Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Danny L. Jorgensen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul G. Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dell Dechant, M.A.


Zarathushtra, Parsi, Bahdinan, Diaspora, Zoroaster


Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zarathushtra ca 1400 to 1200 BCE and is generally acknowledged as the world's oldest monotheistic and revealed religion. It dominated three great Iranian empires, and influenced Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mahayana Buddhism. At one point in time, their numbers surely seemed limitless. Today, however, roughly 150,000 Zoroastrians are scattered all over the globe in very small numbers. The faith is at a crossroads, and its very existence is threatened.

This is an examination of the decline and subsequent change of this previously influential and vital religion. Zoroastrians have been able to maintain the major tenets of their practices and beliefs without much interruption for millennia. However, with more and more Zoroastrians moving into the global economy and the Western culture, secularization, modernity, and loss of an extensive, immediate community are causing new beliefs to be adopted and/or advanced by some of the faith. This shift in beliefs and values is causing disunity among members of the faith.

Today Zoroastrian communities are on all inhabited continents and many different countries within those continents. This has forced the Zoroastrian communities worldwide into introspection, definition, and clarification. Contemporary Zoroastrians differ over how to keep their beloved faith alive and how to best remain true to its heritage and sustain its "purity." There are currently two substantial efforts to maintain the identity of Zoroastrianism, characteristically reflecting an orthodox and a liberal approach.

As criteria for evaluating the Zoroastrianism of modern day, I will utilize Steve Bruce's discussions of secularizations and its effects on religions as reasons for the current changes of the Zoroastrian faith. I will also explore the meaning of ethnicity as related to religion as provided by Ebaugh and Chafetz for a prediction for the future of the faith. Zoroastrians worldwide must acknowledge the cultural differences that exist in their one faith-and the subsequent needs there of-if they are going to organize and map a course of survival.