Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is arguably the first major monotheistic religion. Many of its elements: a battle between good and evil, beneficent angels, immortality of the soul, a saviour born of a virgin, Heaven and Hell, and the final judgement, were later incorporated into other ones (the Jews were exposed to Zoroastrianism during their exile in Babylonia). Its essentially dualistic nature (Good and Evil) and the emphasis of its ethics on human free will contributed to the shift from the prescribed order of the 2nd stage and to the development of individuality. Good thoughts and conduct mattered rather than sacrifice. Some other characteristics of the third stage were germinated too: choice, personal responsibility and equality (including, up to a point, the equality of women). However, understandably, the conventional stage was still very strong. Not surprisingly, Zoroastrianism had many polytheistic elements, even another creator responsible for evil in the world, and a host of other deities and semi-deities (six of which were especially prominent).