Top 10 List has no position about whether or not these are really greatest or most influential religious leaders of the 20th/21st Century List. If you have an alternative list of religious leaders which you would like included here, please feel free to comment below.
1. Dalai Lama
He is the spiritual head of over 80,000 Tibetans living in exile, but he has influenced many more people all over the world. He spreads a message of non-violence, peaceful co-existence and humility based on his religion. His renowned charisma and oratorical skills have made him one of the world’s best known religious heads.
2. Mother Teresa
Though she cannot really be termed as a religious leader but her iconic image of a nun working for the poorest of the poor, has done more for the Catholic Church than anyone else. Her simplicity and hard work and firm belief in her role as a missionary of Jesus made her into a reluctant world-wide religious figure.
3. Pope John Paul II
His was the second-longest pontificate, and one of the most influential. He strengthened ties with Judaism, Anglican Communion, and with the Eastern Orthodox Church. He also beatified 1340 people from all over the world and was the most traveled Pope of all times.
4. Billy Graham
America’s greatest revivalist, Billy Graham has preached to over 2.2 billion people. Anointed as “America’s Pastor”, he has influenced Presidents and common citizens alike. His sincerity and integrity are unquestionable and he is one of the most admired men of America.
5. Mary Baker Eddy
Best known as the founder of the Christian Science Movement, her legacy continue 100 years after her death in the writings and in the magazine “Christian Science Monitor”. A spiritual teacher and a healer, she is believed to have influenced the social and religious movements of the early 20th century.
6. Bishop Desmond Tutu
The emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, he used his pre-eminent status to oppose Apartheid and help South Africa stand up as a unified nation after Mandela came into power. Even after retirement he works on issues concerning democracy and human rights.
7. Master Li Hongzhi
He founded the spiritual discipline Falun Gong in China in 1992. Today it is believed that he has over 70 million followers. Presently based in the US, his “heavy emphasis on morality makes it appear to be a religion”.
8. Archbishop Makarios
One of the few religious leaders who played dual roles as a religious leader and as an elected head of the Government. He was the Archbishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and also as the President of the Republic of Cyprus. Even though his reign was full of controversies, yet he remained one of the most notable religious and political figures of his time.
9. Louis Farrakhan
A controversial religious leader, he commands a large following in the “Nation of Islam” and he is one Black America’s strongest advocates. His influence extends more due to his standing as an African American, rather than as a religious leader.
10. Ayatullah Khomeini
Believed by many to be the greatest Islamic leader of the 20th Century, his defiance of the West, and his ability to preside over the overthrow of a brutal regime in Iran, made him a figure to revered and feared. A religious leader who was also a master strategist, he led a revolution and changed the course of history in the Middle East.