Religious Affiliation Chart
This is not to suggest that all people listed in various categories were devout adherents and active church-goers (synagogue-goers, mosque-goers, etc.) throughout their lives. Details about each individual's degree of religious devotion, practice, belief, etc., and their relative level of orthodoxy/orthopraxy within a religious tradition, can be found in the spiritual/religious biographies linked to each page.
Individuals are sometimes counted in more than one religious group. For example, President Ronald Reagan's mother was a Disciple of Christ, he was raised in the Disciples of Christ (a Stone-Campbell group) and attended a Disciples of Christ university. But as an adult, Reagan attended Presbyterian churches and identified himself as a Presbyterian. He has been counted as both a Disciple of Christ and a Presbyterian in the U.S. Presidents category. It is correct to state that 7% of U.S. Presidents have belonged to the Disciples of Christ church, because James A. Garfield, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan were all Disciples of Christ. It is also correct to count Pres. Reagan as one of the 24% of U.S. Presidents who have been Presbyterians.
In categories based on ranked listings (such as Michael Hart's The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, the percentage in the table above reflects a straight count of individuals in the list. These numbers have not been weighted or altered in any way based on a ranking. For example, although Hart's book The 100 ranks Muhammad in the #1 spot, the Prophet of Islam is nevertheless counted only once. Thus, Muhammad, along with Second Caliph 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (ranked #52) are combined so that Muslims account for 2% of the people in this category.
One might note that this table has no "other" category. If a religious group shows up in any of the lists of people which comprise this chart, that religous group has been given its own row. For example, the Church of the Son of Man is such a small denomination (only a single congregation, and a relatively short-lived one at that), that it is unlikely we will ever find any prominent or famous individual from this church aside from actor Burt Lancaster. Were this chart to be reproduced in a published format or in any place where space is a consideration, it might be reasonable to exclude the row for the Church of the Son of Man, which, after all, only has a single cell filled in. But for the purposes of this webpage, we have decided instead to include all data points. The religious groups which most frequently have adherents in the various groups of famous and influential people are listed at the top. Some of the religious groups which have scant representation on this chart would be considered mainstream Protestants (Church of the Son of Man, Sandemanians, Huguenots, United Church of Canada, Nazarenes, etc.) while others are not (Tenrikyo, Anthroposophy, Rastafarian, etc.) One could not necessarily group of these together under a single theologically-meaningful category such as "Protestant - other."
The sum of the people in some categories is less than 100%. This is not because people in the category belonged to religious groups other than the ones listed. Rather, it is because there are many individuals of unknown religious affiliation. This means that their religious affiliation is, as yet, unknown to us. It is quite possible that their religious affiliation is identified in published biographies or other works which we simply have not read yet.) We have not included a row for "unknown" in the table above. Those individuals whose religious affiliation is unknown are simply not counted in any of the cells in the table, although they are counted in the total number of people in each group which has been used to calculate proportions. For example, 100 individuals are listed in "The Film 100" list, a ranking of the most influential people in film. The religious affiliation of a few of these is unknown, but the total number of people in the group remains 100, and each person is counted as 1% in this category.
A few categories are based on works of art or literature rather than lists of individuals: AFI's "100 Years . . . 100 Movies" list (with separate columns for directors and producers), the Novel 100 list of the world's most influential novels, and movies that have received the Academy Award for Best Picture. For these, individuals have been counted multiple times when they had multiple works in the list. For example, Feodor Dostoevsky wrote two books listed in The Novel 100: The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment. Thus, he is counted twice in this category.
Members of the Assemblies of God (or Assembly of God) are included in the "Pentcostal" category. (The Assemblies of God is the world's largest Pentecostal denomination.) Also, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a Pentecostal denomination, and its members are included in "Pentecostal." (The only listing for Foursquare Gospel members is one member of the U.S. Congress in 2005.)
It is common for movies to have multiple producers. Therefore, the recipients of the Academy Award for Best Picture (the producers of the films) as well as the list of producers of the American Film Institute's (AFI) 100 Greatest American Movies have considerably more producers than movies. Producers are counted individually. Therefore, although there are exactly 100 movies in the AFI list, for example, each producer counts as less than one percent because there are more than 100 producers in the list.
Members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) are included in Methodist. (The only listings are two members of the 2005 U.S. Congress.)
The figures for Chinese traditional relgion, Confucianism and Taoism have been combined in the table above. Frequently adherents of what has come to be known as Chinese traditional religion are both Confucianists and Taoists. Some people, however, are only adherents of one religious/philosophical strain within this broader religious complex. Ursula K. LeGuin, for example, is a self-described Taoist, but is not a Confucianist.
The Stone-Campbellite category includes all branches of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, but primarily the individuals listed are members of the "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)" denomination. A few individuals (mainly rock and roll musicians) are from the Churches of Christ (or "church of Christ"), the "conservative" wing of the Stone-Campbell movement.
"Atheist" may or may not be a "religious affiliation," depending on how one defines and classifies the term. In any case, the data on this chart are not intended as a count of every individual in various categories who ever expressed a passing thought compatible with atheism or wrote something that can be construed as atheistic. Those counted here are limited to individuals known generally as atheists or who identified themselves as such. Even then, this could be considered a somewhat subjective category, not as easily defined as, for example, whether or not somebody was a Presbyterian.
The "100 Greatest Rock and Roll Artists" list includes solo artists as well as bands. If a single member of a band belonged to a specific religious group, then that group was counted once (or 1%, because there are 100 artists/groups in the list). For example, Robby Krieger was the only Jewish member of The Doors, but The Doors contributed 1% to the total proportion of this list that is classified as Jewish. If an entire band belonged to the same religious group (both Simon and Garfunkel were Jewish, for example), the group is still counted only once. An alternative method of enumeration might be to list all members of each band, and count each individual band member as a fraction of an artist (or a fraction of 1%) based on the total number of members in the band. Thus, Simon would count as half of 1% and Garfunkel would count as half of 1%, while each of the Beatles would count as a quarter of 1%... unless one also decides to include Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, counting them proportionately to the relatively short amount of time they were "fifth Beatles". We leave this as an exercise for our readers. (We'll even get you started: Bass guitar player Stuart Sutcliffe was a founding member of the Beatles and stayed with the band for a year and a half out of the 10 years the group was together. So count him as well as John, Paul, George and Ringo as 1/5 of 1% for each of the months before Sutcliffe left, and then count each of remaining Beatle as 1/4 of 1% for the time band consisted only of them...)
The "World's Greatest Artists" list is still something of a work in progress. Send us your suggestions about this list, or about anything else on this page. Obviously we can't change the the names listed in most of these categories, because they come from published books and historical records. But we are always happy to add additional data to our lists. Some of these numbers are subject to change as we gather additional biographical information and are able to identify the religious affiliation of various individuals more precisely.
Yes, it would appear that a Western and an American bias is evident in some of the categories on this chart. On the other hand, these categories tend to be ones which comprise people who ar widely known, and they are categories which people of a wide variety of religious background have the potential of being in. While we include as a category "U.S. Presidents," we did not include, for example, "Kings of Thailand." Not only are the kings of Thailand less well known to the general public, they essentially all belong to the same religious denomination, and so presenting them here would not be particularly interesting. Likewise, including as a category "Roman Catholic Popes" would be uninteresting, because as influential and well known as Popes are, they all belong to the same denomination, and it would be pointless to include them on this chart. Feel free to submit suggestions for other categories. But keep in mind, it is of not use to include a category for which we do not have data.
We agree with anybody who believes that this chart is a wildly inappropriate thing to create, as well as anybody who thinks that this chart is intensely interesting.
Religion chart webpage created 2 December 2005. Last modified 19 December 2005.
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