Famous 20th Century Spiritual & Religious Leaders

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Spiritual & Religious Leaders

 1 Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
36
Famous As: Hindu Monk
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 2 Sai Baba of Shirdi

Sai Baba of Shirdi
13
Famous As: Spiritual Guru
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: October 15, 1918

Sai Baba of Shirdi was an important and influential Indian spiritual master. Identified both as a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint, Sai Baba's teachings are still relevant among Muslim and Hindu communities around the world. While Shri Sai remains a common name for establishments in India, his temples are also located in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

 3 Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
14
Famous As: Spiritual Leader of Tibet
Birthdate: July 6, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Taktser, China
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is known for his advocacy for peace in Tibet and has won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He belongs to a lineage of reincarnations of Avalokiteśvara. He fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion and formed a Tibetan government in exile.
Recommended Lists:

 4 Pope Francis

Pope Francis
15
Famous As: Pope, Head of the Catholic church (Since 2013)
Birthdate: December 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pope Francis is the sovereign of the Vatican City and head of the Catholic Church. He is the first Jesuit pope and first non-European pope since Pope Gregory III. Often praised for having a comparatively less formal approach, Pope Francis is popular for his humility, international visibility, and concern for the poor.

 5 Billy Graham

Billy Graham
4
Famous As: Evangelist
Birthdate: November 7, 1918
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 21, 2018
Billy Graham was an evangelist and an ordained SBC minister. He had been on Gallup's list of the 10 most admired men 61 times. He broadcast his sermons through radio and TV, and organized annual "Crusades,” or evangelistic campaigns. He owned several media outlets and advised many U.S. presidents. 

 6 Osho Rajneesh

Osho Rajneesh
20
Famous As: Spiritual leader
Birthdate: December 11, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Raisen, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: January 19, 1990

Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration,  love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader. 

 7 Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle
8
Famous As: Spiritual teacher and self-help author
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lünen, Germany
Spiritual and self-help writer Eckhart Tolle is best known for his bestselling books The Power of Now and A New Earth. He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey, appearing in 10 live webinars and was also named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. He also launched Eckhart Teachings and the website Eckhart Tolle TV.
You May Like

 8 Pope John Paul I

Pope John Paul I
5
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: October 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Canale d'Agordo, Italy
Died: September 28, 1978
Pope John Paul I, also known as The Smiling Pope and The September Pope, was the shortest-reigning Pope and died 33 days after being made the Pope. He was the first Pope to choose a double name, including the names of his predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI.

 9 Jaggi Vasudev

Jaggi Vasudev
20
Famous As: Yoga Guru
Birthdate: September 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mysore, Karnataka, India

The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author.  His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.

 10 Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan
8
Famous As: Singer, Civil rights advocate, Religious servant, Journalist, Politician, Violinist, Anti-vaccine activist, Muslim minister
Birthdate: May 11, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States

Louis Farrakhan, formerly known as Louis X, is the leader of the ‘Nation of Islam’ which has been called a black nationalist organisation and a hate group. He has been described as anti-Semitic by monitoring organisations and has been accused of promoting anti-white theology and black superiority over whites. He was banned from Facebook in 2019 for being an extremist.

 11 Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI
6
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: September 26, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Concesio, Italy
Died: August 6, 1978
Succeeding Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI was elected the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State in June 1963 and continued in his role till his death in August 1978. He reconvened the Second Vatican Council and after its conclusion worked towards implementation of its reforms. He was canonised in 2018 by Pope Francis.

 12 Ram Dass

Ram Dass
5
Famous As: Spiritual Teacher
Birthdate: April 6, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Died: December 22, 2019

Ram Dass was an American spiritual teacher and psychologist. Born as Richard Alpert in Boston, he embraced Hinduism on a visit to India and changed his name. He traveled extensively, giving talks, and authored or co-authored many books on spirituality. He also founded the charitable organizations, Seva Foundation, and Hanuman Foundation. He was openly bisexual.

 13 Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII
5
Famous As: Pope (1939-1958)
Birthdate: March 2, 1876
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: October 9, 1958

Pope Pius XII served as the head of the Catholic Church and the sovereign of the Vatican City from 1939 till 1958. Of the many positions he had held, one was the secretaryship of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. He is remembered for negotiating the treaty of Reichskonkordat.

 14 Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII
4
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: November 25, 1881
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Italy
Died: June 3, 1963

Pope John XXIII served as the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death in 1963. He took many people by surprise when he called the historic Second Vatican Council, which addressed relations between the modern world and the Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was canonized on 27 April 2014.

 15 Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh
4
Famous As: Buddhist monk and peace activist who has founded dozens of schools and universities and has published over 100 books.
Birthdate: October 11, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Huế, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, French Indochina

 16 Russell M. Nelson

Russell M. Nelson
5
Famous As: Religious Leader, Surgeon
Birthdate: September 9, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Russell M. Nelson is an American religious leader and the current president of the Mormon Church. A former surgeon, Nelson is credited with co-developing the heart-lung machine, which was used in the first-ever open-heart surgery. He became a respected heart surgeon and went on to serve as the president of the Utah Medical Association before becoming a religious leader.

 17 Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe
4
Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: January 8, 1894
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zduńska Wola, Poland
Died: August 14, 1941

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar and a Catholic priest. Venerated as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Maximilian is best remembered for volunteering to die at the death camp of Auschwitz in place of a stranger during World War II. In 1982, Pope John Paul II declared Maximilian Kolbe a martyr of charity.

 18 Óscar Romero

Óscar Romero
4
Famous As: Prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador
Birthdate: August 15, 1917
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador
Died: March 24, 1980

Óscar Romero was the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. Disturbed by a growing war between left-wing and right-wing forces, he spoke against social injustice, poverty, assassinations, and torture. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980. He is considered an unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador.

 19 T. B. Joshua

T. B. Joshua
6
Famous As: Televangelist, Faith Healer
Birthdate: June 12, 1963
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Arigidi, Nigeria
Died: June 5, 2021

Nigerian charismatic pastor, televangelist, and philanthropist T. B. Joshua is the founder of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN). He is extremely popular across Africa and Latin America, and his YouTube channel, Emmanuel TV, has over a million subscribers. He is considered one of the most influential people from Africa and is the recipient of several awards. 

 20 Charles Stanley

Charles Stanley
6
Famous As: Pastor, Radio personality
Birthdate: September 25, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dry Fork, Pittsylvania County, Virginia
Pastor of the First Baptist Church Charles Stanley had also established In Touch Ministries. A born-again Christian since age 12, he later gained fame with his show In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, which was translated into 107 languages. He has also penned countless books on religion.

 21 George Gurdjieff

George Gurdjieff
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 13, 1866
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gyumri, Armenia
Died: October 29, 1949

Born to a poet and carpenter, George Gurdjieff grew up reading a lot of science books in his hometown, Kars. He later laid down the concept of The Fourth Way, stating that humans can overcome their state of waking sleep through methods involving a combination of music, dance, and lectures.

 22 Bernice King

Bernice King
7
Famous As: Minister
Birthdate: March 28, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Bernice King is an American minister best known as the daughter of the popular activist and leader Martin Luther King Jr. Over the years, Barnice King has supported many noble causes for which she has been honored with several awards. In 2009, she was honored at the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Convention for her service to women.

 23 Stella Immanuel

Stella Immanuel
9
Famous As: Physician, writer
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Cameroon

 24 Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI
15
Famous As: Pope, Head of the Catholic church (2005-13)
Birthdate: April 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Markit, Germany
Pope Benedict XVI started off as a Hitler Youth member, but a finger injury prevented him from fighting in the German army. In 2005, he became the head of the Catholic Church. The liberal theologian-turned-conservative resigned in 2013, becoming the first pope to do so since the 1400s.

 25 Charles Taze Russell

Charles Taze Russell
4
Famous As: Christian Restoration Minister
Birthdate: February 16, 1852
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: October 31, 1916

Charles Taze Russell was an American restorationist minister who is credited with founding the Bible Student movement, which formed the basis for several independent Bible Student groups. He is also credited with co-founding a not-for-profit, non-stock organization called the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, which is an important publisher of religious books in America.

 26 Thomas S. Monson

Thomas S. Monson
5
Birthdate: August 21, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Died: January 2, 2018
Thomas S. Monson was an American author and religious leader who served as the president of the Mormon Church from 2008 to 2018. Many adherents of the religion considered him to be a prophet, especially during his presidency. During his career, Monson received several honors, including the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America.

 27 Rick Warren

Rick Warren
5
Birthdate: January 28, 1954
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States

Rick Warren is an American pastor. He is credited with establishing Saddleback Church, one of the largest in the USA, where he serves as the senior pastor. Also an influential author, Warren's bible study book The Purpose Driven Life has sold over 30 million copies, making him one of the bestselling authors in the USA.

 28 Wallace Fard Muhammad

Wallace Fard Muhammad
6
Famous As: American religious leader
Birthdate: February 26, 1877
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: 1934 AD

Wallace Fard Muhammad, who flounded the Nation of Islam, or Black Muslim, movement, was born in Mecca but later moved to the U.S. He mostly preached in and around Detroit and even opened the the Temple of Islam. Considered a reincarnation of Allah by his followers, he mysteriously disappeared in 1934.

 29 Meir Kahane

Meir Kahane
5
Famous As: Politician, Rabbi, Journalist
Birthdate: August 1, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brooklyn
Died: November 5, 1990

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Meir Kahane was an Israeli rabbi, best remembered as the founder of the Kach Party. He moved to Israel after being imprisoned for alleged militant activities. Though he acquired a seat in the Israeli parliament, his party was banned for its racist nature.

 30 Pope Pius XI

Pope Pius XI
4
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: May 31, 1857
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Desio, Italy
Died: February 10, 1939

A man who believed in the motto “The peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ,” Pope Pius XI was also an avid scholar. His reign witnessed the rise of Benito Mussolini and the signing of the Lateran Treaty, which recognized Vatican City as an independent nation state.

 31 Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel Ruiz
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 26, 1952
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mexico

Best known for his influence on the New Thought movement, Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican author who has penned the bestselling Toltec Wisdom Series. Initially a neurosurgeon, he changed his course after a near-fatal accident and became a shaman. He now studies the spiritual aspect of the human mind.

 32 Pope Pius X

Pope Pius X
5
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: June 2, 1835
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Riese Pio X, Italy
Died: August 20, 1914

Pope Pius X was the head of the Catholic Church from 1903 to 1914. He is credited for initiating the preparation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. He was vehemently opposed to modernism as a pope. He regularly gave homily sermons in the pulpit, a rare practice for popes. He was beatified in 1951 and canonized in 1954.

 33 13th Dalai Lama

13th Dalai Lama
6
Famous As: 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet
Birthdate: February 12, 1876
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thakpo Langdun, Ü-Tsang, Tibet
Died: December 17, 1933
Thubten Gyatso served as the 13th Dalai Lama after he was recognized as Dalai Lama's reincarnation in 1878. A skilful politician and intellectual reformer, Gyatso is remembered for standing up against the British expedition to Tibet. He is also credited with reinstating discipline in monastic life.

 34 Abdülmecid II

Abdülmecid II
3
Famous As: Was the last Caliph of the Ottoman Dynasty, the only Caliph of the Republic of Turkey
Birthdate: May 29, 1868
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Beşiktaş, Turkey
Died: August 23, 1944

Abdülmecid II is remembered as the last caliph of the Ottoman dynasty of Turkey. Son of Sultan Abdulaziz, he received his education at the palace. After the deposition of his cousin and the abolition of the Sultanate, he was declared the caliph by the Turkish National Assembly.

 35 Rowan Douglas Williams

Rowan Douglas Williams
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: June 14, 1950
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Swansea, Wales

Rowan Douglas Williams became the first archbishop of Canterbury who was not from the Church of England. The Welsh Anglican bishop has been quite liberal in his views on homosexuality. He has also taught theology courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and is a life peer.

 36 Ramdev

Ramdev
27
Famous As: Yoga Guru
Birthdate: December 25, 1965
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mahendragarh

 37 Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba
11
Famous As: Spiritual Guru
Birthdate: November 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Puttaparthi
Died: April 24, 2011

Indian guru and philanthropist, Sathya Sai Baba, was both a much-revered and controversial personality. He founded the Sathya Sai Organisation, through which he established a network of free hospitals, clinics, and educational institutions. His devotees believed in his alleged omnipotence and omniscience. His critics have accused him of sexual abuse, money laundering, and fraud.

 38 Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica
5
Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: April 20, 1923
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Canton, Ohio, United States
Died: March 27, 2016

Born to Italian parents, amid poverty, in Ohio, Mother Angelica and her siblings were raised by her mother after her father abandoned them. Initially a factory worker, she later became a Poor Clare nun and also founded the Eternal Word Television Network, which streamed Catholic-oriented programs.

 39 Mary MacKillop

Mary MacKillop
3
Famous As: Religious sister
Birthdate: January 15, 1842
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Fitzroy, Australia
Died: August 8, 1909

Mary MacKillop, the first Australian to be made a saint by the Catholic Church, was born to poor Scottish immigrants and had taken up the reins of her family at age 14. She got a pedophile priest dismissed and is thus revered as a patron saint of sexual abuse victims.

 40 Mary Baker Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy
7
Famous As: Religious Leader
Birthdate: July 16, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bow, New Hampshire, United States
Died: December 3, 1910

Born to Congregationalist parents, Mary Baker Eddy had a difficult life, from losing her brother at 20, being widowed at 22, and then surviving a divorce. Remembered as the pioneer of Christian Science, she propagated faith healing and believed the cause of all illnesses lie in the human mind.

 41 Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini
10
Famous As: 1st Supreme Leader of Iran (1979-89)
Birthdate: September 24, 1902
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Khomein, Iran
Died: June 3, 1989
Ayatollah Khomeini, or the Imam Khomeini, became Iran’s first Supreme Leader, after leading the 1979 Iranian Revolution against Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. He founded the Islamic Republic of Iran. He also issued a “fatwa” against novelist Salman Rushdie and supported the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis. 

 42 Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley
4
Famous As: Religious Leader
Birthdate: June 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Died: January 27, 2008

Religious leader Gordon B. Hinckley was the oldest President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). He built countless temples and also reconstructed the Nauvoo Illinois Temple. The Presidential Medal of Freedom winner was the son of LDS leader and religious speaker Bryant S. Hinckley.

 43 Pio of Pietrelcina

Pio of Pietrelcina
4
Birthdate: May 25, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pietrelcina
Died: September 23, 1968

Born Francesco Forgione, Pio of Pietrelcina changed his name after joining the Capuchin order at age 15. He later became famous for exhibiting stigmata, marks on his body symbolizing the wounds of Jesus. He is revered as the patron saint of adolescents and civil defense volunteers.

 44 Aga Khan IV

Aga Khan IV
4
Famous As: Imam of Nizari Ismailis
Birthdate: December 13, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland

Aga Khan IV is the current Imam of Nizari Ismailism. Serving as the imam since 1957, Aga Khan claims to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Apart from being the current leader of the Institution of the Imamate, Aga Khan is also a business magnate and one of the world's richest royals, according to Forbes.

 45 Chogyam Trungpa

Chogyam Trungpa
3
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: March 5, 1939
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Nangchen, Kham region, Tibet
Died: April 4, 1987

 46 Zinovia Dushkova

Zinovia Dushkova
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 19, 1953
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kongaz, Moldova

Zinovia Dushkova is a Russian poet, historian, philosopher, and author. A prominent writer, Dushkova's works have been translated into seven languages. In 2015, she was honored with the 20 Years of Gagauzia Medal. In 2017, Zinovia Dushkova’s book, The Call of the Heart, was honored at the Nautilus Book Awards with a silver medal in the United States of America.

 47 Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei
7
Famous As: Supreme Leader of Iran
Birthdate: July 17, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mashhad
Ali Khamenei has been serving as the supreme leader of Iran since 1989 and has previously been its president. He is one of the co-founders of the Islamic Republic Party and led his country during the Iran–Iraq War. His reign has also seen extreme treatment of journalists and protestors.

 48 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
12
Famous As: Spiritual & humanitarian leader
Birthdate: May 13, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India

It is believed Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had started reciting the Bhagavad Gita by age 4. After graduating in Vedic literature and physics, he propagated Transcendental Meditation with his guru Mahesh Yogi and later established the Art of Living Foundation, which organizes spiritual courses worldwide.

 49 Mirra Alfassa

Mirra Alfassa
3
Famous As: Spiritual Guru, Writer
Birthdate: February 21, 1878
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 17, 1973

Mirra Alfassa was a French occultist and spiritual teacher. Alfassa, who worked closely with the Indian philosopher and yogi Sri Aurobindo, is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also credited with establishing Auroville, an experimental township in India. She serves as an inspiration to people seeking knowledge about Integral Yoga.

 50 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
5
Famous As: Founder of Ahmadiyya Sect
Birthdate: February 13, 1835
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Qadian
Died: May 26, 1908

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an Indian religious leader. He is credited with founding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is an Islamic revival movement. A prolific author, Ghulam Ahmad wrote over 90 books on various theological, moral, and religious subjects. He continues to be revered as a subordinate prophet by Ahmadi Muslims, which is often debated by mainstream Muslims.