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Gambling and religion - Am I a good Christian?

Gambling and religion - are you a good Christian? It's a fact that religion in general is one of the most fierce opponent of gambling. It was only a matter of time before religious groups began attacking online gambling, as well, so to take a stance against everything gambling. And it remains a mind-boggling why are religious officials always against gambling, considering the church-style bingo has been around for generations and millions of believers visit the casinos every year to gamble. Are you a bad Christian for going to a casino and gamble $100 at the dollar-slots? Some religious officials do believe you will go to Hell for gambling, although nowhere in the Bible gambling has been explicitly described as sin. So what exactly is the angle against gambling in religion?

 I am by no means an expert in religious teachings, but there are plenty of pastors who at some point have attempted to explain why gambling will send you to Hell. For example, Hershael W. York, Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church and Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says the following about gambling: "God’s way is that we should earn what we get." on his blog article harshly titled "Gambling is a sin" (link). Pastor York could correct me if I'm wrong, but the way I see these words is "taking a risk with your money is not considered earning". So how would Pastor York explain the insurance business? In its simplicity, an auto insurance is simply a bet whether you'll get into an accident or not. The insurance agents don't drive in front of your car, steering other motorists away from you, no, they simply assess the risk and wager money on it. Does your homeowners insurance company send people to watch your house and prevent a possible fire? No, they simply bet that there will be no fire. Is anyone involved in an insurance business automatically a sinner? I hope not (although I know plenty of people who would beg to differ). How about if you find oil in your back yard (and assume the government doesn't claim it)? Do you become a sinner automatically because you did not actually earned the money, but simply got lucky?

 And last example - as a retirement plan you buy stock in a company in which you have never worked. Thirty years later the value of the stock is 10 times higher. Are you a sinner? You worked for the money to buy the stock, but you did nothing to earn the difference, other people worked an you simply made profit on their hard work, why shouldn't this be a sin? You just bet that a company would increase in value in thirty years, simple as that. Some people, including Pastor York would say that investing is based on win/win scenario, but I say it's based on lose/lose, as well. If the company loses - you also lose, so we have two losers and no winners. In most cases there is nothing you can do to influence to outcome of investing, rather you "bet" your money that the outcome will be a win/win and not lose/lose. In a nutshell, investing in most cases, is a win/lose scenario - you will either win or lose, but you can not influence to outcome.

 "Gambling is motivated by greed." Not entirely true. State lotteries are a form of gambling motivated by greed - you buy your Powerball ticket hoping to win the million-dollar jackpot. But casino gambling is different. While the aspect of winning while playing blackjack is there, a big part of the gamblers play for entertainment, some play to win (not money, but the feeling of victory itself) and unfortunately some gamblers play to lose. My personal belief is that most people gamble for the pure enjoyment of feeling victorious and the financial side of it is just an extra. But even if we assume that all gambling is motivated by greed, why the words "In God we trust" on the money? Money is the "business card" of greed and yet the name of God appears on them. How about commerce? Commerce is 99% motivated by greed a trader will by goods for $1 and sell them for $2 in order to turn profit. And every company wants to make bigger profit, i.e. they are driven by greed. What makes the greed in gambling different than the greed in commerce?

 And my personal "favorite" at the end - "Gambling fails to consider innocent families." To which I say, it's not gambling that fails to consider innocent families, is the people who take it too far while gambling. Pastor York says "We might be tempted to think that if a person gambles away all of his money, then that is his problem and serves him right. But what of his ten-year-old son who can’t afford school supplies? What of his wife who has to work to pay off the credit cards she didn’t even know she had?" If I go to a casino and spend $100 of my disposable income at the blackjack table, am I a sinner because the man who sat on my chair before me lost his lifesaving? It's a sin to leave your family hungry, but it doesn't matter how you do it. Pastor York justifies investing as a win/win scenario, but how would he explain this win/win situation to the thousands of Enron investors who left their families hungry and without a dime at an old age?

 Pastor York says: "Can you picture Jesus sitting at a slot machine with a cup full of quarters?" The point of this article - I cannot imagine Jesus sending me to Hell if I do.

Article written by Andy Boyd, Editor,

 Published on 05/11/2008

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