Traditions from West Asia

  • Zoroastrian
    [In the last millennium BCE, this tradition probably was at the peak of its influence as a major religion of the Persian Empire. It was overcome by the rise of Islam, and has been preserved mainly through immigrants to India known as Parsi (= Persian) and more recently through their small number of descendants who live not only in India but also in other countries worldwide.]
  • Jewish
    [The first of the three "religions of Abraham." The three sometimes are called Abrahamic, Semitic, patriarchal, or prophetic religions -- and sometimes "religions of the book." In the instance of Judaism, "the book" begins with the hand-copied and honored Torah scroll that contains the writings attributed to Moses. This is also incorporated into the Hebrew Bible, comprised by the Law, Prophets, and Writings -- and so known by the acronym Tanak. These authoritative writings are further extended through a highly-developed tradition of study and commentary that is preserved in the Talmud and elsewhere -- and is a living tradition. After the so-called emancipation of Jews (who had been dispersed far from the "holy land" of Canaan where they settled) since the eighteenth-century, several types of modern religious Judaism have developed.]
  • Christian
    [From its origins as a small Jewish sect and its success in the Greco-Roman world, this tradition -- which believes itself to be intended for all humanity and so proselytizes and converts people worldwide -- has become one of the two most populous religions on the planet. However, there are many forms of Christianity -- mainly the (Eastern) Orthodox, the (Roman) Catholic, and the many types of Protestant religion that are always in process of forming and reforming.]
  • Muslim or Islamic
    [The youngest of the Abrahamic traditions, it dates from the seventh century of the CE calendar, and closely identifies itself with the prophetic strands of Biblical tradition. However, it has highly developed legal and mystical traditions of its own as well. And it is a dramatic example of a "religion of the book" in which the Qur'an is widely regarded as the full, final revelation of the One Creator of the universe to his last and final prophet, Muhammad. The second (perhaps even first) most populous religious tradition in the world.]

    Traditions that are Marginal Today
  • Manicheanism
    [Mani was a spiritual teacher who lived in the third century CE in Babylonia. He traveled to share his faith, which centered in the view that reality is a basic conflict between good and evil, light and darkness. Learning and initiation are required in order to engage in this cosmic struggle on the side of good. Mani was put to death by the Zoroastrian priesthood about 276 CE, but his religion -- called Manicheanism -- was highly influential during the lifetime of Augustine of Hippo who was for a time a Manichean himself.]
  • Mithraic
    [A Roman mystery cult. Worship of Mithras began sometime during the early Roman empire, perhaps during the late first century CE, and flourished from the second through the fourth centuries CE. Roman soldiers probably encountered worship of Mithras as part of Zoroastrianism in Asia Minor. Recently scholar David Ulansey has proposed a celestial interpretation of these cultic practices.]

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