Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Failing Religions

If the success of a religion is measured in terms of numbers of adherents, than the Zoroastrians are in deep trouble. As an article in today's New Your Times points out, the numbers of Zoroastrians worldwide has dwindled to less than 200,000 worldwide. For a faith that predates Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and once covered vast swaths of land, that's pretty depressing. What's particularly interesting is how some believes think the positive aspects of the faith are to blame:

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: “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”

'That’s what I take away from Zoroastrianism,' said Tenaz Dubash, a filmmaker in New York City who is making a documentary about the future of her faith, 'that I’m a cerebral, thinking human being, and I need to think for myself.'

In a way, that's sort of sad, as the religion should be rewarded for being so open-minded and non-political. On the other, I'm not sure what it says about its basic tenets (of which I admittedly know little) that the same open-mindedness apparently leads believers elsewhere for their spiritual nourishment.

1 comment:

jedi jawa said...

Welll...ya got trouble, right here in River City! Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for penitence!

Okay...so here are your problems. 1) No making your parishoners feel guilty (which seems to be the major focus of Catholocism); 2) No making your parishoners afraid of hell and sin (Baptists); 3) No butting in on other's business by spreading the word (the major social cause of evangelicals and Jehovah's Witnesses); 4) No threats of violence against sinners (the major social event of abortion protesters and anti-gay bible zealots); 5) No batshit crazy doctrines to make you feel morally superior in your faith (like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witness to name a few); and 6) No tithes to pump back into promoting these doctrines rather than feeding the poor or helping the sick.

Okay, I'm jaded...and there are probably many, many more of those that I didn't list. Organized religion is mainly about feeling like you're caught up in "the right path" with other people so it's quasi-social, quasi-self affirming, and quasi-conformist. Those at least are my major hang-ups with it. Then again, what do I know...I'm just a heathen.