There is no evidence that paying someone will improve your odds :), so it's clearly a fraud. Shouldn't it be illegal?
asked Feb 22 '12 at 21:00
Fraud traditionally (and I think rightly) is thought to have three elements:
(1) a material misrepresentation of fact;
(2) the intent to defraud (i.e., to gain a value from the victim by deceiving them); and
(3) reliance by the victim upon the misrepresentation in deciding to part with her property.
You are correct that it is false that there is a space in Heaven which the seller can sell. However, to have the intent to defraud the person, the seller must know that what he is saying is false--you cannot intend to deceive someone without knowing you are deceiving them. Thus, as Humbug points out in the comments, whether the sale is fraudulent would depend upon whether the seller knows that he is misrepresenting facts.
Implicit in your question seems to be the assertion that representations about things like plots in heaven are inherently fraudulent because they are arbitrary, unlike your run-of-the-mill falsehood that might be based on reasons but simply mistaken reasons. That is, because the heaven plot promises are not (indeed cannot be) based on facts, one cannot help but know that one is lying and innocent mistakes are not possible.
The problem with this line of thinking is that many people really do honestly believe in the arbitrary. They shouldn't do so, but they do. Is their belief justified? No. But justified is not the same as honest. You have honed in on a real distinction--arbitrary claims are indeed different in kind than merely mistaken claims--but the distinction is not relevant to the context of fraud, which is about intentional deceit.
answered Feb 24 '12 at 21:45