…Madoff and Stanford, who came from one of those families that likes to play it big in a small-town church, are for religious people everywhere. Felix Salmon digs up this quote from William Burroughs:
If you’re doing business with a religious son-of-a-bitch,
Get it in writing.
His word isn’t worth shit.
Not with the good lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.
Where is the great atheist fraudster? Well, aren’t Stanford and Madoff more likely to be atheists deep down? God didn’t tell them to screw people over and certainly didn’t tell them to screw over their co-religionists. Once you lose faith in God, religious communities seem like the easiest marks. Mark Hofman would be the best example there. As the Mormon Madoff, he didn’t exploit clubbiness or social ties, he exploited the church’s inevitable anxieties about having a founder who died only a few centuries ago. An authentic document trail could still turn up some horrible surprises, and the church would be wise to buy it and destroy it. Hofmann seems to have been a true believer whose underground chamber of faith collapsed without a noise reaching the surface some time in his teens.
P.S. The Salamander Letter, in which Hofmann concocted an entirely embarrassing and surreal founding myth for the Mormon church, is a minor postmodern masterpiece.
…I latter dream I converse with spirits which let me count their money when I awake I have in my hand a dollar coin which I take for a sign Joseph describes what I seen in every particular says he the spirits are grieved so I through back the dollar in the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible…