There must be a lost parable out there about the gutsy flick that was denied by major motion picture studios yet lived to trounce them at the box office. While The Passion of the Christ surprised the skeptics, collecting more than $600 million in worldwide ticket receipts, there was no shock to find the Mel Gibson project raking it in yesterday in its home video and DVD debut.

Some 2.4 million copies of the movie had been sold domestically by Tuesday afternoon according to Fox (NYSE:FOX), the movie's humbled distributor. Back in March, Selena Maranjian wrote about the growing wave of religious merchandising, singling out that Christian books alone were a $4-billion-a-year market.

It makes sense. While on the surface it may seem that any product that caters to a specific religious denomination -- or even political belief -- may be a polarizing product or at the very least limiting itself to just a segment of the total audience, there is solidarity in every carved slice of that niche pie. Our popular Religion & Culture discussion boards provide forums for a pretty varied lot of beliefs, but if you don't think you're covered, no problem -- we'll open up a new board.

So why is it that studios such as Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), Sony (NYSE:SNE), and Viacom (NYSE:VIA) tend to let smaller independent outfits handle the controversial flicks? No matter where you stand on Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911,Disney's (NYSE:DIS) decision to pass on distributing the film wasn't going to stop it from hitting the theaters. As it turns out, it was Lions Gate (AMEX:LGF) that wound up cashing in on what could have just as easily been Disney's fees to collect.

So even if I may or may not agree with a particular film's subject matter, if I am an investor in a motion picture company -- and I am -- I want to see the studio take the chance if it's in the best interest of growing the bottom line.

These are film studios. If they specialize in acting and make-believe, then I can play a role, too. I can pretend they are actually in this business to make money. What a novel concept!

What do you believe in -- if anything at all? How tolerant are you of others who don't share your same religious beliefs? All this and more in the Religion & Culture discussion boards. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz did see The Passion of the Christ and is likely to rent Fahrenheit 911 when it comes out on DVD. He owns shares in Disney and Viacom.