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.
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.
Arlyn Phoenix, or Heart Phoenix, is the mother of actor Joaquin Phoenix. Her other son, River Phoenix, died of a drug overdose. Her three other children are also actors. She and her first husband were members of the cult The Children of God. She is now a renowned peace activist.
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.
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.
David Miscavige is the current leader of the Church of Scientology. After serving as a deputy to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church, Miscavige took on the mantle of leadership after the former's demise. Miscavige is credited with establishing the Religious Technology Center to control and supervise the use of texts, symbols, and trademarks of Scientology and Dianetics.
11 David Koresh
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.
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.
Indian Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi had run away to Arunachala, a sacred mountain in Tamil Nadu, at 16, and had stayed there throughout his life. He propagated vichara, or self-enquiry, as the primary means of self-realization, instead of the study of scriptures as proposed by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
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.
Al-Qaeda terrorist and Islamic preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, initially a university lecturer, had been involved in a number of terrorist attack plots, including one in which they had planned to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane. American-born Yemeni Awlaki died in a drone strike ordered by Barack Obama in 2011.
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.
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.
21 Bernice King
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 Rick Warren
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.
25 Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian educator, author, Islamic theorist, revolutionary, and poet. During the 1950s and 1960s, Qutb was an important member of the Society of the Muslim Brothers. Sayyid Qutb is regarded as the Father of Salafi-Jihadism, a transnational religious-political ideology that forms the basis of several Jihadist organizations, such as Daesh and Al Qaeda.
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.
29 Meir Kahane
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 Ali Khamenei
32 Pope Pius XI
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.
33 Aga Khan IV
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.
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.
Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the 1970s’ cult Heaven's Gate, had initially aspired to become a priest and had then dabbled in music, before joining the army. He and 38 other cult followers committed mass suicide by consuming poison in 1997, believing aliens would carry them in the Hale-Bopp comet.
The archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan has previously also served as the archbishop of Milwaukee. He has also penned several religious books, such as Doers of the Word and Called to Be Holy. He was also assigned with the task of handling cases of priests engaging in sexual abuse.
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.
39 Meher Baba
Meher Baba, or the Awakener, is best remembered for his 44-year silence, during which he chiefly communicated through an alphabet board. Born into a Parsi family, he later came under the influence of spiritual leaders such as Hazrat Babajan, and started the Meher Baba Movement, in search of spiritual consciousness.
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.
Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005. He is hailed for helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and improving the Catholic Church's relations with Islam, Judaism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. He was a lifelong football fan, having himself played the sport in his youth.
Born in Travancore in India, Narayana Guru was the son of a teacher and studied in a gurukula. He grew up to lead a social reform movement against the caste system that he saw in erstwhile Kerala. He believed in the motto One Caste, One Religion, One God for All.
Better known as Daddy Go, Nigerian pastor Enoch Adeboye serves the Redeemed Christian Church of God and has millions of followers. However, the media has often called out his sexist attitude, reflected in his social-media posts, one of which advised men to marry only women who could cook.