Comments on the “Evil People” Lists have often called for a list of great people. I have researched 10 outstandingly good men, many of whom are very famous. I have listed them here. As it was said in The “Top 10 Most Evil Men List”, Evil people are abundant. On the other hand, good is a little harder to find. If you disagree with the list, or have any omissions (of which I’m sure there are many ), please comment. I hope you like this list.
According to the Baha’i religion, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817, a member of one of the great patrician families of Persia. The family could trace its lineage to the ruling dynasties of Persia’s imperial past, and was endowed with wealth and vast estates. Turning His back on the position at court which these advantages offered Him, Baha’u’llah became known for His generosity and kindliness which made Him deeply loved among His countrymen.
This privileged position did not long survive Baha’u’llah’s announcement of support for the message of the Báb. Engulfed in the waves of violence unleashed upon the Bábis after the Báb’s execution Baha’u’llah suffered not only the loss of all His worldly endowments but was subjected to imprisonment, torture and a series of banishments. The first was to Baghdad, where, in 1863, He announced Himself as the One promised by the Báb. From Baghdad, Baha’u’llah was sent to Constantinople, to Adrianople and finally to Acre, in the Holy Land, where He arrived as a prisoner, in 1868.
From Adrianople and later from Acre, Baha’u’llah addressed a series of letters to the rulers of His day that are among the most remarkable documents in religious history. They proclaimed the coming unification of humanity, and the emergence of a world civilization. The kings, emperors and presidents of the nineteenth century were called upon to reconcile their differences, curtail their armaments, and devote their energies to the establishment of universal peace.
Baha’u’llah passed away at Bahji, just north of Acre, and is buried there. His teachings had already begun to spread beyond the confines of the Middle East, and His Shrine is today the focal point of the world community which these teachings have brought into being.
Benjamin Franklin, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706, may, by his life alone, be the most profound statement of what an American strives to be. He attended grammar school at age eight, but was put to work at ten. He apprenticed as a printer to his brother James, who printed the New England Courant, at age twelve, and published his first article there, anonymously, in 1721. Young Benjamin was an avid reader, inquisitive and skeptical. Through his satirical articles, he poked fun at the people of Boston and soon wore out his welcome, both with his brother and with the city. He ran away to New York and then on to Philadelphia at the age of 16, looking for work as a printer. He managed a commission to Europe for the purpose of buying supplies to establish a new printing house in Philadelphia, but found himself abandoned when he stepped off ship. Through hard work and frugality he bought his fare back to Philadelphia in 1732, and set up shop as a printer. He was appointed clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1736, and as Postmaster the following year. In 1741, he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac, a very popular and influential magazine. He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751, and served as an agent for Pennsylvania (and ultimately for three other colonies) to England, France and several other European powers.
He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775, where he played a crucial role in the rebellion against Gr. Britain, including service to Jefferson, in editing the Declaration of Independence. Franklin, who was by this time independently wealthy and retired from publishing, continued to serve an important role in government, both local and national. He was the United States first Postmaster General, Minister to the French Court, Treaty agent and signer to the peace with Gr. Britain, Celebrated Member of the Constitutional convention (See Work, above). Benjamin Franklin: Businessman, Writer, Publisher, Scientist, Diplomat, Legislator and Social activist was one of the earliest and strongest advocates for the abolition of Slavery, and for the protection of the rights of American aboriginal peoples. He died on the 17th of April, 1790. On that day he was still one of the most celebrated characters in America.
Known as the founder of the Socratic method of questioning, Socrates was a famed social and judicial philosopher. Through his dialogues, his masterful arguments, and his logical method of countering his opponents verbally, he earned a reputation through every household, university and government office in Greece. Born to a sculptor and masonry worker in Athens, he followed his father’s chosen career path successfully for several years before devoting himself to the betterment of his own intellectual being. He had interest in the great philosophers of the day, including Plato and Xenophon. After their meeting, Plato continued writing using Socrates’ voice as the narrator of his works, which showed that logic and sound argument could disarm any opponent.
Socrates claimed to hear voices that told him about his own moral behavior, and would warn him if he were to not meet his own high standards of divine truth and justice. He also concluded that Greece’s wisest persons were not as wise as he, because Socrates claimed he saw his own ignorance. One who realizes he is ignorant will become the wisest of all.
Many Athenians in Greece thought that Socrates was polluting the minds of the city’s youth. They accused him of putting ideas into their heads, counter to the goals of the Athenian government. An argument, recorded in Apology, gives a prime example of Socrates’ argumentative process, where he shows that since the government has not thought about the city’s youth, they cannot be imprisoned for their corruption. This style of questioning begins with regular questioning and carries on until logic reaches a definite point and conclusion. His fame, life, philosophy and logic won him much praise, and is still considered the foundation of the philosophies that spread after him.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, at his family home in Atlanta, Georgia. King was an eloquent Baptist minister and leader of the civil-rights movement in America, from the Mid-1950s until his death, by assassination, in 1968. King promoted non-violent means to achieve civil-rights reform and was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
King’s grandfather was a Baptist preacher. His father was pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. King earned his own Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozier Theological Seminary in 1951, and earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Boston University, in 1955.
While at seminary, King became acquainted with Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent social protest. On a trip to India in 1959, King met with followers of Gandhi. During these discussions he became more convinced than ever that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
As a pastor of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, King lead a Black bus boycott. He and ninety others were arrested and indicted under the provisions of a law making it illegal to conspire to obstruct the operation of a business. King and several others were found guilty, but appealed their case. As the bus boycott dragged on, King was gaining a national reputation. The ultimate success of the Montgomery bus boycott made King a national hero.
Dr. King’s 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail inspired a growing national civil rights movement. In Birmingham, the goal was to completely end the system of segregation in every aspect of public life (stores, no separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, etc.) and in job discrimination. Also in 1963, King led a massive march on Washington DC, where he delivered his now famous, “I Have A Dream” speech. King’s tactics of active nonviolence (sit-ins, protest marches) had put civil-rights squarely on the national agenda.
On April 4, 1968, King was shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was only 39 at the time of his death. Dr. King was turning his attention to a nationwide campaign to help the poor at the time of his assassination.
According to his homepage, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July, 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, and northeastern Tibet. At the age of two the child, who was named Lhamo Dhondup at that time, was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.
Nelson Mandela was born in a small South African village, to a local chief and his third wife. He was the first person in his family to receive a western education, and was inspired to study law after witnessing the democracy of African tribal governance at an early age. Mandela became a sought after lawyer in Johannesburg, defending black South Africans against the government’s increasingly unfair treatment, and a key figure of the African National Congress, a political party that sought to unite all Africans and regain their rights and freedom. He participated in boycotts, organized protests, mobilized his people and, in turn, was labeled an enemy of the state: accused of treason, banned from political involvement, disbarred and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela’s incarceration brought international attention to the racial injustices of South Africa’s apartheid government, sparking the rally cry “Free Nelson Mandela” worldwide.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, before his release in 1990, at the age of 72. He was elected the first black President of South Africa, in 1994. Although he retired from political life in 1999, Mandela continues to lend his voice towards issues that affect his country and the world at large, such as the AIDS epidemic, poverty and human rights. He was also instrumental in securing South Africa as the host of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s greatest, and most admired political leaders. He has been honored with numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, for he is a shining example of the incredible strength of the human spirit to persevere, in the face of adversity, for the pursuit of freedom.
Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, Kathiawar, West India. He studied law in London, but in 1893 went to South Africa, where he spent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation against Indians. As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became one of the major political and spiritual leaders of his time. Satyagraha remains one of the most potent philosophies in freedom struggles throughout the world today.
In 1914, Gandhi returned to India, where he supported the Home Rule movement, and became leader of the Indian National Congress, advocating a policy of non-violent non-co-operation to achieve independence. His goal was to help poor farmers and laborers protest oppressive taxation and discrimination. He struggled to alleviate poverty, liberate women and put an end to caste discrimination, with the ultimate objective being self-rule for India.
Following his civil disobedience campaign (1919-22), he was jailed for conspiracy (1922-4). In 1930, he led a landmark 320 km/200 mi march to the sea to collect salt in symbolic defiance of the government monopoly. On his release from prison (1931), he attended the London Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform. In 1946, he negotiated with the Cabinet Mission, which recommended the new constitutional structure. After independence (1947), he tried to stop the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Bengal, a policy which led to his assassination in Delhi, by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic.
Even after his death, Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence and his belief in simple living: making his own clothes, eating a vegetarian diet, and using fasts for self-purification as well as a means of protest— has been a beacon of hope for oppressed and marginalized people throughout the world.
In about the sixth century B.C., Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family. When he was a young adult his experiences with the outside world drove him to seek out a greater understanding of life and spiritual fulfillment. Through seeking guidance and meditation, Siddhartha was said to have achieved Enlightenment. From that point, he was known as the Buddha, which means ‘Enlightened One’. For the rest of his life, the Buddha traveled great distances, teaching people about one path to salvation. After the Buddha’s death, his pupils continued to spread his teachings. Buddhism developed at a time when Hinduism, the most widespread religion in India, had become tightly controlled by priests and the upper classes. Buddhism offered hope and access to spiritual understanding and satisfaction to ordinary people. Throughout the world today, people still follow the teachings of the Buddha.
Master Kong Qiu, as his name translates from Chinese, lived from 551 to 479 BC, and remains the most important single philosopher in Eastern history. He espoused significant principles of ethics and politics, in a time when the Greeks were espousing the same things. We think of democracy as a Greek invention, a Western idea, but Confucius wrote in his Analects that “the best government is one that rules through ‘rites’ and the people’s natural morality, rather than by using bribery and coercion. This may sound obvious to us today, but he wrote it in the early 500s to late 400s BC. It is the same principle of democracy that the Greeks argued for and developed: the people’s morality is in charge; therefore, rule by the people.
Confucius defended the idea of an Emperor, but also advocated limitations to the emperor’s power. The emperor must be honest, and his subjects must respect him, but he must also deserve that respect. If he makes a mistake, his subjects must offer suggestions to correct him, and he must consider them. Any ruler who acted contrary to these principles was a tyrant, and thus a thief more than a ruler.
Confucius also devised his own independent version of the Golden Rule, which had existed for at least a century in Greece before him. His phrasing was almost identical, but then furthered the idea: “What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others.” The first statement is in the negative, and constitutes a passive desire not to harm others. The second statement is much more important, constituting an active desire to help others. The only other philosopher of antiquity to advocate the Golden Rule in the positive form is Jesus Christ.
I have ranked Jesus Christ as number one because His impact is far more reaching than any of the other members of this list – with more adherents in the world, by a mile, than any other religious group. Jesus of Nazareth is the founding figure of Christianity, and Christianity is the religion that shaped Europe and much of the world, as a consequence. As the largest religion in the world, there is no doubt that Christianity is still making an impact to this day. The principal sources of information regarding Jesus’ life and teachings are the four canonical gospels. Most critical scholars in the fields of history and biblical studies believe that ancient texts on Jesus’ life are, at least partially, accurate, agreeing that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer. They also generally accept that He was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on orders of the Roman Prefect of Judaea Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire. Interestingly, the most peaceful man on this list also said: “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.” [St Matthew 10:34]