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Founders of Religions and Churches

Note that this is a very incomplete list. The historical subject matter presented here is somewhat outside the usual contemporary, demographic focus of the databases, but we have had some requests for this sort of information. The names of the founders of some other, specific religious groups can often be found in the main statistical database, although that is not the purpose of that database.

Judaism - Abraham; Moses

Rabbinic Judaism - Johanan ben Zakkai

Kabbala - Moses de Leon

Modern Hasidism - Israel ben Eliezer

    The Haskala or Enlightenment - Moses Mendelson

Zionism - Theodore Herzl

Secular Humanistic Judaism - Sherwin T. Wine

Jews for Jesus - Moishe Rosen

Christianity - Jesus Christ

Orthodox (Eastern) - Michael Cerularius, 1054

    Protestants, Lutherans - Martin Luther, 1517

Anabaptists - Zwingli, 1519

    Church of England, Anglicanism - Henry VIII, 1534

Calvinism; Dutch Reformed - Calvin, 1536

    Presbyterians - Knox, 1560

Puritans - Cartwright, 1570

    Congregationalists - Brown, 1582

Baptists - John Smith, 1605

    Episcopalians - Seabury, 1620

Quakers - Fox, 1654

Shakers - Ann Lee, 1741

Methodists - Wesley, 1744

Unitarians - Lindsay, 1774

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Joseph Smith, Jr. 1830

Churches of Christ, Christian Church - Campbell and Stone, 1832

Adventists - Miller, 1846

Jehovah's Witnesses - Russell, 1852

Salvation Army - Rev. General William Booth and Catherine Booth, 1865

Christian Science - Mary Baker Eddy, 1879

    Unity School of Christianity - Fillmore, 1889

    Pentecostals - Parham, 1900

Worldwide Church of God - Herbert W. Armstrong, 1934

Calvary Chapel - Chuck Smith, 1965

Islam - Muhammad

Sunnis - Abu

    Shi'ites - Abdullah bin Saba'a

A Muslim writer has generously provided us with these additional notes:

1.'Abu' was an early Sunni leader, but is not the 'founder' of the Sunnis, as distinct from other Muslim groups. There is no "founder" of Sunnis because they are the original Muslims 'the followers of Mohammed', then came other names.

2.'Ali' is not the founder of Shi'ites. "Abdullah bin Saba'a" is. 'Ali' is sometimes considered the founder of Shi'ites, although there were no Shi'ites at his time. But a man called "Abdullah bin Saba'a" said: "we are the Shi'ites of Ali" so they were called Shi'ites.

    Sufi - Ahmad al-Quadina

Black Muslims - Timothy Drew

Buddhism: Buddha (Sidhartha Gautama)

Nichiren Buddhism - Nichiren


    Transcendental Meditation - Guru Maharishi Mahest Yogi

    ISKCON - Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhuda

    Rajneeshism/OSHO - Bhagwan Rajneesh

Divine Light Mission - Maharaj Ji

Vedanta Society - Swami Vivekenanda

    Krishnamurti Foundation of America - Annie Besant

    Free Pimitive Church of Divine Communion - Bubba Free John

Hanuman Foundation - Richard Alpert

Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science - Swami Rami

    Self-Realization Fellowship - Paramahansa Yogananda

    Shree Gurudev Siddha Yoga Ashram - Swami Muktananda Paramahansa

Sikhism - Guru Nanak

    3HO Foundation - Yogi Bhajan

Taoism - Lao-Tze

Jainism - Mahavira

Confucianism - Kung-futze (Confucius)

Baha'i Faith - Baha'u'llah

Zoroastrinaism, Parsis - Zoroaster

Subud - RM.Muhamad Subud Sumohadiwijojo

Theosophy - Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky

New Age - Alice Bailey

est: - Werner Erhard

    Church Universal and Triumphant: - Elisabeth Prophet, 1958

Spititualism - Kate Fox, 1848; Kardec

Unitarian Universalist Association - merger of Unitarians and Univeralists, 1959

Eckankar - John Paul Twitchell


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This "Religious Founders" page was created in April 2000, based in part on information collected by Jerome Dominguez, Coordinator of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal in New York. Information used with permission.
Last modified 24 April 2005.