When it comes to describing the end of the world, millions of readers are convinced that the "Left Behind" books contain the gospel truth.
This isn't surprising since these 12 novels -- backed by sequels, movies, video games and comic books -- have sold 70 million copies. For most readers, the page-turners cranked out by writer Jerry Jenkins and preacher Tim LaHaye form a pop-culture catechism that explains some of the Bible's most mysterious passages, said researcher Robert Woods of Spring Arbor University.
But a recent survey of "Left Behind" readers did yield one big surprise. While nearly 69 percent were, as expected, evangelical and mainline Protestants, 8.6 percent of the readers were Catholics and the remaining 22.8 percent said they practiced Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or another world religion. Why did they dig into these books?
"Curiosity was a big reason," said Woods, who teaches communications at the evangelical campus in Michigan. "It also seems that many of them thought that by reading these books they could learn about Christianity. ... So now they think that what the 'Left Behind' books teach is what ordinary Christians believe about the end times."
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