Famous American Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Spirituality and religion go hand in hand and yet are most diverse from each other. While religion restricts human to a particular belief and a way of worship, spirituality frees the soul and gives him/her the liberty to connect with the transcendental force without following any routine, procedure or theory. Though we may argue that the world is going under the pit with each passing day, thanks to the rise in violence, hatred and insanity, there, however, have been leaders who are safeguarding the globe and shaping the mind and spirit of humans. It is to these religious and spiritual leaders that we must owe our existence. Their power of positivity and love have influenced and touched the life of many. Like every country in the world, America has its own list of religious and spiritual leaders who have deeply influenced the life of not just Americans but people all over. Francis George, Peter Morales, John Taylor, George Storrs, James Freeman Clarke, Harold Klemp and George B Bacon are some of America’s religious and spiritual leaders. Browse through this section and discover the life and works of famous American spiritual and 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 American Spiritual & Religious Leaders

 1 
Billy Graham
(Evangelist)

Billy Graham
4
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. 

 2 
Joseph Smith Jr.
(Founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement)

Joseph Smith Jr.
7
Birthdate: December 23, 1805
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sharon, Vermont, United States
Died: May 27, 1844

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.

 3 
Brigham Young
(Second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Brigham Young
7
Birthdate: June 1, 1801
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whitingham
Died: August 29, 1877
Brigham Young, known as the "American Moses," was the second president of the LDS Church. He founded Salt Lake City, was the first governor of the Utah Territory, and led to the formation of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. He was a polygamist who had 55 wives.

 4 
Louis Farrakhan
(Singer, Civil rights advocate, Religious servant, Journalist, Politician, Violinist, Anti-vaccine activist, Muslim minister)

Louis Farrakhan
8
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.

 5 
Ram Dass
(Spiritual Teacher)

Ram Dass
5
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.

 6 
Russell M. Nelson
(Religious Leader, Surgeon)

Russell M. Nelson
5
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.

 7 
Charles Stanley
(Pastor, Radio personality)

Charles Stanley
6
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.
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 8 
Anne Hutchinson
(Puritan spiritual adviser, Preacher)

Anne Hutchinson
4
Birthdate: September 25, 1932, 1591
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Alford, Lincolnshire, England
Died: August 20, 1643

 9 
Jonathan Edwards
(Preacher, Theologian, Philosopher)

Jonathan Edwards
5
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 22, 1758

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.

 10 
Bernice King
(Minister)

Bernice King
7
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.

 11 
Stella Immanuel
(Physician, writer)

Stella Immanuel
9
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Cameroon

 12 
Charles Taze Russell
(Christian Restoration Minister)

Charles Taze Russell
4
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.

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.

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.

 15 
Wallace Fard Muhammad
(American religious leader)

Wallace Fard Muhammad
6
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.

 16 
Meir Kahane
(Politician, Rabbi, Journalist)

Meir Kahane
5
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.

 17 
David Miscavige
(Leader of the Church of Scientology)

David Miscavige
12
Birthdate: April 30, 1960
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bristol Township, Pennsylvania, United States

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.

 18 

Mother Angelica
5
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.

 19 
Mary Baker Eddy
(Religious Leader)

Mary Baker Eddy
7
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.

 20 
Gordon B. Hinckley
(Religious Leader)

Gordon B. Hinckley
4
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.

 21 
Elijah Muhammad
(Religious Leader)

Elijah Muhammad
8
Birthdate: October 7, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sandersville
Died: February 25, 1975
Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad supported black nationalism for African-Americans. He was the leader of the religious movement known as the Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975. He established the Muhammad University of Islam and was later imprisoned for it, based on complaints from various boards of education.

 22 
Marshall Applewhite
(Religious leader)

Marshall Applewhite
6
Birthdate: May 17, 1931
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Spur, Texas, USA
Died: March 26, 1997

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.

 23 
Yusuf Estes
(American Muslim Preacher & Founder of Guide US TV)

Yusuf Estes
3
Birthdate: January 1, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Texas, United States
Yusuf Estes, a Muslim convert, is a popular Islamic speaker. He has also served as a delegate to the United Nations World Peace Conference for Religious Leaders in 2000. Estes now travels around the world and gives lectures on topics relating to Islam. He has served as a guest presenter at various Islamic events and frequently appears on various Islamic TV channels.

 24 
David Koresh
(Religious Leader)

David Koresh
13
Birthdate: August 17, 1959
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas
Died: April 19, 1993
David Koresh was the leader of the religious sect Branch Davidians. The self-proclaimed prophet was accused of rape and child abuse, and also fathered 15 children through various women of the sect. He and over 70 followers died in a fire during the Waco Siege launched by the FBI.

 25 
Prem Rawat
(Writer)

Prem Rawat
3
Birthdate: December 10, 1957
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India

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.

Frances Xavier Cabrini
3
Birthdate: July 15, 1850
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy
Died: December 22, 1917

Frances Xavier Cabrini was an Italian-American nun who founded a Catholic religious institute called the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The institute played a major role in supporting Italian immigrants to the US. In 1946, Frances Xavier Cabrini became the first American citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

 27 
St. Katharine Drexel
(Philanthropist)

St. Katharine Drexel
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1858
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 3, 1955

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.

 28 
Increase Mather
(Clergyman)

Increase Mather
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1639
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Massachusetts Bay Colony, United States
Died: August 23, 1723

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.

 29 
Richard Allen
(Minister)

Richard Allen
3
Birthdate: February 14, 1760
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 26, 1831

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.

Father Yod
3
Birthdate: July 4, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cincinnati
Died: August 25, 1975

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.

 31 
Shmuley Boteach
(Writer, Theologian, Rabbi)

Shmuley Boteach
4
Birthdate: November 19, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles

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.

 32 
J. C. Watts
(Politician)

J. C. Watts
3
Birthdate: November 18, 1957
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Eufaula, Oklahoma, United States

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. 

 33 
Jemima Wilkinson
(Religious leader)

Jemima Wilkinson
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1752
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cumberland, Rhode Island, United States
Died: July 1, 1819

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.

Menachem Mendel Schneerson
3
Birthdate: April 18, 1902
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Mykolaiv, Ukraine
Died: June 12, 1994

Menachem Mendel Schneerson was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most influential Jewish leaders, Schneerson is best remembered for leading the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Under his leadership, the movement became one of the world's most influential and widespread Jewish movements. Menachem Mendel Schneerson was posthumously honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 1994.

 35 
Adi Da
(Founder of Adidam)

Adi Da
3
Birthdate: November 3, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States
Died: November 27, 2008

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.

 36 
Joseph F. Smith
(Political leader)

Joseph F. Smith
3
Birthdate: November 13, 1838
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Far West, Missouri, United States
Died: November 19, 1918

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.

 37 
Theodore Hesburgh
(15th President of the University of Notre Dame)

Theodore Hesburgh
3
Birthdate: May 25, 1917
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Syracuse, New York, United States
Died: February 26, 2015

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.

 38 

Hannah Emerson Duston
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1657
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Haverhill, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 6, 1736

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.

 39 
Robert Jeffress
(Religious leader)

Robert Jeffress
3
Birthdate: November 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Texas

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.

 40 
Timothy M. Dolan
(Theologian, University teacher, Catholic priest)

Timothy M. Dolan
3
Birthdate: February 6, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Louis

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.

Oliver Cowdery
3
Birthdate: October 3, 1806
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wells
Died: March 3, 1850

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.

 42 

Michael Beckwith
3
Birthdate: 1956 AD

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.

 43 

Joseph Franklin Rutherford
3
Birthdate: November 8, 1869
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Morgan County
Died: January 8, 1942

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.

 44 
Joseph Smith, III
(Religious leader)

Joseph Smith, III
3
Birthdate: November 6, 1832
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kirtland, Ohio, United States
Died: December 10, 1914

Joseph Smith III was an American religious leader best known as the son of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith III served as the Prophet-President of the Community of Christ and presided over the church for 54 years until his death in 1914. He made immense contributions to the development of the church, which earned him the nickname, the pragmatic prophet.

 45 

Gene Robinson
3
Birthdate: May 29, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lexington, Kentucky, United States

Gene Robinson is an American former bishop associated with the Episcopal Church. Gene Robinson is renowned for being the first openly gay man to be consecrated as a bishop in a prominent Christian denomination. His life and career have been the subject of articles in print media and films.

 46 

Leonidas Polk
3
Birthdate: April 10, 1806
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
Died: June 14, 1864

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.

 47 
Tenskwatawa
(Political leader)

Tenskwatawa
3
Birthdate: April 10, 1806, 1775
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ohio, United States
Died: October 31, 1836

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.

 48 
Wilford Woodruff
(Religious leader)

Wilford Woodruff
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1807
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Farmington, Connecticut, United States
Died: September 2, 1898

Wilford Woodruff was an American religious leader. From 1889 until his death in 1898, Woodruff served as the president of the Mormon Church. He is credited with ending the public practice of polygamy among the members of the Church in 1890. Woodruff's journals are regarded as an important contribution to the Mormon Church history.

 49 
Ezra Taft Benson
(Religious Leader)

Ezra Taft Benson
3
Birthdate: August 4, 1899
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Whitney, Idaho, United States
Died: May 30, 1994

Ezra Taft Benson was the great-grandson of LDS leader Ezra Taft Benson. When his father left for his missionary activities, Benson took on the family's responsibilities by working on their farm. He later became the president of the LDS Church and also won accolades such as the Presidential Citizens Medal.

 50 

Bhaktipada
4
Birthdate: September 6, 1937
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Peekskill, New York, USA
Died: October 24, 2011

Vaishnava guru and New Vrindaban co-founder Kirtanananda Swami, better known as Bhaktipada, was born into a Baptist family. In spite of receiving a fellowship to study at Columbia University, he quit academics and joined ISKCON instead. He was later expelled from ISKCON after he was found guilty of child molestation.