians convert to the religion of the new ruling caste, whether for reasons of conviction or convenience. A minority of Zoroastrians seek greater liberty elsewhere. They move to India, where they establish themselves in Gujarat as the Parsees (the Persian word for 'Persians').
A few Zoroastrians remain in Iran, to be found even today in the remote desert cities of Yazd and Kerman. They have been known to Muslims until recently as gabar, probably a version of the Arabic kafir ('infidel').
The main scripture of Zoroastrianism is called the Avesta. Originally a twenty-one-volume work, many of the volumes are now lost. The term avesta is thought to come from an Iranian word that means "shelter" or "support." Sometimes the title Zend (or Zand) Avesta is used to refer to the Zoroastrian scripture, but this title refers more specifically to a compilation of Zoroastrian writings made in the ninth century...
The guiding principle for many life-style choices (not moral or ethical choices) is moderation between the extremes of too much and too little.
Applying the principle of moderation does not preclude the need to apply the tests of goodness to every choice (for instance if something is helpful or harmful).
Understanding & Wisdom
Understanding the difference and then deciding between coexistence, choosing or moderation, requires listening with open minds, seeking knowledge and gaining wisdom, khrateush or khratu.
Correct choices and reasoned decisions, ratavo, are the hallmark and product of wisdom.
Good thoughts, words and deeds follow as a natural, intuitive outcome. Goodness does not come from dogma. Goodness is grounded in wisdom.
Free Will, Reason & Choice
Within the limits of circumstance, human beings are endowed with free will, the freedom to make choices, the ability to separate good from bad, the ability to separate right from wrong, and the ability to reason.
The ability to reason, see differences and make choices from available options, enables us to make choices in our thoughts, words and deeds.
Age of Reason
Parents and other early childhood caregivers have an important role in guiding young people in the basic choice of spirit they make before the time they reach the age of reason - fifteen years of age - and in the development of a conscience.
Today, Zoroastrians do not proselytize, and consequently Zoroastrians are born to the faith. If a Parsi woman marries outside the religion, her children cannot be Zoroastrians, but if a man marries outside, his children can become Zoroastrians, although his wife cannot. No doubt these restrictions are later aberrations not befitting the lofty ideals and teachings of the religion.
The Parsi code of conduct may be summarized by the phrase, "Good thought, good words, good deeds." Living proof of this is seen in the strong tradition of philanthropy found in the community. This includes not only the support and endowment of schools, hospital and charitable institutions, but also a concern for the welfare of the less fortunate members of the Parsi community.
The Zoroastrian burial ritual is quite distinctive. In both scripture and tradition, decaying corpses would pollute the earth, the good creation. In India, where it is not illegal, Parsis have traditionally exposed bodies in “Towers of Silence”, to be eaten by vultures.
At present time there are about 200,000 Zoroastrians throughout the world. Most of the worlds Zoroastrians, who are about 100,000, are living in India and they are called Parsis. Due to the Arabs' invasion of Persia, which was cruel (_See Koran Sura 9 “Al Tauba “ Ayeh 5 and 29 and 123 ) , most Parsis left their own country, and emigrated to India in the ninth century. Even, at present time, if Persians are asked about Zoroastrians identity, most of them will answer, those people are fire worshipers, and like Jews and other pagans and Christians, are unclean people ( See Koran Sura 9 Ayeh 28 ).