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Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
March 9th, 2010

The Zarathushtra Effect

Meet the followers of a dwindling ancient faith which they claim influenced Christianity

 
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zoroastrian-inside

His admirers claim he was the first to teach monotheism, the existence of heaven and hell and the final triumph of good over evil. Plato and Aristotle revered his wisdom. Raphael included him among the world’s greatest philosophers in his The School of Athens fresco. Some scholars insist that he had more influence on Western religion than any single man. Who was he? Moses? Mohammed? Christ? No.

His name was Zarathushtra, and he lived over 3,500 years ago, but his followers still honor him today while fearful for their faith’s survival over the next decades.

“We don’t seek converts,” insists Jamsheb Ravji, a Zoroastrian priest in Chicago. Ravji says converts would compromise the purity of the faith by not living up to its strict rules.

But Kersey Antia, 73, a Zoroastrian high priest in Chicago, says: “If we reject converts, then we reject the faith and philosophy of Zoroastrianism and jeopardize our own future.”

This battle over converts is set against the backdrop of a religion that has been in decline for centuries. Ravji, 48, says less than 200,000 Zoroastrians remain in the world — 7,000 to 11,000 of which live in America — with half marrying outside the faith in this country and Europe. With trends like these, Ravji says, there could be no more practicing Zoroastrians within a few generations.

“That would be tragic,” says Scott Nelson, who teaches comparative religion at Wentworth College in Lexington, Missouri. Nelson argues that if we lose Zoroastrianism, we lose not only a faith that has had a major influence on Christianity but also one that offers important insights into its origins.

Scholars such as Nelson say that some of these Zoroastrian influences on Christianity include the ideas of a final judgment, free will and eternal life for the reunited soul and body.  Mary Boyce, professor emeritus of Iranian studies at the University of London and author of Zoroastrians, writes: “These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence… [Zoroastrianism] has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.”

“If more knew how much of Judaism and Christianity were impacted by Zoroastrianism, our faith would be better valued.” — a Chicago Zoroastrian

Zoroastrians teach that Zarathushtra lived somewhere between 1500 B.C.E. and 1200 B.C.E. in Persia or Afghanistan. He taught the existence of one God, Ahura Mazda, and the need of humanity to strive to do good works to help evolve the world toward its spiritual potential of frashokereti, being a place of peace, joy and harmony where evil is vanquished.

The Great Debate

Cyrus Kanga prostrates in front of a large cauldron of fire in a Chicago Zoroastrian temple. Concentration wrinkles his forehead and furrows his eyebrows. Whispers of an ancient prayer escape through taut lips. Straightening up, he grasps a stick of frankincense and drops it into the cauldron’s orange-yellow flickering flames. A sweet-spicy aroma floods the temple room.

Kanga, thirtyish, who asked that his real name not be used, says that accepting converts or intermarried families is not the solution to dwindling Zoroastrian numbers. “Those who want to do so will cheapen and slowly pollute the faith,” he says, dusting off his unsoiled white overshirt. And there is no guarantee that changing those things will increase the faith’s numbers, he argues.

Kanga says the solution is to remind Zoroastrians about the religious contributions of their faith, such as ethical dualism. “Ahura Mazda, which is God, represents truth and order (asha), but Angra Mainyu represents evil or falsehood and chaos (druji),” Kanga says.

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While Ahura Mazda encourages us to do good deeds — helping and being considerate of others — Angra Mainyu tempts us to be selfish, envious and angry, he says. What Christianity did was take this Zoroastrian idea of evil (Angra Mainyu) and turn it into a personal entity called Satan, Kanga says. “If more knew how much of Judaism and Christianity were impacted by Zoroastrianism, our faith would be better valued.”

But David Allgire, a Protestant pastor in Savannah, Georgia and an expert in Christian apologetics, warns against any claims that Zoroastrianism impacted Christianity. Allgire says that we don’t have any definitive evidence that Zoroastrianism existed in any authoritative way early enough to have impacted Judaism or Christianity.

In fact, Allgire argues that it makes more sense that Judaism influenced Zoroastrianism because Jewish dogma was settled earlier and more strictly protected against outside influences than Zoroastrian beliefs.

Nevertheless, Zoroastrians don’t want to pick a fight with Christians. “Every faith has value in our tradition,” says a Los Angeles Zoroastrian.

Zoroastrians even teach that Jesus was a prophet, that the three Magi who visited him were Zoroastrian priests, and that Zarathushtra even predicted that there would be other saviors, of which they believe Christ to be one.

In support of the Zoroastrian-Magi theory, Ken R. Vincent, religious scholar and author of The Magi: From Zoroaster to the Three Wise Men, writes that Zoroastrians were the “next-door neighbors” of Palestine during the time of Christ’s birth, and that  “their main language was Aramaic, which was the language of Jesus. Some Magi even resided in pre-Islamic Southern Arabia where the frankincense and myrrh were grown and traded.”

Common Ground

Antia, who is also a psychologist, says that among the many accomplishments of Zarathushtra was his recognition of the relationship between thoughts and actions.

A fundamental tenet of Zoroastrianism is that “good thoughts, good words, and good deeds” lead one closer to God and also help move the world closer to frashokereti or world harmony.

The Zoroastrian creed of “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” is something that all Catholics can embrace, says Jason Renken, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs.

Though the Catholic Church has different theological and historical interpretations of the influence that Zoroastrianism had on Christianity, Renken says the Church, like Zarathushtra, agrees that spirituality begins within.

Antia says that Christ, too, knew the power of thoughts when he told the people he healed that it was their faith that restored them. Like Zarathushtra, Antia says, Christ understood that how we think affects how we behave and what we can achieve.

The Zoroastrian creed of “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” is something that all Catholics can embrace, says Jason Renken, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs.

Though the Catholic Church has different theological and historical interpretations of the influence that Zoroastrianism had on Christianity, Renken says the Church, like Zarathushtra, agrees that spirituality begins within. “Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38 that we should love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind,” he says. “Catholics can find value in other faiths, including Zoroastrianism.”

Agreeing with Renken, Nelson, a Protestant, says even if Christianity borrowed from Zarathushtra, that doesn’t take anything away from Christianity.

Nelson asks, If there are truths that both Christianity and Zoroastrianism agree on — the existence of one God, the final victory of good over evil — then why couldn’t these truths have been revealed earlier to Zarathushtra, an earnest, holy man who lived before Christ?

For the average Zoroastrian, Nelson says the answer is obvious: “Both men came from God.”

Four Thousand Years Already

Rashna Booniwala, 43, enjoying a traditional Indian meal of rice and curry with friends at the Zoroastrian Center of Chicago, is not interested in stuffy theological debates between Zoroastrians and Christians on who influenced whom. “It’s the same God to me,” she says with a shrug.

And she is also not too worried about Zoroastrians dying out. “They’re always saying, ‘In the next ten years we’ll be gone.’ But then the next ten years come and go, and we’re still here,” she says. “We’ve been ‘still here’ for almost four thousand years already.”

 
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The Author : Anthony Chiorazzi
Anthony Chiorazzi writes from Los Angeles and is currently a graduate student at Oxford University.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Tehmasp Mogul

    All these discussions evade some very basic questions, and the following need to be answered by the die hard religious opinion enforcers. These questions do not require great scholastic knowledge, only the ability to apply the intellect that GOD by whatever name we choose to call Him, has bestowed us with.
    Q1. As my intellect tells me….Christ was the first Christian, someone liked what he preached and decided to follow his teachings, thereby converting to His theology, leading to the birth of Christianity. Likewise with our Prophet Zoraoster. He was the first Zorastrian, someone found his teachings worth following and converted to accepting His teachings.Presumably Zoaraster must have welcomed the person into the fold. And must have welcomed a series of convertees No.2 and 3 and 4…….and several more.If He did not, the prophet would not have been heard of!! If conversion was OK for the BIG BUY, why is it not OK for us lesser minions? Believe it or not….I have even heard bizarre explanations that Zorastrianism already existed and there was no conversion involved!!
    Q 2. Why are you using the promise supposedly given to a kind host centuries ago, of not converting the locals! We use that as an excuse against accepting convertees. But if I recollect other aspects of that agreement, our ancestors also added sugar to milk. This is conveniently used as to mean we,the immigrants, would enhance the local system. Could it also not be taken to mean we promised to intergrate into the local society. Which would imply some degree of interaction, and not profess a exclusive separate entity? In any case a promise given 1450 years ago, should be “time barred” by now, and be revisited with the reality of changing times.
    Q3. Someone in earlier comments has already asked this, but it bears repeating. We Parsees claim ancestry from the ancient Persia ( now Iran ) Has anyone noticed that Persians of that era were fair skinned, blue eyed and probably had light coloured hair as well. Where did our present brown skin come from, if not from intermarriage? From sunburn?
    Q4. In India we steadfastedly refuse access to a legal non-Zorastrian spouse of a Zorastrian to go to our fire temple to say a silent prayer of thanks….in whatever form of prayer it might be. Does one think Ahura Mazda would approve of anyone being kept out of visiting his sacred abode to say a simple Thank You? I think not!
    I have posed these questions and have never got a simple answer that would satisfy common intellect. And some of the bizarre reasonings emanate from Indian Zorastrians who have held important designations in prosperous business houses !! How on earth did they make successful business endeavours with such blinkered reasonings????

  • Ervad Hoshang J. Bhadha Ph.D.

    Conversion is mixmarriage contyroversies are age-old and so does the religious ignorance among Parsees. Your perception on material events and relationship will not change the scriptures and neither you can force HIM to revisit and reinvent the history. There are references for all cotroversies within our scriptures however it becomes a convenience of majority of Zoroastrians to ignore them and prefer to be rules by their physical conscience & perceptions. Example: If I tell you that Vendidad and Fravardin Yast are the two references I can quote to answer the above controversies would you accept and believe in it? The answer is ….. NO. Because neither you have any idea what is Vendidad & Fravardin yast is all about or your material conscience is willing accept those spiritual expositions. The sad part of Zoroastrianism is unlike any other religious community, the people who claim to be Zoroastrianism are proud to call themselves heretics a openly challenge their scriptures and traditions to prove themselves rational, social, & intelligent – more than Prophet Asho Zarathustra. About Kersi Antia, his education in psychology rules his consccience in promoting anti-Zoroastrian traditions and spriritual laws. That’s his version & expression. He is no authority neither he is in Muslim religion otherwise you what where he would be if he had said something about Islam. Our Community has given too much of freedom to almost anyone to say anything against our religion because nobody “owns” it in free society like America. Remember te history our those times when Asho Zarathustra cam with Vedaivodat to spread HIS words, he said exactly opposite of what was then the prevailing practices by Daevayasnis. From the attached comments to this article you can judge that people are complimenting those who speak their mind and the similar trend can be found in Zoroastrian community. If anyone talks contrary to your perception, just like our Prophet how would teh majority react? Friends, ignorance rules your mind and that will continue until you remove that veil and seek spiritual sources in nature that guides your life, existence and beyond. If you do not believe in religion and have anything to do with its practices then as per your thinking, your body is just a lump of meat & bones and you are a product of human passion and biological event that was meant for pleasure. Is there a meaning to life then? Best of luck to your understanding of Zoroastrianism.

  • Porus N Dadabhoy

    After the Crusades, Conquests and Inquisitions of the Past , the methodology of proselytizing today the Zoroastrian faith in N. America is insidiously the same.
    The new proselytizers plying their trade today in America are not affected by consumer laws that retailers abide by truth in marketing laws. There is no protection to the rabid sales of Zoroastrian religion that the proselytizer makes in the U.S. or overseas and the consumers are the victims.

    The Muslim world rewards consumers away from Islam with death. Zoroastrians tolerate this insidious practice in N. America and now promote it in India.

    The Native Americans, the indigenous progeny of Latin America , the Aborigines are silent witnesses to lost religions and decimated traditions that fell to earlier onslaughts. There purpose is to destroy the religion and traditions of the Parsis of India.

    The violence of conversion practiced by Kersy Antia is very real. The conversion is often a conversion of real intolerance. A convert is asked to repudiate his community, his customs and traditions of his family passed down for generations. A persons conversion begins a cascade of upheaval that tears apart families, communities and societies, creating a demographic tinderbox and too often explodes.

    The UNDHR needs to be ammended so that no one should be subjected force and fraud and or coercion , including but not limited to harassment, intimidation and exploitation the Zoroastrians such as Kersy Antia are doing in the U.S. under the name of Zoroastrian Religion.

    Porus Dadabhoy

  • Naushir Mistry

    Whatever people say the faith will soon disappear. I for one do not want this to happen. Unfortunately our seniors and leaders as I would call them are wearing blinkers and are persuading their subjective agendas, not realising one bit that if there are no Zoroastrians left alive very shortly. There has been a dilution of the “pure blood” as some of us call it, inside India. Why we are blinded and cannot see this is beyond comprehension. If we have not mixed where did the dark Parsees come from?. We must allow children from mixed religion parents to enter our fold. At the same time I believe that our Parsee mothers must encourage the young males to achieve higher planes not only in learning and education but in special skills. It is due to a bad crop of young Parsee males that the Parsee females, who are much more educated and accomplished, marry outside the community. Our priests and Panchayat believe that children of a Parsee mother and a non-Parsee father cannot be christened as Parsees. We dont want to accept conversion, not accept adoption, not accept children from mixed marriages into our faith, even GOD cant save the community.

  • nader

    The article while good provides a clear problem statement…..the decreasing number of Zorastrians; but no root cause analysis or assessment.
    Fact remains that while these pointless discussions on which philosophy influenced whom goes on indefinitely in the west; the root cause of decreasing numbers: Lack of a place of worship has not been addressed.
    Just a century back, temples were opened in Hong Kong, Shanghai, & Aden (to name a few)to serve a few hundred devotees.
    Compare this to North America, where the most numerically affluent Zarathushtis reside……..& NO fire temple.
    Ironically these are devotees who have pledged alliance to a faith that lays emphasis on concrete positive actions (not hot air).
    & then they complain that their children left the faith. They seem to have forgotten that what goes around comes around.

  • Rustom

    Rv. Allgire says that ‘we don‚Äôt have any definitive evidence that Zoroastrianism existed in any authoritative way early enough to have impacted Judaism or Christianity’
    Perhaps Rev Allgire should brush up his history and read up on how the Zoroastrians gave the christians refuge whilst they were not liked in Rome.
    Also the historical evidence of christian missoneries then playing havoc in Persia, thus instigating the Sasanians to enforce certain rigidity. The fact that Armenia was Zoroastrian and broke up due to instigations of the missoneries is aptly tried to be forgotten by Allgire.
    In any case if he also brushes up the facts of St Vartan who himself claims to have destroyed fire temples n killed the fire priests also would highlighten the existence of Zoroastrianism.

    On his claim that judaism impacted Zoroastrianism….the fact that a Zoroastrian King Cyrus( again Allgire can disclaim this)or Kurush the great liberated the jews, built their temple and allowed them to flourish yet not having converted anyone shows that the statements of Zoroastrianism influenced judaism holds more water than voce versa.

    The fact that the Christains had to use the fable of the 3 magis visiting Jesus..to sort of portray to the jews that even the Persians bowed to their new leader..again shows the insecurity of the faith that waged wars against Zoroastrian Persia which infac had given the new faith refuge once…

    Rev ALLgire continues to show the insecurity of the faith that began 2000 years back and they with the arab onslaught though have made the Zoroastrians a minority of the world…the Zoroastrian Persians lands stii witness massacre and wars amongst these two faiths…even after 2000 years…the thirst to control Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan etc etc and wars thereoff continue…Perhaps Rev Allgire can close eyes to this too

  • Firoz B. Master

    Instead of showing off about our religion, let us be practical and permit SENSIBLE conversion, initially of spouses, and then of others. Decide practical rules. Let us ACT before it is too late.

  • ANONYMOUS

    Christianity, Islam and Judaism borrowed entire tenets of Zoroastrianism, viz, Angelology, the concepts of Good & Evil, Heaven & Hell and the final Armageddon which Zoroastrianism attributes to destruction by molten metal (volcanis eruptions perhaps?).

    The only true authority on Zoroastrianiosm is the Kankash-e-Mobedaan (Cou8ncil of Priests) located in Iran and they allow conversion and inter-marriages based on the instructions in the Avesta scriptures. These scriptures are written in 3 different languages – Avestan, Pahlavi and Persian. The instructions that I am referring to are written in Middle Persian. A basic knowledge of modern day Persian is a mandatory requirement for understanding these instructions.

  • Cyrus S. Saiwalla

    Our Lord Zarathustra was born before 8ooo years ago in Iran (Persia). The meaning of Zarathustra means the ‘light’ which was sent to our mother earth by Ahura-mazda, the Supreme God, the creator of the Universe. At that time our mother earth was ruled by evil doers- devoid of justice, peace, progress,happiness, etc. So, our mother earth requested to the Supreme God to send His Messenger and the Saviour to redeem her from evil doers. So, Lord Zarathustra was sent here to redeem the mother earth from evil doers and he had established the kingdom of Ahuramazda on this earth. Our Lord Zarathustra had laughed at the time of his birth and so, mother earth rejoiced along with other creations of God. He was full of light but had to take form of human being in order to establish the kingdom of Ahuramazda on this earth. It was said that not only mother earth was polluted by evil doers but whole our Solar system was polluted by evil doers with their evil powers. Thus, our Lord Zarathustra restored the whole Solar system to its glorious devine function. Hence, the creations of Ahuramazda (Source of Light and embodiment of good) proclaimed – ‘Ushtanojatavo, Athrava Spitama Zarathustra’ We thanked to Ahuramazda for sending His messenger called Spitaman Zarathustra. He is also known as Vakhsure Vakhsuran Spitama Zarathustra- Prophet of prophets known as Spitama Zarathustra. The foremost prophet of this world, taught in his teachings called ‘Gathas’. There are five Gathas known as 1, Ahunavad 2. Ushtavad 3. Spentomad 4. Vahushtra 5. Vaieshtoyesh. The other books were called 21 Nashaks comprising the whole knowlege of Universe and its Creator. Then, there are small prayers called ‘Niyash’ and long prayers called Yashts. Also, the book of DIVINE LAW called the ‘VANDIDAD’. Our is the only religion which believes in elements of nature like Holy fire, Pure Air, Holy water, Sun, Moon, etc. We have to keep clean our mother earth, worship holy fire and Sun as they are source of energies which sustain all creations of God. We have to keep our atmoshere pure. Pollution is considerd as one of the greatest sins and that is why our dead bodied are confined to the Tower of Silence called ‘DOKHMAS’. We are called Zoroastrians, the follower of Zarathustra and his religion called Zoroastianism. We are born Zoroastrians, believe in quality and not quantity. That is why we had played a lead roll in getting Independence from British Raj,founders in Institute of Science & Technology, Atomic energy, Ship builders, first National Air Ways, first in co-ed in India, Schools,Colleges, Hospitals and first in building charitable institutions in India and giving opportunities to all the communities equally. We were called ‘Parsi thy name is charity’.

    Zarathosti Din shad Bad.

  • Farrokh Vajifdar

    “Influence” has discomfiting connotations. People who seriously enquire into such matters are never fooled into seeing the best aspects of an earlier spiritual system as some kind of take-over claim or threat. Zoroastrianism is a practical philosophy which yields a code for right-living. It does not subscribe to moralistic phrases or to infantile beliefs in supernatural “beings” — gods, goddesses, godlings, and others of that species. The rationalist teachings of Zarathushtra are universalist, yet based on choice and free-will. There is no coercion, but there is acceptance of all, men and women, who freely choose to embrace such precepts. The strange priestly statement about converts compromising the purity of the faith is absolute hokum, meant for the gratification of low-grade racists and bigots.
    The nonsense of strict rules begs the question from such types: “Where can we obtain such perverted rule-books?” Furthermore, if indeed he performs his personal cord-tying ritual with any intelligence, he would straightaway know that the hearkening to the Wisdom of the faith is given to whomsoever Mazda (Wisdom) wills it. It is not for such dullards to deliberately disinform the world at large that Zarathushtra’s teachings on Mazda are to be restricted to the few through accident of birth! Surely these types are honour-bound to learn the truths of the faith and to abide by them instead of resorting to childish twaddle. To the Christian apologists, whether Protestant or Catholic, we ask only that they learn before debating or denying the truth that Zoroastrianism (a) preceded Christianity by at least six hundred years, and (b) that many of Jesus the Christ’s teachings have congruences in the earlier non-Semitic faiths. Finally, Mazda is not just another “God” — Zarathushtra would have been bemused to learn that the direct approaches of his definitions of Mazda have been distorted by the very persons who use these august names in pursuit of their pointless arguments for or against “conversion” — it really should read “improvement”!

  • Arsad Baria, LL.B. Vancouver, Canada

    the non conversion thing occurred as stated above in india as it was a promise made by the community to local indian rulers by the new would be settlers that they would not convert.
    in fact there is a letter from the famous ittoter rivayat, a question posed by the community to zoroastrian authorities in iran, asking about conversion, where the priests responded there was no bar to conversion.
    regardless, we do not need to follow history always and adaptability = survival and thriving in our species.
    common sense dictates that this religion/faith/philosophy cannot be made exclusive to a tribal group. it further dictates, that with a high intermarriage, low fertility rate and other factors, the ‘numbers’ will dwindle to nothing, unless conversion is actively ENCOURAGED with children of non zoroastrian spouses, and conversion of the spouses is welcomed, as in judaism. do you think that the jews started as a nation of l6 million, which they are now, in tiny judea and samaria, in ancient times? more likely, well under a million if that.
    further, discouraging millions of tajikis and saying they are not zoroastrian, is unforgiveable. our ancestors hailed from that area, they see themselves as inheriting the precepts of zoroastrianism, albeit without our rituals and culture etc. many of those, after overtures from ismailis, joined that faith. for your racial purity types, it is considered a source of the iranian tribes, and one of our two full avestas was stored there for safekeeping before the demon alexander wrought his destruction.
    get with the program, and get with this day and age. the rest of us dont want to see this faith perish due to the ignorance, with due respect, of a few.

  • Firoz B. Master

    As far as I understand, many Zoroastrians ran away from Iran, when their king Yezdezar Shehriar was defeated by the Muslim Arabs, and the Muslim religion was enforced there.

    Many Zoroastrians first reached the West coast of India, where king Jadao Rana welcomed them on certain conditions. The conditions were, that the Zoroastrians should NOT convert the Indians living there, and that they should try and observe Indian customs where possible.

    Since the Zoroastrians spoke the Farsi (Persian) language at that time, they were first known as Farsees, which later changed to Parsees, by which name they are still known.

    The Zoroastrians at that time promised King Jadao Rana, that they would NOT convert the Indians there. Some Parsees now foolishly think, that non-conversion is a part of our religion, and is not based on a promise given a long time ago.

    Common sense indicates, that if any non-Zoroastrian wishes to become a Zoroastrian, that person should first study the religion. Then after a period of some years, she/he may be tested and accepted as a Zoroastrian, as I believe is done for conversion to Judaism.

    I hope good sense will prevail. We have very few religious books left now. At first, Alexander, the Accursed (as he is known even now in some parts of Iran), first burned many of our religious books. Then later on, the Muslim conquerors did further damage to them.

    ALL religions now believe in ONE GOD, yet there is this unfortunate division, even to the point of having wars. I hope sense will prevail one day soon.

  • Mehli Gandevia

    Rashna Booniwala, is not interested in stuffy theological debates between Zoroastrians and Christians on who influenced whom. “It’s the same God to me,” she says with a shrug.

    And she is also not too worried about Zoroastrians dying out. “They’re always saying, ‘In the next ten years we’ll be gone.’ But then the next ten years come and go, and we’re still here,” she says. “We’ve been ’still here’ for almost four thousand years already.”

    I say – Three cheers for Rashna, “Very aptly put, gal”

  • J. Owen

    Great read and job of making a complex topic understandable. And I agree with Rev. Geleney’s wise comment: “the Church recognizes the validity of a spiritual life in other religions.”

  • Maria Trotta

    It was very well explained. As a Catholic, I believe every faith has its own unique way of loving God, the Creator of all things.

  • Rev. Joseph Geleney

    Furthermore, Vatican II, in Nostra Aetate, The Declearation on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, stated: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” And further, “Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians,…”
    Simply speaking, the Church recognizes the validity of a spiritual life in other religions.

  • Rev. Joseph Geleney

    Some try to interpret CCC 1533 in an exclusive manner. CCC 1533 says that the sacraments of Christian initiation… “confer the graces needed for the life according to the Spirit …” This does not imply an exclusive interpretation. In no way does CCC 1533 say that the graces needed for a life in the spirit cannot come by other means.

  • Marco W.J.

    Interesting stuff. I wonder if all religion comes from a common source, but as a Catholic I bristle at Mr. Brannum’s comment that the Church doesn’t agree that spiriutality begins within. I think the Church SHOULD believe that spiritual begins from within, that’s where I personally find it the strongest. For young Catholics, Renken makes a lot of sense. We need to work to find more common ground with other faiths. It’s easy to focus on what separates us.

  • Louis Brannum

    Renken says the Church, like Zarathushtra, agrees that spirituality begins within.

    I am sure that if this article had been properly vetted this statement would not have been published.

    The Church does not “agree that spirituality begins within”. On the contrary it is through the rites of Christian initiation Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist that graces are given that are need for a spiritual life. (CCC 1533)
    No graces no spiritual life.

  • Al Santos

    Really cool article. I am really interested in different religions and how they influenced one another. And I never knew anything about Zoroastrianism, but after reading this I am going to buy a book or two one it. And I also like how the Catholic church can see a value in other faiths like this one. We all can learn from each other.

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