The following list of religious leaders is taken directly from Living Biographies of Religious Leaders by Henry Thomas and Dana Lee Thomas, Garden City, New York: Garden City Books (1959), one volume in the Thomas's classic Living Biographies series.
Adherents.com has no position about whether or not these are really history's greatest or most influential religious leaders. Clearly this list represents the perspective of Henry and Dana Lee Thomas, who are historians and biogaphers.
Other Living Biographies Books by Henry and Dana Lee Thomas are about: Great Philosophers; Great Scientists; Great Composers; Great Poets; Great Painters; Famous Novelists; Famous Women.
If you have an alternative list of religious leaders which you would like included here, please write us at email@example.com.
Henry and Dana Thomas Great Religious Leaders List
founder of Zoroastrianism
founder of Buddhism
founder of Confucianism
John the Baptist
prophet and contemporary of Jesus Christ
Prophet of Islam
St. Francis of Assisi
early Christian theologian
Bohemian Christian reformer; founder of Czech Hussites
primary founder of Protestantism
theologian and founder of Jesuits
founder of Calvinist branch of Protestantism
founder of Quakers
founder of Methodist movement
founder of Swedenborgianism
2nd prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Mary Baker Eddy
founder of Christian Science
Hindu reformer and Indian political leader; mother was a Jain
Greatest Historical Religious Figures (Steven A. DeVore and Richard Linford, InteliQuest Learning Systems; URL: http://www.4iq.com/people1.htm#list)
Other categories in the DeVore/Linford Series are: Explorers, Scientists, Inventors, Writers, Painters, Composers, and Leaders.
Greatest Historical Religious Figures (Bill Yenne)
St. Thomas Aquinas
Source: Yenne, Bill. 100 Men Who Shaped World History. San Francisco, CA: Bluewood Books (1994)
Greg Bear's List of History's Major Prophets
Greg Bear is the critically acclaimed author of such science fiction works as Eon, The Forge of God, Moving Mars, Foundation and Chaos, Blood Music, and Darwin's Radio. He has been awarded six Hugo and Nebula awards. His novella Heads (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990, pg. 101-102) contains the following entertaining account narrated by the main character (a colonist on the moon) as he begins to research the book's fictional religion Logology:
I had dipped into records of past prophets during my Earth research. Zarathustra. Jesus. Mohammed. Shabbetai Tzevi, the seventeenth-century Turkish Jew who had claimed to be Messiah, and who in the end had apostatized and become a Moslem Al Mahdi, who had defeated the British at Khartoum. Joseph Smith, who had read the Word of God from golden tablets with special glasses, and Brigham Young...
Although Bear's fiction often incorporates theological and sociolgical themes, Bear himself does not claim to be a theologian or historian by training. This list of major prophets is Bear's attempt to describe the perspective of somebody living about 100 years in the future. Naturally, the list also reflects Bear's own perspective--that of a popular writer, futurist, and commentator on society who lives in the Pacific Northwestern United States. (Bear himself has stated he does not believe in any contemporary religion, but is fascinated by the subject.)
Other lists shown above were compiled from a secular/historical (and Western) perspective. Lists prepared by writers with a different background, or written from a different perspective, would probably be different. A Hindu or Indian writer might include Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Gandhi, etc.
Major Baha'i Prophets
The Baha'i Faith lists the following figures as major Prophets, or Manifestations of God:
Compton's Encyclopedia Religion Biographies
Compton's Encyclopedia lists the following entries in their "Religion Biographies section" (http://www.comptons.com/encyclopedia/TOPIC_TREE/1548.html; viewed 18 May 2000; copyright 1998):
Agnes of Assisi
Agnes of Montepulciano
Agnes of Poitiers
Aidan of Lindisfarne
Akiba Ben Joseph
Anselm of Canterbury
Augustine of Canterbury
Augustine of Hippo
Ba'al Shem Tov
Bede the Venerable
Bellarmine, Saint Robert
Benedict of Aniane
Benedict of Nursia
Benedict the Black
Bernard of Clairvaux
Brennan, Francis Joseph, Cardinal
Cajetan of Thiene
Carroll, John (1735-1815)
Christina the Astonishing
Eddy, Mary Baker
Francis of Assisi
Harris, Barbara Clementine
Innocent III, Pope
Joan of Arc
John Paul, Popes
Kobo Daishi, or Kukai
Loyola, Ignatius of
Moody, Dwight L.
Mott, John R.
Newman, John Henry
Ockham, William of
Paul (Ad 10?-67?)
Russell, Charles Taze
Sa`adia Ben Joseph
Smith, Joseph (1805-44)
Weber, Max (1864-1920)
Ximenes, or Jim*nez, De Cisneros, Francisco
Time Magazine's Person of the Century Poll
"While Time deliberated on its Person of the Century, the magazine's Web site invited readers to vote. [Source: The King of the Century" in the San Jose Mercury News, 27 Dec. 1999; URL: http://www7.mercurycenter.com:80/premium/nation/docs/timebox27.htm] It's clear from this poll that many individuals voted for the contemporary major religious leader who represents their own faith (Protestants voted for Billy Graham, Catholis voted for Pope John Paul II, Latter-day Saints voted for Gorden B. Hinckley).
Other people voted for an ideological leader important to them (Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi or Ronald Reagan). Jews and Israelis voted for Yitzhak Rabin. People who value pop culture put Elvis Presley at the top. Adolf Hitler's third place ranking is probably a result of people trying to make an accurate historical assessment of who had the most impact. They certainly don't endorse his actions, but recognize his importance.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Pope John Paul II
Gordon B. Hinckley*
*Hinckley is president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.