Within the Judeo-Christian and Zoroa-Islamic traditions, three key concepts have shaped the world and Iranshahr. These ideas have formed the paradigms of civilizations that not even the advancements of science or the rise of secularism have been able to remove or even reform. The belief in one jealous god, the great expectation of the inevitable apocalypse, and the ever nearing coming of a savior. These concepts have such far reaching and devastating consequences for all humans for at least two thousand five hundred years.
The roots of the three ideas can be traced to Zoroastrianism, the bridge faith between polytheism and monotheism. The prophet Zarathustra took Ahura Mazda as the god, much like the Hebrew Abraham took Yahweh from the many gods of his time as his one and only god. But whereas Abraham wholly rejected the reverence of other lesser gods, Zarathustra had to adapt to the other powerful deities of Iranshahr. The two great competitors were Anahita and Mihr, both of which had vast followings across Iranshahr even to the time period of the Arab Conquests of Iranshahr. What Zarathustra did was to bring these other gods into the fold of the good religion. He did not extinguish their existence, as the Hebrew prophets would, but instead made these gods ally spirits of Ahura Mazda, and later as devoted servants of the one good god.
Another key hybrid concept in Zoroastrianism was the presence of an evil counter force to Ahura Mazda, Ahriman. This evil god, nearly as powerful as Ahura Mazda, was locked in perpetual struggle with the good god, and only human dedication to good thoughts, good words, good deeds, could tip the balance in favor of Ahura Mazda. The following faiths would not quite abandon God’s opposite, but the power of evil was reduced to a former servant of god, who poses no serious threat to God’s awesome power. In fact the source of evil inevitably would be attributed to God since God was all powerful and all knowing.
Also originating with Zoroastrianism is that God shall send a holy being to help humanity defeat evil and restore justice in an unjust world. For Islam it is the Mahdi. For Christianity it is the return of the Christ. For Judaism it is the Messiah. For Zoroastrianism, it is the Sayoashant. All these servants of God have the same role within the monotheist’s tradition. They are saviors, who shall lead the faithful to triumph over numerous enemies including the evil being whether Ahriman or the Devil.
Finally the great end of the earth, the apocalypse is the last concept. It is an idea that terrifies and excites every generation for the past two thousand five hundred years, and which has fueled countless militant movements to accelerate the approach of the end times. Zoroastrianism and its sister faiths firmly conclude that the world’s existence is temporary. A paradise lost through human failure shall be restored to the good, and the evil shall pay for their crimes. For Zoroastrians, the actions of the good could defeat evil and release from hell the humans who had failed to follow the good religion. Judaism did not have the afterlife concept until later as the rise of Christianity and Islam forced the idea’s adoption. With Zoroastrianism’s descendant faiths, once evil, always evil became the common belief. Hell became a prison forever. So the end times spelt the final judgement for populations that never felt fully good during this life.
No God but My God
Monotheism has a unique by-product. For some reason, unknown to me, a religion that adheres to one god, has a tendency towards intolerance of other faiths or philosophies. Even if the other faith is monotheistic, this is still not enough for ideological coexistence. Perhaps, because there is only one god, then God can only have one version, one message, one set of commands. Therefore if some other religion seeks to explain God differently, then it cannot be the same god, but a false god. Why militant intolerance has been a key feature of monotheistic religions, I cannot say for certain, but it is a feature. The jealousy of the god has become the jealousy of the faithful. It has become so extreme that people hate other people they have never met just because their faiths are different (and only slightly different as with sects). Oddly enough, the closer in beliefs of the two faiths, the more hatred seems to be created. Examples of this are the Shia and Sunnis, and the Catholics and Protestants. And because of violent encroachments from monotheistic religions, other religions and philosophies have gained extremist elements in reaction. The result is a modern world of fanatics in every faith, in every country. Iranshahr is currently being ripped apart by those who proclaim their love of God. For most it would seem that their god’s name is “Bloodlust.”
Save Me For I am Weak
Many humans on this planet believe that someone holy is coming to bring justice to this world or is going to bring about the end of this earthly existence. For the rest of the human population who does not directly believe in a savior, they have all been shaped by this monotheistic concept. For two thousand five hundred years, the world has waited and no savior has come. Instead the world has fallen prey to demagogues and ambitious men. All of them claiming that they are the solutions to all the world’s problems. And year after year, humanity has made the decision to give these ambitious men power to set all matters straight. And year after year these men fail or worse add their own new methods of corruption and oppression.
Why not the multitudes raise themselves up in a spirit of cooperation to solve the world’s problems? Because God made humans weak, fit only to serve. Fit only to wait in shame and misery for the messiah, for the Mahdi, for the savior. “What can I do? I am a sinner,” is the mindset of so many. They must wait for a savior to bring them justice instead of seeking out ways to seize justice. But what can they do, being taught from birth that they are nothing and that all is destiny, and that after their miserable existence is over, a paradise better than anything they can imagine awaits?
Born to Suffer, Died to Live
A vast number of humans believe this world is temporary. Some of them even believe the earth is only six thousand years old instead of billions of years old. In the monotheistic tradition, this world is a banishment from a paradise lost, a result of a programmed character flaw called sin. So this beautiful world, in which each human has been born into, is a test to get into an exclusive club called heaven or a wretched prison called hell. Essentially what matters is not this life, or this world, but the one after death. And eventually the whole world will end in the apocalypse. The unfortunate result of this mindset is that the earth is nothing more than a staging ground to be trashed, neglected in the pursuit of God. Therefore its exploitation and abuse is allowed. The paradise of earth is being destroyed for a paradise no person actually knows exists, only believes exists. We know this world is a wonder and finite but our beliefs supersede that knowledge. Oddly enough still, the belief of a transient world is what makes capitalism thrive since it takes religion’s notions of a useless world, and exploits it so that most of the earth’s resources go to hedonist pursuits.
The Unbeliever is the Savior
I could say that the end of the world is coming because of these three concepts. Many secular people would agree with me. Violence is on the rise after a steady decline for the past sixty years, much of it due to uncompromising ideology, religious or nonreligious. Democratic societies are turning towards the ambitious demagogues who promise to save the nation from the evil enemies all around. And human created climate change is slowly turning the world into a place slightly more similar to hell. But to simplify all of the events in the world to a creeping apocalypse is to fall into the same Zoroa-Islamic and Judeo-Christian tradition. The world does look like it is ending, but it will not. The prophets said it would end in their time and hundreds, if not thousands of years have gone by, and the Earth still stands. It is scarred by human greed and incompetence, but it still stands.
The world will not end anytime soon and humanity will not disappear anytime soon. And no one person can save this world. It is time to abandon these three concepts that have only made humanity more miserable. What is the source of these three concepts that torment the world? Unshakeable, uncompromising faith. It is said that doubt is dangerous, but look at the evidence. Who are the killers? Who are the oppressors? Who are the ambitious? They are those who are convinced that they KNOW the truth. They do not believe but know that their god is the only and their laws are the only valid laws. And this vision of the believer with unshakeable conviction is glorified in religious and nonreligious myths and stories. The hero knows what is right and all who are opposed to her or him is completely wrong. Compromise, skepticism, and doubt are tools of the weak, but are they?
Imagine a society not built on faith, but on doubt. What if everyone hoped for heaven but worked to protect the world so that in case there was no heaven, then at least this earth could be a temporal paradise for the current generation and future generations? What if people believed in their god and their texts, but understood that they could be mistaken? Therefore they would not shy away from differing views, would not lash out at opposition. And what if group endeavors were celebrated over individual triumphs? Then people would not look for saviors in demagogues or wait in fatalistic misery for some miracle hero to emerge. That world cannot be attained with unshakeable believers, but with hopeful skeptics.
Doubt is not a feeling sent by the Devil. It is a natural feeling that some proof is needed. Too much doubt leads to despair but a moderate amount keeps a person humble. Doubt can be a tool to seek evidence that can support a claim that something is correct. I do not call for atheism. I call for skepticism. I beg for moderation and open-mindedness. There is no need to eliminate faith, but if it is unshakeable arrogance and ignorance abound. Faith and doubt should be united within one person, in balance.
Humans are not inherently weak, in need of saviors. We can be trained to be subservient and believe we are the victims of destiny. Or we can be trained to believe in our own human faculties, endowed with intelligence and ability to change (even if both of these are inconsistent). Humans have caused great misery but also great joy, and within each person good and evil reside. Within each individual is savior. And if one person can save then millions and billions can save even better. Perhaps there is a jealous god but what is the harm of an open-mind? Perhaps the world will end, but since it has not ended ever since Zarathustra claimed it would, then maybe we should treat the world as if it is here indefinitely, fragile but permanent. And maybe a savior will one day rise, but since we have all the resources, skills, and human energy to solve all the great problems, why not act in cooperation to create a world that does not need saving?