FACT-CHECK: Is Zoroastrianism a Monotheistic Religion?

To commemorate the Zoroastrian holiday of Khordad Sal, World Religions News recently resurrected a December 2015 article meant as a primer for the little- known Iranian religion, which has had a big syncretistic impact on the development of successive religious traditions in the region,[1] including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[2] The piece, titled, “What do you know about the world’s oldest monotheistic religion?” lists “10 Facts About Zoroastrianism,” the first being, “Zoroastrians believe in only one God, which is Ahura Mazda.”[3]

This triggered an old memory from an early World Religions class, when I was told that Zoroastrians were considered dualists—not monotheists. I recall learning that, similar to Manichaeism, Zoroastrian cosmology consists of two equally balanced deities, holding the universe together in perfect polar opposition. Or at least that’s what I think I remember.

However, in researching this claim, I discovered both understandings to be insufficient representations of the true complexity of Zoroastrianism. My quest to categorize Zoroastrian belief introduced me to the long history of this at-least two and a half millennia year old tradition[4] and its at-times frustratingly abstruse belief system. This question also led me to investigate how broader criticisms of the “World Religions Paradigm” may be represented by this particular problem.

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