In a rather strange survey, adherents.com have produced a ranking of major “world” “religions”.
Let’s take a look at the list.
1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
2. Islam: 1.3 billion
OK so far. Let’s carry on.
3. Secular / Nonreligious / Agnostic / Atheist: 1.1 billion
Sorry? “Secular / Nonreligious / Agnostic / Atheist” is a world “religion”? Oh well, I suppose there’s got to be a bucket for the “don’t knows”. Let’s skip to number 10: Juche. So what makes Juche a religion?
From a sociological viewpoint Juche is clearly a religion
explains the website, without further elaboration. The site elsewhere explains what qualifies as a religion for the purposes of the list:
We are using the groupings most described used in contemporary comparative religion literature
And none of the sources linked to mention Juche at all. Nevertheless, the site considers that Juche
in many ways is even more overtly religious than Soviet-era Communism or Chinese Maoism
without explaining what it is that makes Communism a religion. Hmmm.
How about a “world” religion then, or even “world” ideology? No joy there either:
Despite the presence of outreach centers set up by the North Korean government, there do not appear to be any established communities of adherents outside of North Korea.
Er, so it’s not on a list of religions, and it hasn’t got any established communities outside of the DPRK. But it’s still a world religion. Other Korean religions are excluded from the list on shakier grounds than those used to include Juche:
Ch’ondogyo: About 3 million adherents total. Their numbers are almost entirely confined to Korea, however. Apparently a fusion of Christianity and traditional Korean religion. In North Korea, once Ch’ondogyo’s center, where it was, for a time, the country’s second or third largest religion, it has essentially been co-opted by the government and turned into a hollow appendage of Juche.
Wonbulgyo: Another new Korean religion. They claim about 400 branches in Korea, and 30 in North America and Europe. They make some claims to be an emerging world religion, but as they call themselves “Won Buddhism,” we include them within the greater body of Buddhism. Lively, but probably less than 150,000 adherents, making it even smaller than Zoroastrianism.
In order to arrive at the number of Juche’s adherents, the authors simply take the estimated population of the DPRK — 19 million. Which is why it comes out above Judiasm, at number 12 on the list with an estimated 14 million.
So the answer to the question is a combination of dodgy definition and simple arithmetic.