By Kerry Sanders Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/30/2004 7:14:53 PM ET 2004-03-31T00:14:53

More popular than Harry Potter in some parts of America, “Glorious Appearing” is a work of fiction, based on Scriptures in the bible.

One reader said, “They’ve taken things in the Bible that some people have a hard time sitting down and reading and made it real.”

This book, the final in a series of 12, was once considered part of a niche market.  But now, with more than 40 million sold, Tuesday the books went on sale at that most mainstream of stores, Wal-Mart.

And it’s not just this religious series that has gone mainstream.

The “Passion of the Christ” has now taken in $315 million and is already the 13th largest-grossing movie of all time.

Why these commercial successes now?  Tim LaHaye co-authored “Glorious Appearing”: “I think there’s a religious awakening in our country.”

But, from yellow pages with just Christian vendors, to gyms where members pump iron with God’s word as inspiration — in a country where at least 40 percent of Americans claim they read the Bible at least once a day — religion sells.

“There are millions of Christians who appreciate this type of materials.  But also modern marketing has gotten a hold of these groups and found ways to put these materials in front of people much more efficiently,” said professor John Green of the University of Akron.

It is an audience politicians feel they can speak to as President George W. Bush did last year: “I ask God for strength and guidance. I ask God to help me be a better person.”

And presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did just days ago, “The Scriptures say, ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?’”

And now, there’s religion food for the soul, literally.  The “Maker’s Diet” is No. 1 on some best-seller lists.  It’s a recipe book guiding readers to eat just as Jesus did.

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