Corrupting good thoughts
Zartosht does not claim to have any pre-conceived
answers to the choices in life
October 25, 2004
The disposition towards dogma is as common of a feature of humanity today as
was 2,000 years ago. The anonymous writer Persia Lover lends strength to this
through his misguided article "Bad
thoughts, bad words, bad deeds."
Reacting towards the trend of Iranian soul-searching and glorification of Iran's
pre-Islamic past, Persia Lover argues that Zoroastrianism was "another
intolerant religion which the Iranians wanted to get rid of."
Persia Lover commits two-key mistakes. One the one hand, he - much like
the subjects of his own criticism - misrepresents Zoroastrianism. On the
other hand, he falls for the very same dogma that he implicitly tries to reject.
Regarding the "myth surrounding Zoroastrianism," Persia Lover argues
that Iranians have mystified Zoroastrianism but commits the very same mistake
himself. While the subjects of his criticism may have misrepresented the ancient
Iranian faith by exaggerating the purity of pre-Islamic Iran, our unnamed author
misrepresents Zoroastrianism by doing the opposite.
As others have pointed out, Sad Dar is in no way a scripture representation the
faith of Zoroastrianism. That others - including Zoroastrian priests - may
have misinterpreted and corrupted the tenets of Zoroastrianism can under no circumstances
justify Persia Lover's misinformed and categorical verdict.
Indeed, if Persia Lover had at least some rudimentary knowledge about Zoroastrianism,
he would know that a defining property of the fate - which starkly distinguishes
it from the Semitic faiths - is its lack of social rules. While other faiths - such
as Judaism and Christianity - rest on specific commandments that dictate
the actions of individuals in specific social circumstances, Zoroastrianism rests
on the explicit rejection of such dogma:
Hearken with your ears to these best counsels,
Reflect upon them with illumined judgment
Let each one choose his/her creed with that freedom of choice"
(Gathas, Yasna 30-2)
No where in the scriptures authored by Zoroastrianism himself
(the Gathas) are there any references to social rules. Zartosht sticks true
to his principle
each individual must him or herself conclude what constitutes the "Good" in
Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds (Andishe-ye Nik, Goftar-e Nik, Kerdar-e
Nik). Zartosht does not claim to have any pre-conceived answers to the choices
This stands in stark contrast to the very detailed rules spelled out in Sad
Dar, authored by corrupt priests living several centuries after Zoroaster.
and corruption of the key principles of Zoroastrianism, driven by both greed
for power and by the human impulse for dogma, indicate the corruptibility
of ideology and religion alike.
This brings us to the second error in Persia Lover's self-defeating argument.
Seeking to prove that the practices of people 2,000 years ago are incompatible
with contemporary values is as pointless as to argue that the original Iranian
man of three millennia ago was the epitome of purity, and that our moral
character has continuously degenerated ever since.
Indeed, to believe that certain belief systems are immune to corruption is
as absurd as to believe that the opposite needs to be proven. While the subjects
of Persia Lover's criticism may be guilty of the first charge, Persia Lover
is guilty of the second.
Yet, I sympathize with Persia Lover's frustration. As a Zoroastrian, I
find it deplorable that at a time when the devastating mix of religion and
politics should be abundantly clear to all Iranians, dissatisfied elements
argue - in
a resounding intellectual capitulation to the Islamic regime - that the
error lies in the choice of religion and not the mix of religion and politics
The mistake of those seeking to use (or rather abuse) a dogmatized image
of Zoroastrianism as a vehicle for political change - besides using religion
at a time when the vast majority of Iranians want nothing but secularism
- is that they once again chose dogma over rationality as a superior principle
mobilizing people. Time and again, these self-appointed leaders have underestimated
the intellectual strength of the Iranian people, and overestimated their
Here, again, Persia Lover is guilty of the same
crime that he accuses others of: In an effort to turn Iranians away from
seeking dogmatic inspiration from
Iran's pre-Islamic past, he dogmatically denounces a belief system, which
ironically was the first human intellectual attempt to break free from one
of humanity's greatest weaknesses - dogma.
Trita Parsi is a PhD candidate in International Relations at
Johns Hopkins University SAIS, Washington DC, focusing on US-Iran
and Iranian-Israeli relations.