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Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Zoroastrian Communities

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This paper is a critical examination of the tensions existing between two major opposing forces that cut across the existing Zoroastrian communities in Iran, India and the West. The basic factors that are at the root of their disagreements arise from the necessity to reconcile with: (1) the increasing complexities of modern society; (2) the impact of critical discoveries by Western scholars; (3) the declining numbers of their community; and (4) the danger of losing their cultural heritage and identity. The question of how to deal with these important factors has created two major forces: traditionalists and modernists. These two forces, however, constitute a movement and are not to be identified as sects. Their disagreements evolve around four fundamental issues: (1) origin of religion; (2) scriptural authority; (3) principal beliefs; and (4) ritual practices. The debate over these issues between the two groups has never caused an actual split among the Zoroastrians. The reason is quite obvious: the issue of survival of a tiny community is far more important than the attempt to resolve conflicts.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


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