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Apocalyptic – and atop the bestseller lists

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While Billy Graham has been more influential in the broad evangelical community, LaHaye's prolific nonfiction writings have molded the fundamentalist, conservative, politically active wing.

"He's had a very great influence in shaping the worldview of other leaders," says Paul Boyer, visiting professor of history at the College of William and Mary. "He's basically provided an agenda for conservatives on a range of issues – from abortion and pornography to creationism, prayer in the schools, and public education as a hotbed of secularism and liberalism."

The energetic septuagenarian – who still enjoys waterskiing and dirt biking – has been on the go ever since he heard the call to ministry at age 15. He pastored a flourishing church in San Diego, and in 1965 started a Christian school that grew into a school system and a college. He's formed research centers on prophecy and creationism. He and his wife, Beverly – founder of the influential Concerned Women for America – have jetted around the world giving seminars.

Yet he calls his 50 books his most important contribution: "The most powerful vehicle to the human mind is the printed page."

LaHaye's writings range from self-help books on marriage and sexuality to biblical prophecy, to analyses defining a struggle between Christianity and "secular humanism." One book is an anti-gay tract. A new nonfiction work will come out next month - "The Merciful God of Prophecy" – aiming to persuade readers that the End Times are near, that the Bible must be interpreted literally, and that the difficult times ahead are part of God's loving plan to bring all to Him.

He first proclaimed his political views in 1980 in "The Battle for the Mind." This book details his thesis that US institutions, from the media to government to public education, have been taken over by an elite of secular humanists. The UN, he says, is the base from which they hope to create a one-world socialist government. LaHaye calls humanism "the most serious threat to our nation in its entire history."

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