Religious leader Joseph Smith Jr. is known as the founder of the Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. He also published the Book of Mormon. He established his communities in Ohio and Missouri and eventually founded the city Nauvoo in Illinois, which became the center of his spiritual activities.
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.
5 Ram Dass
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jonathan Edwards was an American philosopher, revivalist preacher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Considered one of America's most prominent and influential philosophical theologians, Jonathan Edwards played a major role in shaping the Evangelical Revival of the 1730s and 1740s. His theological work is credited with paving the way for a new school of theology called the New England theology.
13 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.
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.
15 Kent Hovind
Kent Hovind is an American tax protester and evangelist. He is credited with establishing Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), which aims at propagating creationism. A controversial personality, Hovind was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2007 for failing to pay taxes, structuring cash transactions, and obstructing federal agents.
16 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.
Legendary Apache leader Cochise led the Native Americans against the Whites, thwarting colonial intrusion in the U.S. Southwest, in the 1860s, especially in the Battle of Apache Pass. He has been immortalized through films such as Broken Arrow, while Cochise County in Arizona has been named after him.
19 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.
Actor Leigh Taylor-Young had initially studied economics, before switching to theater. After gaining fame with the soap Peyton Place, she delivered a Golden Globe-winning performance in the film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. She also won an Emmy for her role in the series Picket Fences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best known as a senior pastor of the Dallas-based First Baptist Church, Robert Jeffress is also a major Fox News contributor. He boasts of multiple theological degrees and is married to his high-school sweetheart, Amy. He has reached millions through his religious program Pathway to Victory.
29 Prem Rawat
Indian-American public speaker and bestselling author Prem Rawat, son of an Indian guru who founded Divine Light Mission, pioneered the technique of meditation known as "peace education" and "knowledge." He often pilots his own private jet to preach his messages to various countries and has also launched a charitable foundation.
Orthodox rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach, also known as the host of Shalom in the Home, soared to international fame with the release of his book Kosher Sex. The father of nine was a spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson and has founded the pro-Israel non-profit The World Values Network.
Puritan clergyman Increase Mather was educated at Harvard and Trinity and preached his first sermon the day he turned 18. The son of Puritan minister Richard Mather, he penned An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences, which is said to have influenced the Salem witch trials.
32 Father Yod
Father Yod was an American spiritual leader and singer. He established a spiritual commune called the Source Family, which was influenced by the philosophy and teachings of Harbhajan Singh Khalsa. Father Yod is credited with setting up America's first health food restaurants. He is also credited with forming Ya Ho Wha 13, a psychedelic rock band.
Radhanath Swami is an American activist, author, community-builder, and spiritual teacher. He is credited with inspiring ISKCON's free midday meal program, which benefits more than a million school kids across India. He also played a major role in establishing the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in India. He is much revered among ISKCON devotees for his immense contribution as a spiritual teacher.
34 J. Z. Knight
American mystic and spiritual author J. Z. Knight claims she had channelized a spirit she calls Ramtha. She founded the Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, where she teaches Ramtha’s preachings, though she has courted controversy for her anti-semitic, homophobic, and unscientific comments. She believes Ramtha heals better than medicine.
Roman Catholic saint Katharine Drexel, the founder of Xavier University, was born to Philadelphia banker Francis Anthony Drexel and picked up he philanthropic habits from her father. In spite of inheriting a massive fortune, she devoted her life to building schools and churches for the racially underprivileged.
Baptist preacher William Miller launched the movement Millerism, which propagated the idea of the advent of Christ. Millerism paved the way for groups such as the Seventh-day Adventists. He and his followers believed the Second Coming was to happen on October 22, 1844, but it never did.
Born to slave parents, American clergyman Richard Allen became a Methodist convert at 22. He later founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church and served as its first bishop. Apart from establishing the first church for Blacks in the U.S., he worked on various aspects to improve the lives of Blacks.
38 Adi Da
Adi Da was an American writer, spiritual teacher, and artist. He first achieved popularity during the 1970s for his public talks and books. He is credited with founding a new religious movement called Adidam. A controversial personality, Adi Da was later accused by his former followers of brainwashing, assault, sexual abuse, and false imprisonment.
39 J. C. Watts
J. C. Watts is an American politician, athlete, and clergyman. A multi-talented man, Watts played professional football in the Canadian Football League. From 1995 to 2003, he served as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives, representing Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District.
Jemima Wilkinson was an American preacher who later became known as the Public Universal Friend after becoming a genderless evangelist. The Public Universal Friend preached throughout the northeastern US. The Friend's teachings attracted several followers who became part of the Society of Universal Friends.
Michael Beckwith is an American New Thought minister. He is credited with founding a New Thought church called the Agape International Spiritual Center in 1986. Today, the community has more than 9,000 members and is expected to expand in the future. Also an influential writer, Beckwith's book Spiritual Liberation earned him the Gold Medal Nautilus Book Award.
John Shelby Spong is an author, religion commentator, theologian, and retired bishop of the Episcopal Church. Over the years, he has appeared on several national television broadcasts, such as Larry King Live, The Today Show, and 60 Minutes. In 1999, he was honored with the Humanist of the Year award.
Joseph F. Smith was an American political and religious leader. From 1901 to 1918, he served as the president of the Mormon Church. An influential president of the church, Joseph F. Smith's teachings were the course of study in the Church's Melchizedek priesthood classes and Sunday Relief Society for the year 2000–01.
Joseph Franklin Rutherford was an American lawyer who later developed an interest in the teachings of Charles Taze Russell. Eventually, he joined the Bible Student movement and later became the president of the Watch Tower Tract Society. Also an author, Joseph Franklin Rutherford wrote 21 books and distributed almost 400 million booklets and books.
Theodore Hesburgh was an American educator, social activist, and author. Over the course of his career, Hesburgh was involved in several American governmental and civic initiatives, international humanitarian projects, commissions, and papal assignments. In 1964, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2000, he received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service.
46 John Birch
John Birch was an American missionary and Baptist minister. A US Army Air Forces military intelligence captain, Birch also played a key role during the Second World War, serving as an OSS agent in China. Killed during a confrontation with Communist soldiers in China, John Birch was posthumously honored with the Army Distinguished Service Medal.
Leonidas Polk was an American Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. He is credited with establishing an Anglican Christian denomination called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. A political general of the Civil War, Leonidas Polk is remembered for commanding troops in the Battle of Perryville and the Battle of Shiloh among many other battles.
Oliver Cowdery was an American religious leader who played an important role during the developmental duration of the Latter Day Saint movement in the 1830s. The first baptized Latter Day Saint, Cowdery was also the Second Elder of the church and one of the first apostles of the Latter Day Saint movement.
Hannah Emerson Duston was a Puritan who was taken captive during King William's War by the Abenaki people. She is best remembered for killing and scalping 10 of the Native American family members with the help of two other captives. She later became a folk hero and was honored with a statue.
Tenskwatawa was a Native American political and religious leader. Remembered for changing his ways after a near-death experience, Tenskwatawa led a purification movement that condemned the consumption of alcohol and promoted unity among Native Americans. He became known as the Prophet among his ethnic group and accumulated several followers.