List of founders of religious traditions

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This article lists historical figures credited with founding religions or religious philosophies or people who first codified older known religious traditions. It also lists those who have founded a specific major denomination within a larger religion.

Ancient (before AD 500)[edit]

See culture hero for legendary founders of doubtful historicity. If you intend to add figures that fall into this category, please add them in the allotted section.
Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
Zoroaster Zoroastrianism Central Iranian/Airya c. 10th to 6th century BC[1][n 1]
Parshvanatha The penultimate (23rd) Tirthankara in Jainism Indian 877 BC – 777 BC[2][3][4][5][6]
Nebuchadnezzar II built the Etemenanki, established Marduk as the patron deity of Babylon Amorite 6th century BC[citation needed]
Mahavira The final (24th) tirthankara in Jainism Indian 599 BC – 527 BC[7][8][9]
Siddhartha Gautama Buddhism Indian/Nepali 563 BC – 483 BC[citation needed]
Confucius Confucianism Chinese 551 BC – 479 BC[citation needed]
Pythagoras Pythagoreanism Samian fl. 520 BC
Mozi Mohism Chinese 470 BC – 390 BC
Ezra Second Temple Judaism[10] Levite Judean, Kohen fl. 459 BC[n 2]
Epicurus Epicureanism Samian fl. 307 BC
Zeno of Citium Stoicism possibly Phoenician,[11]
albeit a Greek national
333 BC – 264 BC
Pharnavaz I of Iberia Armazi Georgian 326 BC - 234 BC
Patanjali Rāja yoga Indian 2nd century BC
Jesus and the Twelve Apostles Christianity Galilean/Judean c. 4 BC - c. 30 AD
Paul the Apostle Pauline Christianity Judean, albeit a Roman citizen c. 33 AD
James the Just Jewish Christianity Judean c. 33 AD
Judah the Prince Rabbinic Judaism Judean, Davidic line 2nd century AD
Montanus Montanism Phrygian 2nd century AD
Marcion of Sinope Marcionism Pontic Greek 110–160
Nagarjuna Madhyamaka Telugu Dravidian 150–250
Plotinus Neoplatonism may have been of Roman,[12]
Greek,[13] or Hellenized Egyptian[14]
ancestry; Roman citizen
205–270
Mani Manichaeism Persian Western Iranian/Airya 216–274
Arius[n 3] Arianism[n 4] possibly Berber,
born in Libya; hellenophone
250–336
Pelagius[n 3] Pelagianism[n 5] British,[15] possibly Irish[16] 354–430
Nestorius[n 3] Nestorianism[n 6] Romaniote (Byzantine hellenophone) 386–451
Eutyches Monophysitism[n 7] born in Constantinople 380–456

Medieval to Early Modern (500–1800 AD)[edit]

Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
Mazdak Mazdakism Central Iranian/Airya died c. 526
Bodhidharma Zen Chinese (Tang dynasty) c. 500s - c. 560s
Muhammad Islam Arabian c. 570 - 632
Songtsen Gampo Tibetan Buddhism Tibetan 7th century
En no Gyōja Shugendō Japanese late 7th century
Huineng East Asian Zen Buddhism Chinese (Tang dynasty) 638–713
Padmasambhava Nyingma Indian 8th century
Han Yu Neo-Confucianism Chinese 8th or 9th century
Saichō Tendai (descended from Tiantai) Japanese 767–822
Kūkai Shingon Buddhism Japanese 774–835
Adi Shankara Advaita Vedanta Indian 9th century
Ibn Nusayr Nusayrism Persian late 9th century
Ramanuja Vishishtadvaita Indian 1017-1137
Hamza ibn ‘Alī ibn Aḥmad Druze Persian 11th century
Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir Yazidism Yazidi 12th century
Basava Lingayatism Indian 12th century
Hōnen Jōdo-shū (descended from Pure Land Buddhism) Japanese 1131–1212
Eisai Rinzai Zen (descended from the Linji school) Japanese 1141–1215
Shinran Jōdo Shinshū (descended from Jōdo-shū) Japanese 1173–1263
Dōgen Sōtō Zen (descended from the Caodong school) Japanese 1200–1253
Haji Bektash Veli Bektashi Order of Sufism Turkish (Ottoman) or Persian 1209–1271
Nichiren Nichiren Buddhism Japanese 1222–1282
Madhvacharya Dvaita Tuluva (Indian) 1238–1317
Sant Mat Bhakti movement Numerous Hindi groups[n 8] 13th to 15th centuries
John Wycliffe Lollardy British (English) 1320s–1384
Nāimī - Fażlu l-Lāh Astar-Ābādī Hurufism Iranian 14th century
Mahmoud Pasikhani Nuqṭawism Iranian (Persian) late 14th century
Jan Hus Hussitism Frankish (Czech) 1372–1415
Ramananda Vaishnavism Indian 15th century
Sankardev Ekasarana Dharma Assamese (Indian) 1449–1568
Guru Nanak Sikhism Punjabi (Pakistani) 1469–1539
Sri Chand Udasi Punjabi (Pakistani) 1494–1629
Vallabha Acharya Shuddhadvaita Indian 1479–1531
Martin Luther Lutheranism and Protestantism in general Frankish (Saxon) 1483–1546
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Achintya Bheda Abheda Bengali (Indian) 1486–1534
Thomas Cranmer Anglicanism (Church of England) British (English) 1489–1556
Ignatius of Loyola Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Spanish Basque 1491 - 1556
Menno Simons Mennonite Dutch 1496–1561
Conrad Grebel Swiss Brethren, Anabaptists Swiss 1498–1526
Jacob Hutter Hutterite Tyrolean (Bavarian) 1500–1536
Sultan Sahak Yarsanism Kurdish early 15th century
John Calvin Calvinism[17] French 1509–1564
Michael Servetus[18] Unitarianism Aragonese 1511?–1553
John Knox[19] Presbyterianism Scottish 1510–1572
Akbar Din-i Ilahi Sindhi (Mughal) 1542–1605
Jacobus Arminius Arminianism Dutch 1560–1609
John Smyth[20] Baptists English 1570–1612
Avvakum[citation needed] Old Believers of Russian Orthodox Church Russian 1620–1682
George Fox[21] Quakers English 1624–1691
Philipp Spener[22] Pietism Alsatian (German) 1635–1705
Jakob Ammann Amish Swiss 1656–1730
Emanuel Swedenborg The New Church Swedish 1688-1772
Yisroel ben Eliezer "Baal Shem Tov"[23] Hasidic Judaism Polish (Ukrainian) 1698–1760
John Wesley,[24] Charles Wesley, George Whitefield Methodism English 1703–1791
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Wahhabism Arabian 1703–1792
Ann Lee[25] Shakers English 1736–1784

New religious movements (post-1800)[edit]

Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
Ram Mohan Roy Brahmo Samaj Indian 1772–1833
Swaminarayan Swaminarayan Sampraday Indian 1781–1830
Auguste Comte Religion of Humanity French 1798–1857
Nakayama Miki Tenrikyo Japanese 1798–1887
Ignaz von Döllinger Old Catholic Church German 1799–1890
Phineas Quimby New Thought American 1802–1866
Allan Kardec Spiritism French 1804–1869
Joseph Smith Mormonism, also known as the Latter Day Saint movement American 1805–1844
John Thomas Christadelphians British 1805–1871
Abraham Geiger Reform Judaism German 1810-1874
Jamgon Kongtrul Rimé movement Tibetan 1813–1899
Hong Xiuquan Taiping Christianity Hakka 1814–1864
Bahá'u'lláh[26] Bahá'í Faith Persian (Ottoman Turk) 1817–1892
Báb Bábism, precursor of the Bahá'í Faith Persian (Ottoman Turk) 1819–1850
James Springer White Seventh-day Adventist Church American 1821–1881
Wang Jueyi Yiguandao Chinese (Qing dynasty) 1821–1884
Mary Baker Eddy[27] Christian Science American 1821–1910
Ramalinga Swamigal Samarasa Sutha Sanmarga Sangam Tamil (Indian) 1823–1874
Dayananda Saraswati Arya Samaj Gujarati (Indian) 1824–1883
Ellen G. White[28] Seventh-day Adventist Church American 1827–1915
John Ballou Newbrough Faithism American 1828–1891
Subh-i-Azal Azali Bábism Persian 1831–1912
Helena Blavatsky Theosophy Russian (Ukrainian) 1831–1891
Ayya Vaikundar Ayyavazhi Indian 1833–1851
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Ahmadiyya Indian (Mughal) 1835–1908
Guido von List Armanism (Germanic mysticism) Austrian 1848–1919
Charles Taze Russell[29] Bible Student movement American 1852–1916
Wovoka Ghost Dance Paiute (Native American) 1856–1932
Rudolf Steiner Anthroposophy Austrian 1861–1925
Swami Vivekananda Ramakrishna Mission Indian 1863–1902
William Irvine[30] Two by Twos and Cooneyites Scottish 1863–1947
Sri Aurobindo Integral yoga Indian 1872–1950
Mason Remey Orthodox Bahá'í Faith American 1874–1974
Aleister Crowley Thelema English 1875–1947
Charles Fox Parham Pentecostalism American 1873–1929
"Father Divine" International Peace Mission movement American c. 1876–1965
Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment American 1877-1945
Ngô Văn Chiêu Caodaism Viet 1878–1926
Guy Ballard "I AM" Activity American 1878–1939
Frank Buchman Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament American 1878–1961
Alfred G. Moses Jewish Science American 1878-1956
Mordecai Kaplan Reconstructionist Judaism Russian (Lithuanian) 1881–1983
Gerald Gardner Wicca British 1884–1964
Felix Manalo Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) Filipino 1886–1963
Frank B. Robinson Psychiana American 1886–1948
Noble Drew Ali Moorish Science Temple of America American, possibly Cherokee or Moroccan 1886–1929
Marcus Garvey Rastafari Jamaican 1887–1940
Ernest Holmes Religious Science American 1887–1960
Sadafaldeo Vihangamyoga Indian 1888–1902
Aimee Semple McPherson[31] Foursquare Church Canadian 1890–1944
Zélio Fernandino de Moraes[32] Umbanda Brazilian 1891–1975
Ida B. Robinson Mount Sinai Holy Church of America American 1891–1946
Wallace Fard Muhammad Nation of Islam American 1891 – 1934 (absentia)
Paramahansa Yogananda Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Self-Realization Fellowship Indian 1893–1952
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada International Society for Krishna Consciousness Indian 1896–1977
Ruth Norman Unarius American 1900–1993
Swami Muktananda Siddha Yoga Indian 1908–1982
Paul Twitchell Eckankar American 1908–1971
Ikurō Teshima Makuya Japanese 1910–1973
L. Ron Hubbard Church of Scientology American 1911–1986
Kim Il-sung Juche[33] (North) Korean 1912–1994
Chinmayananda Saraswati Chinmaya Mission Indian 1916–1993
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Transcendental Meditation Indian 1917–2008
Samael Aun Weor Universal Christian Gnostic Movement Colombian 1917–1977
Mark L. Prophet The Summit Lighthouse American 1918–1973
Ben Klassen Creativity Ukrainian 1918–1993
Ahn Sahng-hong World Mission Society Church of God Korean 1918-1985
Huỳnh Phú Sổ Hòa Hảo Viet 1919–1947
Yong (Sun) Myung Moon[34] Unification Church Korean 1920–2012
Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar Ananda Marga Indian 1921–1990
Clarence 13X Five-Percent Nation American 1922–1969
Mestre Gabriel União do Vegetal Brazilian 1922–1971
Nirmala Srivastava Sahaja Yoga Indian 1923–2011
Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson Ásatrú Icelander 1924–1993
Sathya Sai Baba Sathya Sai Organization Indian 1926–2011
Anton LaVey Church of Satan (LaVeyan Satanism) American 1930–1997
Rajneesh[35] Rajneesh movement Indian 1931–1990
Mark L. Prophet;
Elizabeth Clare Prophet[36]
Church Universal and Triumphant American 1918–1973;
1939–2009
Adi Da Adidam American 1939–2008
Claude Vorilhon Raëlism French 1946–
Marshall Vian Summers New Message from God American 1949–
Li Hongzhi Falun Gong Chinese 1951–
Ravi Shankar[37] Art of Living foundation Indian 1956–
Ryuho Okawa Happy Science Japanese 1956-
Vissarion Church of the Last Testament Russian 1961–
Chris Korda Church of Euthanasia American 1962-
Tamara Siuda Kemetic Orthodoxy American 1969–
Olumba Olumba Obu Brotherhood of the Cross and Star Nigerian 1918–
Isak Gerson Missionary Church of Kopimism Swedish 1993-
Erdoğan Çınar Ishikism Turkish 21st century

Legendary/semi-historical[edit]

Traditional founder Religious tradition founded Historical founder(s) Ethnicity Life of historical founder
Abraham Judaism Yahwists[n 9] Levantine c. 13th[38][39][40] to 8th century BC[n 10]
Laozi Taoism Zhuang Zhou Chinese 369 BC – 286 BC
Saptarishi Vedic religion Rigvedic tribes Indian 16th to 11th century BC
John the Baptist Mandaeism Sabians Arabic 1st to 3rd century AD
Queen of Sheba Haymanot Ezana of Axum Ethiopian 4th century BC

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Controversy over Zoroaster's date has been an embarrassment of long standing to Zoroastrian studies. If anything approaching a consensus exists, it is that he lived ca. 1000 BCE give or take a century or so, though reputable scholars have proposed dates as widely apart as ca. 1750 BCE and '258 years before Alexander.'" (Encyclopædia Iranica)
  2. ^ historicity disputed but widely considered plausible. Gosta W. Ahlstrom argues the inconsistencies of the biblical tradition are insufficient to say that Ezra, with his central position as the 'father of Judaism' in the Jewish tradition, has been a later literary invention. (The History of Ancient Palestine, Fortress Press, p.888)
  3. ^ a b c The teaching of the traditional "founding father" of a "heresy" is may well have differed greatly from the contents of the heresy as generally understood. For references see following notes.
  4. ^ Acc. to Rowan Williams, 'Arianism' was essentially a polemical creation of Athanasius in an attempt to show that the different alternatives to the Nicene Creed collapsed back into some form of Arius' teaching. (Arius, SCM (2001) p.247)
  5. ^ Pelagius' thought was one sided and an inadequate interpretation of Christianity, but his disciples, Celestius and, to a greater extent, Julian of Eclanum pushed his ideas to extremes.(Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines A & C. Black (1965) p.361) Pelagius himself was declared orthodox by the synod of Diospolis in 415, after repudiating some of Celestius' opinions. (Frend, W.H.C. Saints and Sinners in the Early Church DLT (1985) p.133)
  6. ^ Nestorius specifically endorsed the repudiation of "Nestorianism" reached at Chalcedon in 451 (Prestige, G.L. Fathers and Heretics SPCK (1963) p.130)
  7. ^ Monophysitism represents an advanced type of Alexandrian Theology; it emerged in a distinctive form in 433 as a result of the agreement between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. The exaggerated form held by Eutyches was condemned in 451 by the Council of Chalcedon. In its moderate forms the divergence from orthodoxy may be simply terminological. Alexandrian Theology stressed both divine transcendence and a marked dualism between the material and the spiritual and so tended to nullify the humanity of Christ.(Cross & Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1974) arts. Monophysitism, Alexandrian Theology)
  8. ^ Includes the Punjabis, Rajasthanis, and Marathis
  9. ^ The religion of the Israelites of Iron Age I was based on a cult of ancestors and worship of family gods, the "gods of the fathers". With the emergence of the monarchy at the beginning of Iron Age II the kings promoted their family god, YHWH (Yahweh), as the god of the kingdom, but beyond the royal court, religion continued to be both polytheistic and family-centered. As such, this founding group is referred to as "Yahwists" as they were neither truly Israelites nor truly Jews.
  10. ^ Israel emerges into the historical record in the last decades of the 13th century BCE, at the very end of the Late Bronze Age, as the Canaanite city-state system was ending. In the words of archaeologist William Dever, "most of those who came to call themselves Israelites … were or had been indigenous Canaanites". The worship of YHWH (Yahweh) alone began at the earliest with Elijah in the 9th century BCE, but more likely with the prophet Hosea in the 8th; even then it remained the concern of a small party before gaining ascendancy in the exilic and early post-exilic period.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Melton 2003, p. 191.
  2. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 183.
  3. ^ Fisher, Mary Pat (1997). Living Religions: An Encyclopedia of the World's Faiths. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-148-2.  p. 115
  4. ^ "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  5. ^ Bowker, John (2000). "Parsva". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  6. ^ Charpentier, Jarl (1922). "The History of the Jains". The Cambridge History of India. 1. Cambridge. p. 153. 
  7. ^ Upinder Singh 2016, p. 313.
  8. ^ Zimmer 1953, p. 222.
  9. ^ "Mahavira." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2006. Answers.com 28 Nov. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/mahavira
  10. ^ Brueggemann 2002, pp. 75, 144.
  11. ^ Bevan, Edwyn (1 January 1999). Stoics and Sceptics: Four Lectures Delivered in Oxford During Hilary Term 1913 for the Common University Fund. Adegi Graphics LLC. ISBN 978-0-543-98288-9. 
  12. ^ "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2003.
  13. ^ "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003.
  14. ^ Bilolo, M.: La notion de « l’Un » dans les Ennéades de Plotin et dans les Hymnes thébains. Contribution à l’étude des sources égyptiennes du néo-platonisme. In: D. Kessler, R. Schulz (Eds.), "Gedenkschrift für Winfried Barta ḥtp dj n ḥzj" (Münchner Ägyptologische Untersuchungen, Bd. 4), Frankfurt; Berlin; Bern; New York; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang, 1995, pp. 67–91.
  15. ^ , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  16. ^ Daibhi O Croinin, Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200 (2013), p. 206.
  17. ^ Melton 2003, p. 67.
  18. ^ Melton 2003, p. 128.
  19. ^ Melton 2003, p. 69.
  20. ^ Melton 2003, p. 102.
  21. ^ Melton 2003, p. 95.
  22. ^ Melton 2003, p. 73.
  23. ^ Melton 2003, p. 183.
  24. ^ Melton 2003, p. 75.
  25. ^ Melton 2003, p. 724.
  26. ^ Melton 2003, p. 992.
  27. ^ Melton 2003, p. 741.
  28. ^ Melton 2003, p. 621.
  29. ^ Melton 2003, p. 637.
  30. ^ Chryssides 2001, p. 330.
  31. ^ Melton 2003, p. 451.
  32. ^ Smith and Prokopy 2003, p. 279-280.
  33. ^ See:
    • "Discussion of why Juche is classified as a major world religion". Adherents.com. Retrieved 2008-10-25. Its promoters describe Juche as simply a secular, ethical philosophy and not a religion. But, from a sociological viewpoint Juche is clearly a religion ;
    • Baker, Donald L. (2008). Korean Spirituality. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8248-3257-5. ;
    • Temperman, Jeroen (2005). State-Religion Relationships and Human Rights Law: Towards a Right to Religiously Neutral Governance. 8. Leiden: BRILL. p. 145. ISBN 978-90-04-18148-9. .
  34. ^ Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 365.
  35. ^ Melton 2003, p. 1051.
  36. ^ Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 97.
  37. ^ Melton 2003, p. 1004.
  38. ^ Albertz 1994, p. 61.
  39. ^ Grabbe 2008, pp. 225–6.
  40. ^ Killebrew, Ann E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300–1100 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-097-4. 

Bibliography[edit]