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Short Essay/Peer Review #3

1. Zoroastrianism, a religion that goes back to ancient Persia and a man named Zoroaster (Zarathustra), has had a long-lasting (but often overlooked) impact on the development of monotheistic religions, especially the three Abrahamic Religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

Zoroastrianism goes back to 600-500 BCE in modern-day Iran. Zoroaster, dissatisfied with the rituals of his time, sought to teach people that there was only one God. This was a foreign concept and difficult for the people of this time to understand. The basic ideas of Zoroastrianism center around a fight between light and dark or good and bad. The god Ahura Mazda is in a constant battle with Ahriman, the evil spirit. This battle takes place on earth, where humans serve as “traps” to lure and weaken Ahriman. Zoroaster said that when Ahriman is defeated, everything that is pure will resurrect.

Zoroastrianism used the magi, an order of priests, that were practitioners of magic and is based on the Zend Avesta, their holy scripture. Despite it challenging the polytheistic religions of its time, Zoroastrianism became the official religion of Persia from the Sassanian Dynasty until the fall of Persia, when Islam became dominant. Today, around 150,000 people in Mumbai practice (called Persians or Parsees) Zoroastrianism in clean temples that have a perpetually burning flame to symbolizes God’s purity.

Zoroastrianism played a large role in the development of today’s monotheistic religions by providing three basic motifs: the battle between good and dark, eschatology (an emphasis on the end of history), and the concept of paradise. Furthermore, it introduced the idea of resurrection (rising from the dead, not to be mistaken with incarnation).

Teaching basic history of Zoroastrianism would give today’s monotheistic religions a better idea of how their religion developed historically and how the concept of one god came about. More importantly, it would help people understand that things do not come about in a vacuum. But perhaps monotheistic religions do not because it would challenge their concept of being divinely revealed by god rather than the result of historical development, rooting back to a religion which they might consider not divinely revealed.

2. I think that for Jews, it is very important to “remember” (or commemorate) their history by sharing communal holidays for several reasons. First, it emphasizes the importance of family, which is the nucleus of society for Jews. Furthermore, it reminds them of how they were able to keep their faith alive through times like the diaspora and the Holocaust.

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