Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

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moksha
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Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by moksha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:25 pm

How does pious fraud work? Does one commit fraud to further piety or does one pretend to be pious in order to commit fraud?
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
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Thoughtful
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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by Thoughtful » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:40 pm

moksha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:25 pm
How does pious fraud work? Does one commit fraud to further piety or does one pretend to be pious in order to commit fraud?
People act in their own self interest. Almost without exception.

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Corsair
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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by Corsair » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:52 pm

I read Richard Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling" a few years ago and found it quite compelling. There is no doubt that Brother Bushman is a believer and continues to faithfully work as a Stake Patriarch. This is not a calling for wimpy liberal believers. Brother Bushman believes in the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith and managed to balance his narrative with enough academic explanation of Joseph's life to satisfy any historian.

I have my own disagreement and pointed questions about "Rough Stone Rolling". And I came away from it believing that Joseph Smith was smart enough to fool himself. It seems that Joseph believed his own stories and felt confident in whatever inspiration he kept putting out. He was a religious genius, and capable people manager, and a compelling speaker and story teller. This just means that he was good at his job, whether divine or self-appointed. In the end I believe that Joseph was a pious fraud who had converted himself.

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EternityIsNow
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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by EternityIsNow » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:54 am

I think this can be a vicious circle where the perpetrator actually becomes the victim. In essence, the victim of their own crime. Similar to what Corsair wrote.

Think of it as an iterative process.

A young enterprising fraudster decides to target religious marks. Thinking they will be easy pickings. So the fraudster learns how to act pious. Funny thing about acting though, over time the brain starts to believe we are what we are acting to be. Gradually the fraudster develops a conscience as he or she internalizes the religion.

Next we have the shifting of gears as the fraudster realizes what they are doing is wrong in any rational ethical worldview. Now they must justify what they have been doing. They start evaluating what they have learned and decide that salvation is all important. So important that God must have inspired them to commit the fraud. An easy conclusion for a narcissistic fraudster personality.

Now the motivation shifts to salvation at all costs. This opens the door to new and effective forms of pious fraud to further the cause. Which allows the fraudster to use their original skill set, and this makes them feel very accomplished.

Once they taste the easy rewards from fraud again, they to seek out new ways to use piety to defraud their parishioners. But they develop a conscience again and so the cycle continues.

As new owners take over the original fraud they repeat the cycle, but this time starting with piety and then learning fraud techniques. On and on the cycle goes as the original fraud becomes a perpetual cycle between being piety driven then fraud driven and so on.

Meanwhile a large hoard of gold is collected in the pious fraud's lair. The pious fraud cycle payoff. Real religions do not hoard their gold. But pious frauds can be identified by this trait.

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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by Hagoth » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:05 am

I think you have to go back to the very beginning. Was young Joseph deliberately conning people when they paid him to find treasure or did he believe the seer stone was actually revealing unseen things to him? I'm not sure there is any way to know, but I think there is good reason to believe that the Smith family really believed in the magic and hoped to actually find treasure. Lucy Mack Smith never denied their occult pursuits when the rest of the church tried to distance themselves from it. In her book she talks frankly about her family's progression from casual to intensive magical activities: “we stopt our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kind of business.” If you think of the Moroni visit as the summoning of a treasure-guardian spirit you can draw a line from the occult treasure seeking to the later "Christianized" version of their experiences.

I think it's a weird mixed bag. Did Joseph know his bank was a fraud? How could he not? Did he realize he was changing the words of God to suit his own needs when he changed the language of the Book of Commandments revelations? How could he not?

The big question is whether Joseph believed in the Book of Mormon story at all. He knew he wasn't actually translating gold plates, but did he believe there really were gold plates somewhere and he was channeling their contents via the stone? Joseph had more than six years to put the BoM together, from the Moroni/Nephi/treasure ghost visitation to publication. Was he intentionally concocting the story during that time or were all of the ingredients brewing in his head to be finally spilled out of his subconscious mind via the stone in the hat in a process that seemed miraculous even to Joseph?

I think we can conclude that Joseph was intentionally fooling people in some instances. He tricked them into believing he actually had gold plates and interpreters. Did he think somehow think it was good to give people faith in such things, even if they weren't literally true?

What we can never prove or disprove is whether Joseph believed he had really talked to supernatural beings in the grove and in his bedroom and whether he had convinced himself that God was really somehow behind his shenanigans. If he actually believed that he might have felt like he could take all kinds of liberties to get the message across, and if they served his personal needs, all the better.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by alas » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:06 am

Hagoth wrote:
Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:05 am
I think you have to go back to the very beginning. Was young Joseph deliberately conning people when they paid him to find treasure or did he believe the seer stone was actually revealing unseen things to him? I'm not sure there is any way to know, but I think there is good reason to believe that the Smith family really believed in the magic and hoped to actually find treasure. Lucy Mack Smith never denied their occult pursuits when the rest of the church tried to distance themselves from it. In her book she talks frankly about her family's progression from casual to intensive magical activities: “we stopt our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kind of business.” If you think of the Moroni visit as the summoning of a treasure-guardian spirit you can draw a line from the occult treasure seeking to the later "Christianized" version of their experiences.

I think it's a weird mixed bag. Did Joseph know his bank was a fraud? How could he not? Did he realize he was changing the words of God to suit his own needs when he changed the language of the Book of Commandments revelations? How could he not?

The big question is whether Joseph believed in the Book of Mormon story at all. He knew he wasn't actually translating gold plates, but did he believe there really were gold plates somewhere and he was channeling their contents via the stone? Joseph had more than six years to put the BoM together, from the Moroni/Nephi/treasure ghost visitation to publication. Was he intentionally concocting the story during that time or were all of the ingredients brewing in his head to be finally spilled out of his subconscious mind via the stone in the hat in a process that seemed miraculous even to Joseph?

I think we can conclude that Joseph was intentionally fooling people in some instances. He tricked them into believing he actually had gold plates and interpreters. Did he think somehow think it was good to give people faith in such things, even if they weren't literally true?

What we can never prove or disprove is whether Joseph believed he had really talked to supernatural beings in the grove and in his bedroom and whether he had convinced himself that God was really somehow behind his shenanigans. If he actually believed that he might have felt like he could take all kinds of liberties to get the message across, and if they served his personal needs, all the better.
I think the theory has been described by Corsair and Hagoth, so my question is how well does Joseph fit that description? We know that Joseph made fake plates out of tin to try to fool people who “felt them through the cloth” as Emma did. Pious frauds do not know they are frauds, so they do not purposely fake physical props. Strike one. But he COULD have made the prop because it was so important that others, especially Emma believe him. But he could have started out a plain old con man and turned into a pious fraud when he started believing his smuck. But, but, but...So, do we have evidence from toward the end of his life that he believed his smuck? He didn’t preach from the BoM. He didn’t follow his own rules for polygamy, but basically conned the women he got the hots for. If he really believed that God was inspiring the long passages from the BoM, BoA, & D & C, then that method would ha e to be consistent. But at one point, he had Emma write the blessing she wanted and he just signed it to make it “from God” so his method was not consistent as if he believed it, but whatever was convient for the moment. So, I don’t see evidence that he really believed his smuck. Strike two for the theory. Now if you buy into the Splading theory, that would be strike three because a pious fraud would not knowingly copy a previous book, but get the book from it “flowing into his head as inspiration”. But the Spaulding theory has evidence but is still questionable. Too many things that we can’t really explain. So, I won’t call the Spaulding theory strike three, but maybe it is enough to throw out the pious fraud theory???

Somebody come up with a more firm strike three.

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Red Ryder
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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by Red Ryder » Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:56 am

Would anyone consider David Koresh, Warren Jeffs, or Brian David Mitchell pious frauds?

Delusional religious sociopaths might be a better label in my opinion. So why should Joseph Smith get the benefit of the pious fraud idea?
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alas
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Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

Post by alas » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:40 pm

    Red Ryder wrote:
    Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:56 am
    Would anyone consider David Koresh, Warren Jeffs, or Brian David Mitchell pious frauds?

    Delusional religious sociopaths might be a better label in my opinion. So why should Joseph Smith get the benefit of the pious fraud idea?
    Actually, I would put them as pious frauds BEFORE I would JS. They all seemed to believe their smuck. I see too much evidence that Joseph did not believe himself, but was consciously conning people. Brian David Mitchell you could call certifiably mentally ill, but he did seen to believe his delusions. Warren Jeffs is more like our...their (as in the Mormon believers) prophet and seems to believe that God actually speaks to him/them. David Korean also seemed to believe that God spoke to him. Killing or kidnapping people, raping little girls does not mean they do not believe God speaks to them. In fact, I see as evidence that they do think they are chosen by God for special treatment and goodies or girls.

    Scum yes, but pious scum.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by Corsair » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:07 pm

    Red Ryder wrote:
    Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:56 am
    Would anyone consider David Koresh, Warren Jeffs, or Brian David Mitchell pious frauds?

    Delusional religious sociopaths might be a better label in my opinion. So why should Joseph Smith get the benefit of the pious fraud idea?
    Koresh, Jeffs, and MItchell are good examples. What about Ellen White (prophet of Seventh Day Adventists), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist), or Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses)? What about Joseph Smith III, founder of the the RLDS in 1860? Surely it can't be that all of them were divinely called by God. How about Mohammed? How about any of the early Christian church fathers after the first century? How about men called specifically as bishops in the second century like Irenaus? How abut champions of the Christ faith like Justin Martyr, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine and a long list of others after the Great Apostasy allegedly began? Were these men and women fooling themselves or others with their truth claims?

    Each of these men and women have their legitimate place in religious history. Why is Joseph Smith different than any of them? Many of these men gave their lives for their beliefs. Some of them produced scripture or at least writings that are revered by different denominations. Many have followings that are larger than Mormonism. Can we be generous and grant them all equal status of "doing the best they could with the divinity they had?" Why would Joseph Smith be any better?

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by alas » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:01 pm

    Corsair wrote:
    Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:07 pm
    Red Ryder wrote:
    Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:56 am
    Would anyone consider David Koresh, Warren Jeffs, or Brian David Mitchell pious frauds?

    Delusional religious sociopaths might be a better label in my opinion. So why should Joseph Smith get the benefit of the pious fraud idea?
    Koresh, Jeffs, and MItchell are good examples. What about Ellen White (prophet of Seventh Day Adventists), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist), or Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses)? What about Joseph Smith III, founder of the the RLDS in 1860? Surely it can't be that all of them were divinely called by God. How about Mohammed? How about any of the early Christian church fathers after the first century? How about men called specifically as bishops in the second century like Irenaus? How abut champions of the Christ faith like Justin Martyr, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine and a long list of others after the Great Apostasy allegedly began? Were these men and women fooling themselves or others with their truth claims?

    Each of these men and women have their legitimate place in religious history. Why is Joseph Smith different than any of them? Many of these men gave their lives for their beliefs. Some of them produced scripture or at least writings that are revered by different denominations. Many have followings that are larger than Mormonism. Can we be generous and grant them all equal status of "doing the best they could with the divinity they had?" Why would Joseph Smith be any better?
    There is a difference between someone who is religious and someone who is a pious fraud. Or someone who is pious and someone who is pious and cons people. Jim Baker was a pious fraud. Jim Jones was a pious fraud. See, the “what are they really in it for?” question is important. If the underlying motive is the almighty dollar rather than the almighty God, then they are a fraud using religion for secondary gain. They use religion for money, power, sex, affection, adoration, something other than religion. Show me what Justin Martyr, Origen, Athanasius, or many other religious people got out of religion that was for their own aggrandizement. Did they seek donations for a jet? Did they use religion to abuse children? Did they use religion to get a following? Sure, they may have a following, but if that was not their motivation, then they were religious, not pious frauds. Are they practicing religion, or using religion? Joseph Smith used religion for money, for sex, for control of others, for adoration. So, his use of religion for something besides religion makes him a fraud. If he was purposely conning people he was a fraud. If he was using what he believed to con people, that makes him a pious fraud.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by Corsair » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:59 pm

    alas wrote:
    Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:01 pm
    Show me what Justin Martyr, Origen, Athanasius, or many other religious people got out of religion that was for their own aggrandizement. Did they seek donations for a jet? Did they use religion to abuse children? Did they use religion to get a following? Sure, they may have a following, but if that was not their motivation, then they were religious, not pious frauds. Are they practicing religion, or using religion? Joseph Smith used religion for money, for sex, for control of others, for adoration. So, his use of religion for something besides religion makes him a fraud. If he was purposely conning people he was a fraud. If he was using what he believed to con people, that makes him a pious fraud.
    I'm in agreement with you. I have tons of respect for early Christian leaders and I mentioned these guys since they would have lived after the Great Apostasy had started so should not have had the priesthood. Only Mormons would discount Irenaus, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Athanasius. Only Mormons would think they were somehow misguided.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by moksha » Mon Jun 18, 2018 11:25 pm

    Questions of motives are more or less guess work when applied to historical individuals. Historian Chris Smith provides a slightly different motive to the Pious Fraud hypothesis of Dan Vogel in a presentation they were part of at the Sunstone Symposium.

    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-con ... th2015.mp3
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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by blazerb » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:47 am

    Thoughtful wrote:
    Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:40 pm
    People act in their own self interest. Almost without exception.
    But we are very good at convincing ourselves of our inherent righteousness.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by Corsair » Tue Jun 19, 2018 10:22 am

    blazerb wrote:
    Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:47 am
    But we are very good at convincing ourselves of our inherent righteousness.
    The institutional church is also very good at convincing us of the church's inherent righteousness. This is the problem.

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    MalcolmVillager
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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by MalcolmVillager » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:51 pm

    I am listening to the "Last Podcast on the Left" of scientology. I have watched the Leah Remini series, Going Clear, and a few other things but didn't really know a ton of LRH. This has been fascinating. They read a bunch of his journal entries and early stuff. I think there is a psychosis that is diagnosable. The evil intent isn't there because he isn't normal. He believes his own BS. So he is a fraud, but believes it all.

    I wonder about JS and others. Seeing Angel's, hearing voices, delusions of grandeur, etc....

    It makes you think.

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    EternityIsNow
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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by EternityIsNow » Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:11 pm

    MalcolmVillager wrote:
    Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:51 pm
    I am listening to the "Last Podcast on the Left" of scientology. I have watched the Leah Remini series, Going Clear, and a few other things but didn't really know a ton of LRH. This has been fascinating. They read a bunch of his journal entries and early stuff. I think there is a psychosis that is diagnosable. The evil intent isn't there because he isn't normal. He believes his own BS. So he is a fraud, but believes it all.

    I wonder about JS and others. Seeing Angel's, hearing voices, delusions of grandeur, etc....

    It makes you think.
    Sounds like someone with an agenda to create a Hubbard myth. I've heard from an insider who worked directly with Hubbard that L. Ron was the complete package of fraud. Totally knew he was making it all up. He did act like he believed his technology legitimately could displace the field of psychiatry. But. He used to sit around in his yacht and brainstorm with his top lieutenants how they could extract more money from the members. My friend said that every idea they came up with was specifically designed to produce more revenue. It was always about money. I heard this firsthand from him. And my friend said Hubbard was a very skilled scam artist in everything he did with Scientology. My friend was a top Scientologist for a long time, including while Hubbard was living on his boat in the Mediterranean to avoid government investigation. My friend eventually realized the whole thing was a big scam. And left. Nothing Pious about the scam of Scientology. At least not in the early days.

    Every time the discussion comes up about Joseph Smith and was this a pious fraud I can't help remembering what my friend learned about L Ron Hubbard. And think, for Joseph it could've just all been a great big scam from start to finish. With a few periods where he believed maybe he was doing some good, a cycle like I wrote above. But mostly a fraud. That is how these types of people roll. But the many early supporters of Joseph Smith, for those who did not have all of the inside information, it may have been a more pious kind of fraud. And church leaders today who realize they are selling a warped version of history, for them it may still be somewhat of a pious fraud. Or perhaps a pious self-delusion.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by Cadahangel » Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:28 am

    Really the thing that JS was good at was being able to use persecution to grow membership he used the logical fallacy. Prophets are prosecuted. I am persecuted therefore I am a prophet. The Mob did us no favors by making him a martyr because then BY used that same fallacy now with a martyr to grow the group.

    So JS would do crazy things because more opposition meant more growth.

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    Re: Question about the Pious Fraud Idea

    Post by Corsair » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:32 am

    EternityIsNow wrote:
    Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:11 pm
    And church leaders today who realize they are selling a warped version of history, for them it may still be somewhat of a pious fraud. Or perhaps a pious self-delusion.
    I like the term "pious self-delusion". It's not quite as accusatory as "pious fraud". I can't imagine that a believer would be happy with "pious self-delusion", but this is the best framing of how believers in Religion A feel about the believers in Religion B. Many Mormons thought that Pope John Paul II was a nice guy following Jesus as piously as he can while still being deluded if he thinks that he is getting into the Celestial Kingdom without some proxy baptism performed by a bored teenager from Panguitch, Utah. Of course, the Catholics feel similarly about the Mormons as well as all of the other Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Pastafarians.

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