NEW YORK LOTTERYHere’s a stunning example of how not to do critical thinking, and why amateurs and idiots should never attempt it on their own. A (believing) woman won the New York lottery recently, as a result of a mock prayer by her (atheist) son, and he’s now a “true believer.” WNBC-TV in New York City reports on this irrationality (WebCite cached article):

A mother and son’s prayers were both answered with one scratch of a lottery ticket.

Gloria Bentivegna of West Babylon won $1 million in the New York Lottery’s Sweet Million game one day after her son had called on God to give his mom the money. …

But Sal Bentivegna, 26, never saw eye to eye with his mom’s beliefs, describing himself as somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist. …

Last month, mother and son’s ongoing debate over religion came to a head as they played the slots in Atlantic City.

Sal Bentivegna challenged God to prove he exists.

“I said, if he wants me to believe, he’ll give you a million dollars.”

The answer came within twenty-four hours. …

A few days later, Sal joined his mom at Ss. Cyril and Methodius church in Deer Park. It was his first church visit in some twenty years.

“I don’t think one can ask for more proof than something like that short of God or Jesus appearing physically in front of you,” said Sal.

Unfortunately — in the eyes of strict logic — this “challenge prayer” is proof of absolutely nothing whatsoever. First, there is no direct, causal link between the “prayer” and the lottery win. It’s possible that the mother would have won the lottery without the prayer being said. There is such a thing as a coincidence, you know … even if religionists conveniently refuse to accept that coincidences happen.

Second, a lottery win is too wild, statistically, for one such event to tell us anything. What would be needed is something bigger and more meticulous; a larger sample size, i.e. many more lottery tickets than just one, and controls, i.e. some of them which are not prayed for. In other words, demonstrating a connection between prayer and lottery winnings would require a large, well-designed, tightly-structured study.

One challenge prayer and one lottery win do not meet this standard.

In fact, given the nature of the supernatural, it’s ultimately impossible to design any such thing, since one can never exclude elements of the supernatural, which — by definition — lie outside the control of anyone operating such a study, as R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic’s Dictionary points out. In other words, even the best-structured study could, conceivably, be mucked around with, if God chooses not to cooperate with it or purposely muddles its results. No study can possibly be set up so as to work around or isolate out the supposed omnipotence of God.

As one would expect, fierce Christians are jumping for joy at this news, e.g. this story from the Christian Post (cached):

Realizing that the odds of his mother winning were so farfetched, Sal has now become a firm believer.

He testified, “I can’t shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it.”

“No pun intended, but it was a Godsend,” he said.

Gloria Bentivegna, reflecting on what had happened, is thankful to God for her winnings, but even more thankful for her son’s conversion. She said: “’God performed two miracles, a true miracle.”

What these jubilant Christians forget is that their religion is not supposed to be based upon challenges to God and real-world events. This is what their scripture explicitly tells them, e.g.:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Converting to Christianity as a result of a financial boon doled out (supposedly) by God, is precisely the kind of “boast” that this epistle condemns. Thus, any Christians rejoicing over this, are actually being anti-scriptural!

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds.

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3 Responses to “Atheist Converts Due To Lottery Win, Christians Rejoice”
  1. The multi-state Powerball jackpot is sitting at 200M right now. Hell, I'd convert if I hit that mother (wink-wink, fingers crossed behind back)! Praise the LORD and pass the winning ticket! 🙂

  2. mikecorrie says:

    DOH!

    Ironic that you should pick that verse – its very meaning is the opposite of what you think it says; it's stating that human hands could not have orchestrated the miracle [of salvation], it is a gift by God for those with faith to belive in Jesus Christ, and call upon him! Have you forgotten who you are supposed to be working for, you dolt?

    You need to replace that verse with something more biting, like Christ's admonition to give up worldly possessions, or his blessing of the poor, lest you unwittingly do God's work.

    (big wink),

    Luci Fersatan

    Founder of Atheism, Doubt, and other Virtues of Hell(enism).

    • PsiCop says:

      Actually I understand the meaning of that verse, and I chose it specifically because of how it's been interpreted over the centuries. Like any other verse, it can mean a million things. As it turns out, this particular verse has been used, historically, to support the idea that God cannot, and should not, be tested by humans; faith cannot come from a "test," but only from God himself.

      On a related note, it's been used to support the notion of "predestination" or that there is an "elect" of people specifically and specially chosen for salvation; the interpretation is that they were granted the "faith" needed for them to gain salvation.

      I could have cited other verses along the lines you suggest. There are plenty of them, after all … the whole of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, not to mention it being the central lesson of any number of other parables. Please forgive me for behaving like a Christian and acting as though they don't exist … ! 😉

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