These are really interesting ideas. I think that a very religious person who became an atheist would have the knowledge. There is also that class of atheist who doesn't trust the masses to behave well if everyone learns the truth. Atheism is a secret for the 'elect' while religion is used to control the underclasses (and women!).
Solomon Spalding's hero appears to have been Tom Paine. There are traces of Paine's
thought in both the Roman story and in the Book of Mormon (see I. W. Riley's book).
His contemporaries viewed Paine as irreligious or atheistic -- but that hardly describes
the man. Whatever his views of God were, Paine subjected them first of all to Reason.
The freemasonry of the early 19th century allowed for members from different religions
(not just from different Christian sects) -- and thus was something vaguely like Deism
or Tom Paine's mildly religious views. And yet Spalding's wife recalled that he rejected
freemasonry. So, if Spalding was a Deist, it was not of masonic version.
I presume that Spalding evolved away from Calvinism during his brief tenure as a
Presbyterian elder, in Cherry valley, NY. He was actually a Congregationalist, but
the two churches had agreed to cooperate in the west, and thus Spalding found
himself the most educated man in a pastorless Presbyterian congregation. He
evidently served as its presiding elder for a while, and then suffered local disgrace
and moved several miles away. He was bitter towards the ordained pastor who
eventually replaced him.That's the last we hear of Spalding's religious activities.
His Roman story shows him to have been a very poor imitation of Jonathan Swift
and other satirical writers of that period -- as well as a literary fraud of the
MacPherson sort (of "Ossian" infamy). In other words, Spalding was not only
ready to create fictional worlds, mimicking "Gulliver's Travels;" he was also
willing to mask such fictional creations with some verisimilitude -- giving them
the surface appearance, at least, of true historical records.
Operating under that pseudo-historical guise, Spalding was free to express his
disdain or hostility to various social and religious institutions. He was interested
in what factors caused a social decline -- and what might have led to the
extinction of America's previous civilization (the ancient mound-builders).
Spalding betrays a fascination with false religion as a means of keeping a society
"moral" or cohesive. Had he been a freemason, he might have looked to that
organization's quasi-religious teachings as supplying an American priesthood.
But, having rejected freemasonry as well as Calvinism, Spalding was left with
Tom Paine --- and Paine supplies no deep-rooted human social cohesion.
If my hypothesis is correct, Spalding was ready to foist a certain kind of
anti-Calvinist, anti-Universalist, anti-masonic religion upon people, as a means
of social control -- to preserve a young and vulnerable republic that had
already rejected a state church. At the same time, Spalding was also ready to
stand above that false religion as a Promethean figure, who taught a false
Divine revelation, rather like his own fictional Lobaska character.
I suppose all of this was confined to Spalding's vivid imagination -- he had no
intention of carrying out such a social revolution: he could not even sell it as
pseudo-historical fiction in Pittsburgh.
But, to a young Sidney Rigdon, it was Gospel Truth -- not religious satire.
I doubt that the modern LDS will want to hear any of this.