May 24 — Death anniversary of the prophet Ashu Zarathustra
So take this occasion to reflect on one of the world’s oldest religions, and a religion that may disappear in the near future: only 200,000 Zoroastrians live today.
May 24 is celebrated by Zoroastrians as commemorating the death of their original prophet. The exact date is guesswork: it’s uncertain where and when he was born and died, much less the date.
It does give us a chance to reflect on one of history’s most influential religious figures. Zarathustra is more than Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra” or Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” (opening of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” These days, after the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” people might think of Zoroastrianism as mainly the worship of Freddie Mercury and his family.
His religious innovations included monotheism with a single deity worthy of worship. He also preached a kind of dualism, with a dark force opposing him. Zarathustra taught about many ideas that seem familiar to many monotheists today: heaven and hell, angels and demons, resurrection, judgment after death. No wonder many believe Zoroastrianism had a profound influence on other monotheistic religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
So take this occasion to reflect on one of the world’s oldest religions, and a religion that may disappear in the near future: only 200,000 Zoroastrians live today, some on Iran and more in India.