Pope Francis has been America’s darling for more than a year now.
Most American Catholics (68 percent) approve of the pope, according to CBS News. And he’s even reached the hearts of an Argentinean soccer team that wants to name its new stadium after him, BBC News reported.
Similarly, the Dalai Lama has been in the news, saying in not so many words that he thinks he should be the last Dalai Lama, and that the Buddhist religion should change once he’s gone, The Wall Street Journal reported.
But these are just two religious leaders of the more than 4,000 religions that make up the world’s spiritual environment. With that, here’s a look at some of the religious leaders you may not know about.
Peter Morales -- Unitarian Universalism
Morales’ term as president began in 2010, and since then he has made waves for the Unitarian Universal Association church, especially since he is the first Latino president of the UUA, according to the church’s website.
The UUA has a heavy focus on morality and doing what you feel is right, according to its beliefs and practices page. A big portion of what the church does is related to its seven Principles, which promote justice, peace and love.
David Miscavige -- Church of Scientology
Serving as the chairman of the board of the religious technology center and leader of the Scientology religion, Miscavige has grown the religion to more than 11,000 churches, missions and groups across the world, the religion’s website explained. The church has about 10 million members, though that has been debated in recent years.
Leith Anderson -- Protestantism
A leader of the Protestant religions is Leith Anderson, who heads the National Association of Evangelicals. According to his biography on the NAE website, he served as a pastor at a church in Minnesota. Today, not only does he head the NAE, but he also teaches religious classes to different seminaries across the country.
Walid Jumblatt -- Druze
As Deseret News National reported in August, Druze is an offshoot religion of Shiite Islam, which has been around since the 11th century. And it’s Walid Jumblatt who leads the religion that serves between 700,000 and 2 million members worldwide, according to the NNDB, which hosts profiles of prominent members of society. Jumblatt has a reputation of being a playboy, the NNDB reported.
Eric Yoffie -- Judaism
Yoffie, a religious writer and scholar, is the head of the more prominent organized Jewish collectives. As president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Yoffie spends the bulk of his time writing about American Jewish life and how the religion is impacting people in today’s society, according to Yoffie’s main website.
Li Hongzhi -- Falun Gong
Hongzhi is more than just the leader of the Falun Gong religion -- which promotes many of Buddha’s teachings -- but he’s also the founder, according to Falun Gong’s main website. His religion promotes truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, among other principles, and uses the stars and skies above for guidance.
Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana -- Thai Buddhism
Suvaddhana was the head of the Thai sector of Buddhism until last year, when he passed away a month after turning 100, according to The Huffington Post. A new leader has yet to be selected to take up his mantle, HuffPost noted. Suvaddhana was good friends with the Dalai Lama, and promoted similar beliefs, according to HuffPost.
Universal House of Justice -- Bahai
The Bahai faith has a collective of leaders at the head of its religion, including Firaydoun Javaheri, Paul Lample, Payman Mohajer, Gustavo Correa, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Birkland, Stephen Hall, Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani. These leaders promote a faith that looks to unite all religions and believers, saying that humanity itself is a singular item and that everyone should be working together to promote God and faith, according to the religion’s website.
The Jedi Council -- Jediism
Yes, this is a thing.
Followers of Jediism believe in The Force, something that binds us all together and has control of the fates. And leading them is the Temple of the Jedi Council, which is very similar to the group of fictional leaders in the Star Wars movies and books that led the Jedi practice.
Though there isn’t one central leader of the religion, some powerful ones have emerged, like the Rev. Michael ‘Akkarin’ Kitchen of the Temple of the Jedi order, who was one of the leaders who pushed for those preaching Jediism to be allowed to marry, according to politics.co.uk.
Bonus: Sam Harris -- Atheism
Though this is an unofficial leader, it’s an important one nonetheless. Atheists have had trouble in the past finding someone to lead their cause, but Sam Harris may be the one to do so, according to an article by Quartz. Part of this comes from his new book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion,” which has placed him high up in the hearts of many Godless believers.
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