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Religious Fraud

FROM JOSEPH SMITH, who founded Mormonism after a revelation that still brings charges of a hoax to L. Ron Hubbard and the lawsuit-prone Scientologists, religion and fraud have been inextricably mixed, either as fact or in the perception of non-believers and skeptics. As religion has become more lucrative and media coverage has expanded, the frauds have as well. The particular type of fraud, the huckstering televangelist, peaked in the 1980s. But other sorts of fraud persist. Fraud against the religious can take the form of affinity fraud. And virtually every religion has those who claim that its origins are fraudulent. Further, there are frauds outside organized religion, in the New Age movement, and elsewhere. Finally, frauds arise from true belief: pious fraud.

The 19th century was ...

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