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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Propositional Religions 6 -
Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism


Propositional Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism, Confucianism
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism, Mysticism (Syncretism)
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




Babism and Baha'ism

Babism and Baha'ism are two closely related offshoots of Islamic tradition. Baha'ism develops from Babism. Because of their interdependency we will cover them together, beginning with Babism. As will become quickly apparent, both religions have historically verifiable origins. Therefore, what will become critical as we assess them is whether the evidence available regarding their origin and beliefs substantiates or undermines the accuracy of their claims.

Babism developed in the mid-19th century from a particular belief of Shi'i Islam regarding the imams of Islam.

"Imam - 1: the prayer leader of a mosque 2: a Muslim leader of the line of Ali held by Shiites to be the divinely appointed, sinless, infallible successors of Muhammad 3: any of various rulers that claim descent from Muhammad and exercise spiritual and temporal leadership over a Muslim region." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Babism - system of doctrines proclaimed in Persia in 1844 by Ali Muhammad of Shiraz. Influenced by the Shaykhi Shiite theology that viewed the Twelve Imams as incarnations of the Divine." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Influenced by the Shi'i expectation of the twelfth imam, Mirza 'Ali Mohammad, declared himself to be the "Bab" (or gateway) to the twelfth and final imam in 1844.

"The Bab - Traditionally, the Bab had been considered to be a spokesman for the 12th and last imam, or leader of Shi'i Islam, believed to be in hiding since the 9th century; since that time, others had assumed the title of Bab. Such a proclamation fit in well with the Shaykhis' interest in the coming of the mahdi, or messianic deliverer." - Britannica.com

"Babism - religion that developed in Iran around Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's claim to be a bab (Arabic: 'gateway'), or divine intermediary, in 1844. See Bab, the." - Britannica.com

"The Bab - born Oct. 20, 1819, or Oct. 9, 1820, Shiraz, Iran died July 9, 1850, Tabriz...byname of Mirza 'ali Mohammad Of Shiraz merchant's son whose claim to be the Bab (Gateway) to the hidden imam (the perfect embodiment of Islamic faith) gave rise to the Babi religion and made him one of the three central figures of the Baha'i faith." - Britannica.com

"The Bab - At an early age, 'Ali Mohammad became familiar with the Shaykhi school of the Shi'i branch of Islam and with its leader, Sayyid Ka zim Rashti, whom he had met on a pilgrimage to Karbala' (in modern Iraq). 'Ali Mohammad borrowed heavily from the Shaykhis' teaching in formulating his own doctrine, and they, especially Sayyid Ka zim's disciple Mulla Husayn, seem to have encouraged his proclamation of himself as the Bab." - Britannica.com

"The Bab - It was on May 23, 1844, that 'Ali Mohammad, in an inspired fervour, wrote and simultaneously intoned a commentary, the Qayyum al-asma', on the surah ('chapter') of Joseph from the Qur'an. This event prompted 'Ali Mohammad, supported by Mulla Husayn, to declare himself the Bab. The same year he assembled 18 disciples, who along with him added up to the sacred Babi number 19, and were called huruf al-hayy ('letters of the living'). They became apostles of the new faith in the various Persian provinces." - Britannica.com

"Baha'i faith - The Baha'i religion originally grew out of the Babi faith, or sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mirza 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz in Iran...Mirza 'Ali Mohammad first proclaimed his beliefs in 1844 and assumed the title of the Bab (Persian: 'Gateway')." - Britannica.com

Proclaiming himself to be the Bab to the hidden imam, Mirza 'Ali Mohammad predicted that the twelfth imam or Promised One would soon come.

"The Bab - born Oct. 20, 1819, or Oct. 9, 1820, Shiraz, Iran died July 9, 1850, Tabriz...byname of Mirza 'ali Mohammad Of Shiraz merchant's son whose claim to be the Bab (Gateway) to the hidden imam (the perfect embodiment of Islamic faith) gave rise to the Babi religion and made him one of the three central figures of the Baha'i faith." - Britannica.com

"Babism - system of doctrines proclaimed in Persia in 1844 by Ali Muhammad of Shiraz. Influenced by the Shaykhi Shiite theology that viewed the Twelve Imams as incarnations of the Divine, Ali Muhammad proclaimed himself the Bab, the living door to the twelth Imam and the knowledge of God, and sent missionaries throughout Persia. He also announced a series of revelations, detailing the cosmogonic sequence, abrogating Islamic obligations and replacing them by a new set, structured around esoteric concepts such as the importance of the number 19. The year was hence divided into 19 months of 19 days each; the community was led by a council of 19 members. The movement placed special emphasis on the coming of the Promised One, who would embody all the tenets of the new religion." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Baha'i faith - The Baha'i religion originally grew out of the Babi faith, or sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mirza 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz in Iran. He proclaimed a spiritual doctrine emphasizing the forthcoming appearance of a new prophet or messenger of God who would overturn old beliefs and customs and usher in a new era. Though new, these beliefs originated in Shi'ite Islam, which believed in the forthcoming return of the 12th imam (successor of Muhammad), who would renew religion and guide the faithful. Mirza 'Ali Mohammad first proclaimed his beliefs in 1844 and assumed the title of the Bab (Persian: 'Gateway')." - Britannica.com

Only 6 years after he had declared himself to be the gateway to the twelfth imam, Mirza 'Ali Mohammad was executed in an Iranian prison in 1850. His followers declared a formal break from Islam.

"The Bab - Accordingly, his missionaries were arrested and expelled from Shiraz, and the Bab was arrested near Tehran and imprisoned in the fortress of Mahku (1847) and later in the castle of Chehriq (1848), where he remained until his execution. Assembling at the convention of Badasht in 1848, the Bab's followers declared a formal break with Islam." - Britannica.com

"Baha'i faith - Soon the Bab's teachings spread throughout Iran, provoking strong opposition from both the Shi'ite Muslim clergy and the government. The Bab was arrested and, after several years of incarceration, was excecuted in 1850." - Britannica.com

But before his death Mirza 'Ali Mohammad did provide his followers with the identity of the last imam, who he had predicted would come and whom they were expecting - himself.

"The Bab - Late in his active period, 'Ali Mohammad had abandoned the title Bab and considered himself no longer merely the 'gateway' to the expected 12th imam (imam-mahdi ), but to be the imam himself, or the qa'im. Later he declared himself the nuqtah ('point') and finally an actual divine manifestation. Among his followers, Babis and later Azalis, he is known as noqtey-e ula ('primal point'), hazrat-e a'la ("supreme presence"), jamal-e mobarak ('blessed perfection'), and even haqq ta'ala ('truth almighty')." - Britannica.com

Of course, many of the contradictions that we cited in our preceding study of Sikhism can also be applied to Babism. As we showed in that study, any religion that presupposes Islamic beliefs as foundational to its own claims, must then remain consistent within those beliefs. Two principle beliefs of Islam are that Mohammed was the final prophet in the tradition of messengers from God and that as such Mohammed delivered the final revelation of God's Word in the form of the Koran.

These two fundamental tenets of Islam prevent any future Islamic leader from usurping or superceding Mohammed's role and deviating from his message. Because we just examined this in the previous section on Sikhism and because we wish to avoid redundancy we will not repeat the quotes from that study that establish these two precepts. However, the fact that Babists did just this as well as the fact that Islam (including Shi'i Islam from, which Babism came) banishes, imprisons, and executes the Babists as heretics for these very reasons does sufficiently demonstrate our point.

"Babism - system of doctrines proclaimed in Persia in 1844 by Ali Muhammad of Shiraz. Influenced by the Shaykhi Shiite theology that viewed the Twelve Imams as incarnations of the Divine, Ali Muhammad proclaimed himself the Bab, the living door to the twelth Imam and the knowledge of God, and sent missionaries throughout Persia. He also announced a series of revelations, detailing the cosmogonic sequence, abrogating Islamic obligations and replacing them by a new set, structured around esoteric concepts such as the importance of the number 19.

"The Bab - Late in his active period, 'Ali Mohammad had abandoned the title Bab and considered himself no longer merely the 'gateway' to the expected 12th imam (imam-mahdi), but to be the imam himself, or the qa'im. Later he declared himself the nuqtah ('point') and finally an actual divine manifestation. Among his followers, Babis and later Azalis, he is known as noqtey-e ula ('primal point'), hazrat-e a'la ('supreme presence'), jamal-e mobarak ('blessed perfection'), and even haqq ta'ala ('truth almighty')." - Britannica.com

"The Bab - Accordingly, his missionaries were arrested and expelled from Shiraz, and the Bab was arrested near Tehran and imprisoned in the fortress of Mahku (1847) and later in the castle of Chehriq (1848), where he remained until his execution. Assembling at the convention of Badasht in 1848, the Bab's followers declared a formal break with Islam." - Britannica.com

"The Bab - In 1848 the movement declared its complete secession from Islam and all its rites; upon the accession of a new shah, the Bab's followers rose in insurrection and were defeated. Many of the leaders were killed, and the Bab was executed at Tabriz in 1850. Two years later, after an attempt on the life of the shah, there followed more persecutions. In 1863 the Babists were removed to Constantinople and later to Adrianople and Cyprus." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Having studied how Babism grew out of Islam, we will now examine how Baha'ism quickly developed from Babism. Since Baha'ism is an outgrowth of Babism all of our criticisms of Babism will also apply to Baha'ism. As we will shortly see, Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's (the Bab's) prediction of the soon arrival of the twelfth imam (the Promised One, mahdi, or messianic deliverer, imam-mahdi) forms the basis of Baha'ist teaching and the connection between these two closely related offshoots of Islam.

Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's declaration before his death in 1850, that he was himself the twelfth imam did not prevent one of his followers, a man named Mirza Huseyn Ali Nuri, from doing the same. In 1863, denying the proclamation of his teacher, Mirza Huseyn Ali Nuri proclaimed himself (and not Mirza 'Ali Mohammad) as the Promised One that Mirza 'Ali Mohammad had predicted. Of course, they recognize the Bab as a central figure in their beliefs, but they reject the Bab's claim to be the Promised One.

"The Bab - ...The Baha'is assign him the position of a forerunner of Baha' Ullah —the founder of the Baha'i faith—but they suppress all his titles except Bab." - Britannica.com

"Babism - ...Ali Muhammad proclaimed himself the Bab, the living door to the twelth Imam and the knowledge of God, and sent missionaries throughout Persia...The movement placed special emphasis on the coming of the Promised One, who would embody all the tenets of the new religion...the Bab was executed at Tabriz in 1850...After 1868 one group had its center in Acre under the leadership of Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri (known as Baha Ullah), the originator of Baha'ism, who declared himself the Promised One." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Baha'ism - religion founded by Baha Ullah (born Mirza Huseyn Ali Nuri) and promulgated by his eldest son, Abdul Baha (1844-1921). It is a doctrinal outgrowth of Babism, with Baha Allah as the Promised One of the earlier religion." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Baha Allah (or Baha Ullah) - Persian religious leader originally named Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri. One of the first disciples of the Bab (see Babism), he and his half-brother Subhi Azal became the leaders of the Babi faith. In 1863, shortly before being exiled to Constantinople, he declared himself the manifestation of God, the Promised One, as fortold by the Bab. He then founded Baha'ism and wrote its fundamental book, Kitabi Ikan (tr. The Book of Certitude, 1943). He spent most of his adult life in prison or under close surveillance. He died in Acre; his tomb there is one of the monuments of the Baha'i faith." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Baha'i faith - religion founded in Iran in the mid-19th century by Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri, who is known as Baha' Ullah (Arabic: 'Glory of God'). The cornerstone of Baha'i belief is the conviction that Baha' Ullah and his forerunner, who was known as the Bab, were manifestations of God, who in his essence is unknowable." - Britannica.com

"Baha'i faith - The Baha'i religion originally grew out of the Babi faith, or sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mirza 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz in Iran. He proclaimed a spiritual doctrine emphasizing the forthcoming appearance of a new prophet or messenger of God who would overturn old beliefs and customs and usher in a new era." - Britannica.com

"Baha'i faith - One of the Bab's earliest disciples and strongest exponents was Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri, who had assumed the name of Baha' Ullah when he renounced his social standing and joined the Babis. Baha' Ullah was arrested in 1852 and jailed in Tehran, where he became aware that he was the prophet and messenger of God whose coming had been predicted by the Bab...Before Baha' Ullah died in 1892, he appointed his eldest son, 'Abd ol-Baha (1844-1921), to be the leader of the Baha'i community and the authorized interpreter of his teachings." - Britannica.com

It must be noted from the information that we have about Baha'ism is that it undermines the credibility of both of its predecessors, which it depends upon to substantiate its own claims. Baha'ism contradicts the same two fundament premises of Islam that Babism does. But additionally, in proclaiming Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri to be a manifestation of Allah, Baha'ism breaks another fundamental Muslim precept: Allah would never lower himself to become manifest or become incarnate. Instead, Allah always interacts with mankind through intermediary beings, such as the angel Gabriel or the prophets (such as Mohammed). This tenet is one of Islam's chief reasons for objecting to the divinity of Jesus.

Therefore, Baha'ism's claim that Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri as well as the Bab, and the previous messengers of God are manifestations of God also constitutes a serious contradiction of Islamic teaching. So, Baha'ism completes its predecessor's contradiction of the religion both are founded upon. In proclaiming God's messengers to be manifestations of God himself Baha'ism denies several fundamental doctrines of Islam. On the other hand, Baha'ism upholds that Mohammed was a messenger (and manifestation) of God himself. This means that Baha'ism contains several contradictory beliefs.

But Baha'ism's contradiction of religions that it holds to be true is not limited to its contradiction of the religion of Islam. In addition its acceptance of Islam, Baha'ism holds that, in fact, all religions are true and from God.

"Baha'ism - Baha'ism holds that God can be made known to man through manifestations that have come at various stages of human progress; prophets include Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha Allah. Baha'ists believe in the unity of all religions, in universal education, in world peace, and in the equality of men and women." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Baha'i faith - The cornerstone of Baha'i belief is the conviction that Baha' Ullah and his forerunner, who was known as the Bab, were manifestations of God, who in his essence is unknowable. The principal Baha'i tenets are the essential unity of all religions and the unity of humanity. Baha'is believe that all the founders of the world's great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race. Despite their apparent differences, the world's great religions, according to the Baha'is, teach an identical truth. Baha' Ullah's peculiar function was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal faith." - Britannica.com

From the last quote above as well as the one that follows we see that Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri believed that he was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish and universal faith.

"Baha'i faith - The Baha'i religion originally grew out of the Babi faith, or sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mirza 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz in Iran. He proclaimed a spiritual doctrine emphasizing the forthcoming appearance of a new prophet or messenger of God who would overturn old beliefs and customs and usher in a new era." - Britannica.com

In conclusion, there are several reasons why Baha'ism must be rejected. All of these reasons to some extent deal with contradictory claims made by these religions. We have already discussed their respective contradictions of Islamic teaching, now we will briefly state several other contradictions, which will support our rejection of both Babist and Baha'ist theology.

For one, Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri cannot be regarded as the Promised One proclaimed by both Babism and Baha'ism. First, because Mirza 'Ali Mohammad (the self-proclaimed Bab) also proclaimed himself to be the Promised One that he had himself predicted. Since Mirza 'Ali Mohammad was the one to originate the prediction that the Promised One would arrive soon and then proclaimed himself to be this Promised One, Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri cannot be.

In order for Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri to proclaim himself to be the Promised One (and not Mirza 'Ali Mohammad) he had to deny Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's authority on the matter. Thus, since Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri called into question the authority of Mirza 'Ali Mohammad regarding the Promised One, he cannot then appeal to Mirza 'Ali Mohammad prophecy of the Promised One, which he then proclaimed himself the fulfillment of.

Second, if the purpose of the Promised One was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal religion as both Babism and Baha'ism claim, then Mirza Hoseyn 'Ali Nuri cannot be the Promised One because in no way has he accomplished this task. Significant religious disunity still persists and is rampant worldwide almost a century and a half after his death with no end in sight.

Lastly, since no Promised One has therefore come since Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's prediction in the 1840's that he would come soon, Mirza 'Ali Mohammad's credibility is sufficiently undermined as well for predicting the soon arrival of a religious figure who certainly did not come soon and so far has not come at all.

For all of these reasons, we have no choice except to reject the claims of the Babists and the Baha'ists on the grounds that they are self-contradicting and provide evidence, which not only does nothing to substantiate their claims, but in fact disproves them.


Zoroastrianism

Each of the religions that we have studied so far have originated on the continent of Asia. Before we move on to our examination of Evidentiary religions, it is necessary that we first study one last ancient Asian religion, Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrian beliefs differ in some ways from the ancient religions that we have previously looked at. For instance, Zoroastrianism is basically monotheistic in nature, which stands out amongst its ancient contemporaries. Because of these characteristics many scholars suppose that Zoroastrianism had an impact on the development of Jewish, and therefore, Christian theology. A more in depth examination of these beliefs will be undertaken later on when we examine Judaism.

For now, we will simply stick to the pattern we have employed above. First, we will examine the available historical information about Zoroastrianism's origins to see if any evidence is available to verify its claims. Second, we will determine whether any evidence that may exist provides reason to accept the accuracy of Zoroastrianism's claims. We will begin with a look at its beginnings.

"Zoroastrianism - a Persian religion founded in the 6th century B.C. by the prophet Zoroaster, promulgated in the Avesta, and characterized by worship of a supreme god Ahura Mazda who requires good deeds for help in his cosmic struggle against the evil spirit Ahriman." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Zoroaster - circa 628-circa 551 B.C. founder of Zoroastrianism;" - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Zoroastrianism - The religious system founded by Zoroaster and set forth in the Avesta, teaching the worship of Ahura Mazda in the context of a universal struggle between the forces of light and of darkness." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Zoroaster - c.628 B.C.-c.551 B.C., religious teacher and prophet of ancient Persia, founder of Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster, the name by which he is ordinarily known, is derived from the Greek form of Zarathushtra (or Zarathustra) [camel handler?], his Persian name. Zoroaster is believed to have been born in NW Persia. His youthful studies were crowned at the age of 30 by the first of a series of revelations of a new religion. His attempts to proselytize at home failed, and he fled east to ancient Chorasmia (now largely Persian Khorasan), where he converted King Vishtaspa (who may have been Hystaspes, the father of Darius). The religion then spread rapidly through Vishtaspa's domain. The circumstances of Zoroaster's death are not known." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroaster - born c. 628 BC , probably Rhages, Iran, died c. 551, site unknown. Old Iranian Zarathushtra, or Zarathustra Iranian religious reformer and founder of Zoroastrianism, or Parsiism, as it is known in India." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, the religion contains both monotheistic and dualistic features." - Britannica.com

From these quotes we can see that Zoroastrianism, like so many other ancient Asian religions began in the 6th-5th century B.C. Specifically it was initially proclaimed by it's namesake, Zoroaster, when in the year 589 B.C., at the age of 30, he is said to have received a series of divine revelations. After early attempts failed, Zoroaster was finally able to convert King Vishtaspa (who is thought to be also known as Hystaspes, the father of Darius I of Persia). Thereafter the religion spread even after Zoroaster's death in 551 B.C.

However, as Britannica.com states, our understanding Zoroaster's life and the events from which his religion originated is really only speculation. Exactly why it is speculative will become more apparent as we look at the sources documenting Zoroaster and the religion he began.

"Zoroaster - A biographical account of Zoroaster is tenuous at best or speculative at the other extreme. The date of Zoroaster's life cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty. According to Zoroastrian tradition, he flourished "258 years before Alexander." Alexander the Great conquered Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenids, a dynasty that ruled Persia from 559 to 330 BC, in 330 BC. Following this dating, Zoroaster converted Vishtaspa , most likely a king of Chorasmia (an area south of the Aral Sea in Central Asia), in 588 BC. According to tradition, he was 40 years old when this event occurred, thus indicating that his birthdate was 628 BC. Zoroaster was born into a modestly situated family of knights, the Spitama, probably at Rhages (now Rayy, a suburb of Tehran), a town in Media. The area in which he lived was not yet urban, its economy being based on animal husbandry and pastoral occupations. Nomads, who frequently raided those engaged in such occupations, were viewed by Zoroaster as aggressive violators of order, and he called them followers of the Lie." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - All that may safely be said is that Zoroaster lived somewhere in eastern Iran, far from the civilized world of western Asia, before Iran became unified under Cyrus II the Great." - Britannica.com

As the above Britannica.com article tells us the origins of Zoroaster's teaching are provided to us through the Zoroastrian traditions. These traditions are chiefly contained in the sacred scripture of the religion, known collectively as the Avesta.

"Zoroastrianism - The religious system founded by Zoroaster and set forth in the Avesta, teaching the worship of Ahura Mazda in the context of a universal struggle between the forces of light and of darkness." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Zoroaster - circa 628-circa 551 B.C. founder of Zoroastrianism; reputed author of the GAthAs, oldest and holiest part of the Avesta (Zoroastrian scriptures)." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Zoroastrianism - a Persian religion founded in the 6th century B.C. by the prophet Zoroaster, promulgated in the Avesta, and characterized by worship of a supreme god Ahura Mazda who requires good deeds for help in his cosmic struggle against the evil spirit Ahriman." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

As the primary source of information about Zoroaster's life, the Avesta, becomes critical to our examination for several reasons. First, the language, characteristics, and even spiritual beings of the text reveal that Zoroastrianism developed from the same obscure, ancient Indo-European roots that also gave birth to Hinduism and its sacred texts (the Vedas).

"Zoroastrianism - The religion of Iran before the time of Zoroaster is not directly accessible, for there are no reliable sources more ancient than the prophet himself. It has to be studied indirectly on the basis of later documents and by a comparative approach. The language of Iran is closely akin to that of northern India, and hence the people of the two lands probably had common ancestors—the Indo-Iranians, or Aryans. The religion of the latter has been reconstructed by means of common elements contained in the sacred books of Iran and India: mainly the Avesta and the Vedas. Both collections exhibit the same kind of polytheism, with many of the same gods, notably the Indian Mitra (the Iranian Mithra), the cult of fire, sacrifice by means of a sacred liquor (soma in India, in Iran haoma), and other parallels. There is, moreover, a list of Aryan gods in a treaty concluded about 1380 BC between the Hittite emperor and the king of Mitanni. The list includes Mitra and Varuna, Indra, and the two Nasatyas. All of these gods also are found in the Vedas, but only the first one in the Avesta, except that Indra and Nanhaithya appear in the Avesta as demons; Varuna may have survived under another name. Important changes, then, must have taken place on the Iranian side, not all of which can be attributed to the prophet." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - Zoroaster appears to have incorporated in his religion the old Persian pantheon, although very much refined. Instead of tolerating the worship of all the deities, however, he divided them into those who were beneficent and truthful and those whose malevolence and falseness made them abhorrent." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - Zoroastrianism's scriptures are the Avesta or the Zend Avesta [Pahlavi avesta=law, zend=commentary]...it is written in old Iranian, a language similar to Vedic Sanskrit." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Because of its close relationship with the obscure Aryan religion, Zoroastrianism, at least for us is born from uncertain causes, which remain unavailable to examination. This poses some difficulty for our ability to find evidence by which we might verify its truth claims. This uncertainty is further complicated by two facts. First, the Gathas, the only part of the Avesta said to be written by Zoroaster himself does not mention any known historical events. Second, though it is claimed by the Avesta that Zoroaster converted and came under the protection of the father of the Achaemenid king, Vishtaspa (father of Darius), Zoroaster himself is not mentioned in the inscriptions of the Achaemenids.

This means that the information about Zoroaster and the origin of his religion, which is contained in the Avesta cannot be corroborated from other ancient historical sources.

"Zoroastrianism - It has not yet been possible to place Zoroaster's hymns, the Gathas, in their historical context. Not a single place or person mentioned in them is known from any other source. Vishtaspa, the prophet's protector, can only be the namesake of the father of Darius, the Achaemenid king. All that may safely be said is that Zoroaster lived somewhere in eastern Iran, far from the civilized world of western Asia, before Iran became unified under Cyrus II the Great. If the Achaemenids ever heard of him, they did not see fit to mention his name in their inscriptions nor did they allude to the beings who surrounded the great god and were later to be called the amesha spenta s, or 'bounteous immortals'—an essential feature of Zoroaster's doctrine." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - Religion under the Achaemenids was in the hands of the Magi, whom Herodotus describes as a Median tribe with special customs, such as exposing the dead, fighting evil animals, and interpreting dreams. Again, the historical connection with Zoroaster—whom Herodotus also ignores—is a hazy one. It is not known when Zoroaster's doctrine reached western Iran, but it must have been before the time of Aristotle (384-322), who alludes to its dualism." - Britannica.com

To be clear, we do have some historical information about the existence of Zoroastrianism.

"Zoroastrianism - Other sources of Zoroastrianism are Achaemenid inscriptions, the writings of Herodotus, Strabo, and Plutarch, and the commentaries on the Avesta written (6th cent. A.D.) in Pahlavi, a Persian dialect used as a priestly language, under the Sassanids." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

But, while we do have some historical information about the existence of the religion of Zoroastrianism after its initial inception from other sources, we do not have information about Zoroaster himself or the events that led to his proclaiming Zoroastrianism, from any source besides the Avesta. Again to be clear, we do not consider it to be problematic that Zoroaster is only known to us by the sacred scripture of his religion, only that even with this record, we don't have much information about Zoroaster and the events, which birthed his proclamation of Zoroastrianism. In this respect our criticism of Zoroastrianism is similar to its fellow religion, Hinduism, which clearly is a historically documented phenomenon, but whose origins remain obscure.

Since, the Avesta is the main source of information about Zoroaster and the belief system he is said to have proclaimed they become critical to our investigation. The Avesta is divided into four parts, only one of which, the oldest, known as the Gathas are claimed to have been written by Zoroaster himself.

"Zoroastrianism - The major sections of the Avesta are four—the Yasna, a liturgical work that includes the Gathas ("songs"), probably the oldest part of the Avesta and perhaps in part written by Zoroaster himself; the Vispered, a supplement to the Yasna; the Yashts, hymns of praise, including the Khurda ('little') Avesta; and the Videvdat, a detailed code of ritual purification, often erroneously called the Vendidad." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - It has not yet been possible to place Zoroaster's hymns, the Gathas, in their historical context." - Britannica.com

However, as the above quote demonstrates the Gathas are considered to be songs or hymns. They are not comprehensive presentations of theological concepts, but are simply liturgical pieces dealing with religious rites or ceremonies (liturgical). So, we must turn to the rest of the Avesta to assess its reliability as a source about the origin of Zoroastrianism.

"Zoroastrianism -The Avesta consists of fragmentary and much-corrupted texts;" - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - The Avesta is, therefore, a collection of texts compiled in successive stages until it was completed under the Sasanians. It was then about four times larger than what has survived. A summary of its 21 books, or Nasks (of which only one is preserved as such in the Videvdat), is given in one of the main treatises written during the brief Zoroastrian renascence under Islam in the 9th century; the Denkart, the 'Acts of the Religion.' It is written in Pahlavi, the language of the Sasanians." - Britannica.com

"Avesta - also called Zend-avesta, sacred book of Zoroastrianism containing its cosmogony, law, and liturgy, the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra). The extant Avesta is all that remains of a much larger body of scripture, apparently Zoroaster's transformation of a very ancient tradition. The voluminous manuscripts of the original are said to have been destroyed when Alexander the Great conquered Persia. The present Avesta was assembled from remnants and standardized under the Sasanian kings (3rd-7th century AD)." - Britannica.com

"Pahlavi Books - also spelled Pehlevi major form of the Middle Persian language (see Persian language), which existed from the 3rd to the 10th century and was the official language of the Sasanian empire (AD 226-652). It is attested by Zoroastrian books, coins, and inscriptions. Pahlavi books were written in a confusing writing system of Aramaic origin called the Pahlavi alphabet. The major part of Pahlavi literature is religious, including translations from and commentaries on the Zoroastrian sacred book, the Avesta. Little has survived from pre-Islamic times, and the Bundahishn and Denkart, both Zoroastrian religious works, date from the Islamic period. Manuscripts were preserved by the Parsis (Zoroastrians) of Bombay and elsewhere. Pahlavi was superseded by Modern Persian, which is written in the Arabic alphabet." - Britannica.com

The above quotes provide some critical information on the Avesta, the main source of information about Zoroastrianism and the sole source about its founder and origins. First, the Avesta is compiled from "fragmented and much corrupted texts." The reason that these texts fragmented and corrupted is because they were destroyed on two different occassions. Once by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. And again by under Islam in the 7th century A.D.

Second, the Avesta was compiled over many centuries and was not completed until sometime between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D. during the Sasanian Empire. However, alsmost all of the available text of the Avesta comes from after the onset of Islam in the 7th century A.D. Since Zoroaster was reported to have lived in the 6th century B.C. this makes the primary record of his life and teachings 1,200 years late.

This huge lapse between origin of Zoroastrian beliefs and the recording of that origin poses significant problems for assessing and determining any reliable information about Zoroaster or about what he did or did not actually teach. In fact, the Columbia Encyclopedia, concludes that though the origin of the religion may be safely attributed to Zoroaster, its beliefs changed, developed, and were added to over time.

"Zoroastrianism - religion founded by Zoroaster, but with many later accretions." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - Gradually certain practices that Zoroaster appears to have deplored, such as the use of haoma (a narcotic intoxicant) in prayer and the sacrifice of bulls in connection with the cult of the god Mithra (a lesser god in Zoroastrianism), became features of the religion. It is not surprising, however, that former customs should be thus revived, because Zoroaster appears to have incorporated in his religion the old Persian pantheon, although very much refined." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - Heading the good spirits was Ahura Mazdah (also Ormazd or Ormuzd) [sovereign knowledge], in primitive Zoroastrianism the only god. Six attendant deities, the Amesha Spentas, surround him. These abstract representations, formerly the personal aspects of Ahura Mazdah, are Vohu Manah [good thought], Asha Vahista [highest righteousness], Khshathra Vairya [divine kingdom], Spenta Armaiti [pious devotion], Haurvatat [salvation], and Ameretat [immortality]. In time the Amesha Spentas became archangelic in character and less abstract. Opposing the good ahuras were the evil spirits, the daevas or divs, led by Ahriman. The war between these two supernatural hosts is the subject matter of the fully developed cosmogony and eschatology of Zoroastrianism." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Zoroastrianism - After Zoroaster, considerable changes occurred in the theology he had professed. The entities were reduced to mere deities, which were even separated into male and female. Never again were their names used to designate human faculties. This is probably a consequence of the resurgence of the ancient gods." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - It is not known to what extent Zoroaster's system was meant to be exclusively the cult of Ahura Mazda. In the Later Avesta all the gods he had ignored emerged again, such as Mithra, Airyaman (whom he had replaced by Sraosha), Anahita, Apam Napat, Verethraghna, and Vayu. This vast pantheon, still nominally headed by Ahura Mazda, is similar to the compromise that Darius, according to the interpretation cited above, made between the cult of Auramazda and that of the gods of the nobility." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - Not only did Zoroaster's theology thus lose its exclusive position, but an internal change also modified its equilibrium and even threatened its very essence. The Bounteous Spirit was almost completely reabsorbed into Ahura Mazda. Whereas in a Yasht the two Spirits fought each other, in the Videvdat Ahura Mazda and the Destructive Spirit opposed each other by creating, respectively, the good and the bad things. This profoundly affected Zoroaster's system, for Ahura Mazda could no longer be the father of the Twin Spirits; he now faced, on equal terms so to speak, a sort of antigod. This alteration probably dates back at least to the 4th century BC, for Aristotle said in the Peri philosophias ('On Philosophy') that the Magi preached the existence of two principles, Oromasdes and Areimanios." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - In the cosmogony as expounded in the Bundahishn, Ormazd (Ahura Mazda) and Ahriman are separated by the void. They seem to have existed from all eternity, when Ahriman's invidious attack initiates the whole process of creation. The question of their origin is ignored, but it was implied, ever since Ormazd had taken the place of his Bounteous Spirit in the struggle against the Destructive Spirit. Since Ahura Mazda could no longer be the father of the two adversaries, the question of their origin was inevitable." - Britannica.com

(NOTE: The Bundahish is the part of the Avesta, which details Zoroastrianism's understanding of the origin and nature of the world (cosmogeny) and man. Our copies of this part of the Avesta date from the 7th century A.D.

"Pahlavi Books - The major part of Pahlavi literature is religious, including translations from and commentaries on the Zoroastrian sacred book, the Avesta. Little has survived from pre-Islamic times, and the Bundahishn and Denkart, both Zoroastrian religious works, date from the Islamic period." - Britannica.com

"Bundahishn - (Pahlavi: Original Creation), Zoroastrian scripture giving an account of the creation, history, and duration of the world, the origin of man, and the nature of the universe. Written in Pahlavi, it dates from the 9th century AD but is based on ancient material from a lost part of the original Avesta and preserves some pre-Zoroastrian elements." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - Only in the Pahlavi books is this theme systematically developed. It is dominated by the idea of a final return to the initial state of things.

"Zoroaster - Later forms of Zoroastrianism teach a resurrection of the dead, a teaching for which some basis may be found in the Gathas. Through the resurrection of the dead, the renewal of the world bestows a last fulfillment on the followers of the Wise Lord." - Britannica.com

Because Zoroastrian beliefs on even key issues have changed over time and deviated from Zoroaster's original teaching a critical question arises that cannot be answered. Since the Avesta wasn't completed until approximately 1000 years after Zoroaster lived and taught and since it is the sole source of information about Zoroaster's life and the origin of his teachings how do we know if what the Avesta proclaims is really what Zoroaster taught?

As we said it is difficult if not impossible to answer this question. Britannica.com sums up the problematic nature of assessing the accuracy of Zoroastrianism in the following quote.

"Zoroaster - The student of Zoroastrianism is confronted by several problems concerning the religion's founder. One question is what part of Zoroastrianism derives from Zoroaster's tribal religion and what part was new as a result of his visions and creative religious genius. Another question is the extent to which the later Zoroastrian religion (Mazdaism) of the Sasanian period (AD 224-651) genuinely reflected the teachings of Zoroaster. A third question is the extent to which the sources—the Avesta (the Zoroastrian scriptures) with the Gathas (older hymns), the Middle Persian Pahlavi Books, and reports of various Greek authors—offer an authentic guide to Zoroaster's ideas." - Britannica.com

Because of all of these problems we conclude that we have little reason to accept the accuracy of Zoroastrianism's claims. As we have said we will return to deal with Zoroastrian's supposed influence on other religions that we have yet to cover. But for now we end our study of Zoroastrianism by rejecting its beliefs due to a lack of verifiable and reliable information regarding the origin of its teachings and the original form of those teachings. Put another way, even if we were to accept Zoroastrianism as it is known today, we would have no way of being sure that we were accepting the religion that was originally proclaimed by Zoroaster so long ago.


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