Interesting and scary article about Zoroastrians in the NY Times. Turns out they’re a 3000 year old monotheistic faith with priests who wear what seems to be a rope similar to tzitzit -some are calling this a gartl although the accompanying photo strikes me as resembling a tzitzit (fringe on the garment worn under clothes) – are well educated with middle and upper middle class incomes and a propensity to assimilate.
Zoroastrianism predates Christianity and Islam, and many historians say it influenced those faiths and cross-fertilized Judaism as well, with its doctrines of one God, a dualistic universe of good and evil and a final day of judgment.
While Zoroastrians once dominated an area stretching from what is now Rome and Greece to India and Russia, their global population has dwindled to 190,000 at most
The Zoroastriansâ€™ mobility and adaptability has contributed to their demographic crisis. They assimilate and intermarry, virtually disappearing into their adopted cultures. And since the faith encourages opportunities for women, many Zoroastrian women are working professionals who, like many other professional women, have few children or none.
Despite their shrinking numbers, Zoroastrians â€” who follow the Prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) â€” are divided over whether to accept intermarried families and converts and what defines a Zoroastrian. An effort to create a global organizing body fell apart two years ago after some priests accused the organizers of embracing â€œfake convertsâ€ and diluting traditions.
Although the collective picture is bleak, most individual Zoroastrians appear to be thriving. They are well-educated and well-traveled professionals, earning incomes that place them in the middle and upper classes of the countries where they or their families settled after leaving their homelands in Iran and India
The very tenets of Zoroastrianism could be feeding its demise, many adherents said in interviews. Zoroastrians believe in free will, so in matters of religion they do not believe in compulsion. They do not proselytize. They can pray at home instead of going to a temple. While there are priests, there is no hierarchy to set policy. And their basic doctrine is a universal ethical precept: â€œgood thoughts, good words, good deeds.â€
Needless to say, their leaders refuse to marry intermarried couples or accept them into the faith. They also have a low birth rate.
Don’t worry though, they’re way different from Jews since they believe in patrilineal descent and they come from Persia, not the Land of Israel.