Zoroastrianism is a religion founded in ancient times by the prophet Zarathushtra, known to the Greeks as Zoroaster. Zoroastrians followers estimate the founding of the religion as sometime near 600 BCE. Zoroastrianism was the dominant world religion during the Persian empires (559 BC to 651 AC), and was a powerful world religion at the time of Jesus.
Zoroastrianism had a major influence on other religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and other later religions, it that it contained beliefs concerning God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, the soul, the resurrection, and final judgment Zarathushtra lived in Persia, modern-day Iran.
Legends say that his birth was predicted and that attempts were made by the forces of evil to kill him as a child. He preached monotheism in a land that followed polytheistic religion. He was attacked for his teaching, but finally won the support of the king. Zoroastrianism became the state religion of various Persian empires, until the 7th Century CE.
The Zorastrian holy book is called the Avesta. This includes the original words of their founder Zarathushtra, preserved in a series of five hymns called the Gathas, which represent the core text of the religion. The Gathas are abstract sacred poetry, directed towards the worship of the One God, understanding of righteousness and cosmic order, promotion of social justice, and individual choice between good and evil.
Some of the Zoroastrian tenets include the belief in a single god, Ahura Mazda, who is supreme. Communication between Ahura Mazda and humans is conducted by personified Attributes, called Bounteous Immortals.
Eventually, the battle between good and evil will be waged, with the spirit of evil being destroyed at the end of time. At this time, everyone will be purified, and even the occupants of hell will be released.
Zoroastrians worship through prayer and symbolic ceremonies, which are conducted before a sacred fire. Practitioners are generally born into the religion, and converts are not usually accepted. Members are dedicated to a three-fold path, as embodied in their motto: Good thoughts, Good words, Good deeds.
Currently, there are about 140,000 practitioners, with most living in India and Iran. North American practitioners are said to be approximately 5,000.