Exposing pious frauds and lies

Brady Phelps

Brady Phelps

As a result of my last column (“Jesus Christ holds a press conference,” March 11, 2003), I was called a lunatic, damned to hell and accused of having been “blinded by Satan,” among other things.

One of the more disturbing things that happened was a visit from a student who presented “facts” to me showing that since evolution had become widely taught in American schools in 1957, teenage pregnancies had skyrocketed and divorce rates had multiplied.

In general, evolution was responsible for the corruption of American society. Virtually everything wrong with America today was the result of the teaching of evolution!

I shook his hand, thanked him and closed my door. If I hadn’t been speechless by these specious “facts,” I would have had any number of counter arguments to make.

Since 1957 was the year of the dawn of the space age, I could argue the activities of humans in space were responsible for his so called facts. That argument would have made just as little sense as his.

When facts are manufactured and twisted to promote a religious cause, they are called “pious frauds.” A fraud is a fraud even when perpetrated to promote a “worthy cause.” When you hear of statues of Mary that weep human tears or icons of a dying Christ that bleed real blood, your b.s. detectors should start going off.

It is funny that alleged weeping statues have been found to be weeping a mixture of water and olive oil or that bleeding icons have been found to have a reservoir of blood placed inside them by very human hands.

The ironic part of these frauds is that they are so widely believed. If humans are in need of signs to prove that faith is justified, why would a supreme being create such odd signs? Wouldn’t a sign that was lucid and more straightforward be sent?

Other pious frauds are cases of alleged stigmata, where an afflicted person shows “the signs” of having been crucified, namely specific wounds on the palms and backs of the hands.

However, Roman crucifixions did not involve nails through the palms and no stigmatic has ever been observed to develop the signs while being observed.

Since the signs are only observed after having appeared, a simpler explanation is that the person has behaviors consistent with either Munchausen’s Syndrome, in which such persons will repeatedly injure themselves, or that the person’s actions are consistent with Conversion Disorder, where physical symptoms are present with no apparent physical basis.

You might say these people had good intentions, but a fraud is still a fraud and a lie is still a lie.

Dr. Brady Phelps is a professor of psychology. Write to him at [email protected].