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Top 10 of the Greatest Religious Leaders in History

Some of the leadership systems are more enduring than others. for instance, the political and military leaders come and go while religious figures stay throughout the ages, this explains why many people still worship religious leaders thousands of years after their death. The most enlightening aspects that emanate from this article is that though many religious figures and founders are responsible for founding religions; not all of them set out to start religions. Many did not set out to start religions, and the development of organized faith systems or structures based from their teachings emerged long after their departure from the world, therefore, they are hardly held responsible for what the followers ended up doing with their teachings. The religious founder and religious figures from around the world played instrumentals in initiating, development, and growth of the current religious systems in the world. This article shed light on the top 10 religious figures and founders in history who are responsible for the majority of the modern religions in the world today.

Jesus Christ (c. 6/4 BC—c. 30 AD)

religious leaders Colossal Statues Christ-the-Redeemer-Brazil

Christianity is the largest single religion worldwide with followers from all walks of the earth. Christianity is based on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who has impacted the planet instrumentally. The ministry of Jesus lasted for three years, left no personal writings, had few thousands of followers during his lifetime, and was executed for treason by the Roman authorities, all of which should have been like a footnote in history.

However, he is widely revered not only as of the prophet and moral teacher but also believed to be the physical manifestation of God on earth. This is attributed to the belief that he resurrected from the dead three days following his death. The ascending to heaven and promising the followers of his glorious second coming as the savior of humanity on the judgment day. During his short life and ministry on earth, Jesus performed many miracles including turning water into wine, walking on water, healing many ailments, raising the death like in the case of Lazarus, among others. He was the greatest religious figure and religious founder that ever lived on the face of the planet.[1]

Muhammed (571—632 AD)

religious leaders Muhammed

Many religious leaders leave a legacy behind that life on while they are dead. For instance, Prophet Muhammed of Mecca was a middle-aged merchant that revolved into a mystic, into a religious leader, into a military commander has an instrumental and significant impact on both histories and continues to influence the lives of billions of people around the globe. According to the Islamic religion, he was considered as last and greatest of all prophets and is adored for writing the Quran, one of the most read sacred writings in the world. Legends of Islamic religion cite that angel Gabriel gave him the writings through a series of visions over 20 years which were preserved and codified into the Quran. Through this writing, Muhammed enabled the stridently monotheistic religion in the world by setting the stage for the development, growth, and spread of Islamic on the planet.[2]

Krishna (c. 3228—c. 3102 BC)

The ancient religious figures in the world influenced the religion of the world. For instance, Krishna was part man and partly supernatural personality capable of all kinds of remarkable things encompassing those expected from the incarnation of Vishnu, who is considered Godhead of the Hindu trinity of deities. The man attributed to the supernatural and extraordinary doings was the nephew of the most abhorred King Kamsa of Mathura who lived a carefree life.

For one, as a kid, Krishna allegedly killed many demons and purifying the poisoned water of River Yamuna, among others. He did not start modern Hinduism because the basic tenets of Hinduism were already in place before his coming into the arena. Krishna is one of the Vishnu avatars that are highly revered and close to the heart of the people thousands of years after his death.[3]

Gautama Buddha (c. 563—c. 483 BC)

Gautama Buddha

Buddha is used to implying spiritual wisdom or enlightenment, and it is widely regarded. However, the person behind this mythology is Siddhartha Gautama, and Buddha was the title. He was the prince who invested a good 29 years in opulent luxury then chastened his life for the quest for understanding. To harden for the course of searching for enlightenment and understanding, Gautama spends several years in complete destitute surviving on a handful nut.

He came to realize that it was vanity and futile. One of the realizations that put him, of course, came to him while he was sitting under the Bodhi tree, to attain enlightenment, wisdom, and understanding; one needs to eliminate all desires. He attracted a legion of disciples and advanced the teaching that established the system of faith structure known as the Buddhism religion, which claims over 500 million adherents across the world.[4]

Confucius (551—479 BC)


The Chinese name of Confucius is Kong Zi is a reckoned influence in the lives of many people and countries across Asia. He was not a religious leader per se, but more of a philosopher based on his teachings on political and personal morality, sincerity and justice that influenced Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought and life and stretched to Confucianism philosophy that broke into Europe through the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci in the 16th century.

As no man’s writing survives, many scholars and elites argue concerning the possibility of the existence of the man named Confucius and if Confucianism a collection of ancient teachings unified under one philosophical construct. Some of the instrumental principles encompass the “Do not do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself” which forms part of the golden rules.[5]

Zoroaster (c. 628—c. 551 BC)


The ancient Persian prophet and founder of the historically acknowledged Zoroastrianism religion were called Zarathustra born in Northern Persia in 7th century according to Zend Avesta book. Zoroaster also called Zarathustra claimed to have received a vision concerning the cosmic war in which the god of Light Ahura Mazda fought with the principle of evil, Ahriman. Based on his prophecy, the man had been given the free will to choose between good and evil, and this dualism formed a formidable force behind monotheism in the middle east with Zoroaster’s teachings as the guiding principles or light resulting in Persian civilization.

The aspect and elements of Zoroastrianism penetrated to the west through Platonism and Judaism; the philosophy is cited as one of the contributors in the establishment if philosophy. When Alexander the Great conquered Persia limiting the growth of Zoroastrianism but it survived and continue to influence lives to date in India because it serves as the guidance of Parsi Faith.[6]

Martin Luther (1483—1546)

Martin Luther

Christianity was wrought with many individuals who collectively played a significant role in shaping and designing that make the faith structure, which had a considerable impact on the church. Martin Luther was initially a dedicated Catholic priest who grew disenchanted with the abuses he witnessed within the Roman Papacy and opted to call the church out by pinning a 95 thesis points of doctrinal disputes on the door of Wittenberg church in 1517 October. This doctrinal dispute triggered a heated debate that resulted in the reformation movements that eventually split the church into two and the four-century religious strife causing armed conflicts that continue to reverberate Christianity to this date.

The founding religious contributions of Luther is the instance that salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ rather than obedience to papacy. This made salvation more obtainable and initiated a period of unparalleled church growth from around the globe. The reformation movement initiated by Luther targeted to reform Catholicism, but it created schism explaining the dominance if many Christian denominations in the current generation. Luther helped shape western civilization and the church to the current state of affairs on both western culture and Christian beliefs.[7]

Moses (c. 1391—1271 BC)


The history of Judaism revolves around great leaders and prophets ranging from kings David and Solomon to prophet Ezekiel and Elijah; however, the impact of Moses is undeniable. Without the guidance and leadership of Moses the modern Jewish religion will not exist, but thanks to him as a political heavyweight having grown up in pharaoh’s dynasty, and was being considered as a assume the throne one day. However, he chose to pursue his Hebrew religion, which took him to 40 years Odyssey leading over half a million people across the wilderness journey to Canaan.

The man Moses was responsible for penning Torah, which is the most revered Jewish writing which formed the basis of the first five books of the bible, old testament. He died on the way just before reaching the promised land, but he is the foundation of Judaism by underpinning the morals and ethical principles that guide the Jewish up to date. For instance, the Ten Commandments are the foundation of western religious beliefs for generations to come.[8]

Joseph Smith Jr. (1805—1844)

Joseph Smith Jr.

The founder and the first president of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in 1805. He is one of the most controversial religious figures from the first 19th century who single-highhandedly convinced the public that he was a prophet of God and interacted with both God and Jesus Christ through visions. Joseph Jr unearthed golden plates on the local hillside and later translated into the book Mormon which was distributed to the locals in Upstate New York region. Smith gathered few core followers and founded the church of Jesus Christ of latter days at Fayette New York in April 1830.

The church grew, and reports indicated his target was to become to over 15 million members worldwide, despite his limited educational background. The controversial figure started his polygamy, insisting that he was the prophet sent by God to restore the church from apostasy it had. Therefore, according to God, fallen into odds with non-Mormon people, including neighbors creating enmity that often resulted in violence. The hostility that later led to his death in 1844 in the shootout in the Illinois prison, leaving his lieutenant, Brigham Young to take over. The Mormons around the world venerate his contribution to western Protestantism and he, and he is revered as the chief prophet whose status continues to grow as the church of Mormons expands.[9]

Mary Baker Eddy (1821—1910)

religious leaders Mary-Baker-Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy was the founder and leader of the Christian Science Movement, born 1821 in New Hampshire in the United States. Her impact on American religious beliefs in the 19th century is undeniable. Many of her doctrine and perspective on many things are controversial and long-lasting. For one Eddy approach on the concept of hell and the de facto rejection of personal God put her in the outside of the orthodoxy. The Christian Science Movement started by Mary Baker in the 19th century still lives on centuries after her death; it is like her legacy. Recent statistics indicate that the Christian Science Movement has over 106,000 members in the US as by 2010 and over 500,000 members worldwide.

Many religious and Christian ideas and teachings advanced by Eddy survives on and are present in some of the New Age churches, mystical traditions, and other metaphysical traditions today. Her theological work draws heavily from the beliefs fostered by the ancient Gnostics, one of the mystical unities of Christianity in the few centuries A.D. before the dominance of the church of Rome. The Christian Science movement followers are known for their refusal to use medical treatment as they believe that illness is part of the illusory material world are treatable purely by diseases. Baker should be remembered for her willingness to challenge the traditional beliefs of her era.[10]

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