Categorized | Humor, Religion, Society

The Top 10 List – Why Religion is like the Lotto

I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad
Buy all of the things I never had
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

Oh every time I close my eyes
I see my name in shining lights
A different city every night oh
I swear the world better prepare
For when I’m a billionaire


-Travie McCoy

It was a sad day for literally hundreds of thousands of people last week when their hopes of turning into an overnight millionaire shriveled up with the news that the lottery prize has already found an all-too-happy owner. Weeks before, the tension has been steadily mounting as the pot climbed steadily to a mind-blowing P741-M. Even people who don’t usually buy lottery tickets tried their luck at the guessing which among the 29 million possible combinations will be drawn next just for the heck of it.

Everywhere you go, the conversation meanders its way to the lotto. People were talking about betting techniques, dreaming of ways to spend all those millions, security concerns, and generally how it could change your life overnight – for better or for worse.

Now it’s strange that one of the most vocal critics of the lotto is the Catholic Church who opined that gambling is a sinful vice. But the irony here is that choosing to believe in a religion itself is a gamble. Mathematician Blaise Pascal was credited with formulating what is now known as Pascal’s Wager – that is, he reasoned that betting that there is a god is a winning proposition since you lose nothing but stand to gain everything by believing that there is one.

Now the argument may be sound if there was only one religion to believe in or not. But as it stands, according to Wikipedia, there are over 4,000 active religions, cults, and sub-denominations in the world today, each one claiming that they have the One True God(s) and/or Goddess(es). And in most cases, simply aligning yourself to a specific religion is not enough to “win” salvation, you have follow their often times vague and seemingly wishy-washy rules and regulations as dictated by their “sacred scriptures” so that come Judgment Day, you would have garnered enough points to pass your deity’s imponderable standards. Factor in extenuating circumstances like the accuracy of translating and interpreting said “sacred text” (the bible itself has over a hundred different variations) and depending on which denomination you belong to, you can’t really be sure which rules to follow anymore.

Suddenly, the numbers don’t seem to be in your favor. Religion has become the ultimate lottery game. You play against impossible odds but still, people get suckered in time and again because they’ve got their sights set on the ultimate “pot money” – heaven.

When you ask the man on the street what he’d do if he won the lottery, more often that not, he’d say that he’d put it to good use by making sure that his and his loved ones’ needs are met and he’d make sure that they’d never want for anything else ever again… well that’s “heaven” in a nutshell – the ultimate freedom from all worldly concerns and problems, where no one goes hungry ever again and you spend your days in  eternal happiness with your loved ones forever and ever… and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s an effective lure. Just look at the sales figures for lotto tickets during the height of the frenzy. The odds didn’t improve any more than it was during the last draw, but people didn’t care about that, they had their eyes set on the pot money and were already dreaming of all the ways to enjoy all that money… how much to spend, how much to give away, how much to invest… but now that someone actually walked away P741 million richer, everyone just sighed and went back to their daily grind, hopes dashed but still dreaming of someday being “the one“.

So what lesson have we learned from all this? The analogy between religion and lotto goes beyond winning or losing, so we have the…

The Top 10 List – Why Religion is like the Lotto:

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  1. You’re playing against ridiculous odds but…

  2. It’s easy to ignore the odds if you’re fixated too much on the prize.

  3. There may not even be a “winner” at and you just wasted all that time and money for nothing.

  4. In most cases, you’re actually playing a Lucky-Pick game, because your choice of religion depends largely not on personal choice, but on the circumstances of your birth

  5. If the lotto was like religion, you are forced to use the same combination every time.

  6. If the lotto was like religion, you can’t bet on more than one combination at a time. That is, you can’t improve your chances of “winning” by playing the field.

  7. You have to play continuously and (pardon the pun) religiously because you don’t want to run the risk that your “number” was drawn on the day you didn’t prepare.

  8. Lotto tickets aren’t free. Bought one at a time, you may think its small change. But add up a lifetime’s worth of constant betting and it’s easy to regret all that time and money wasted on buying losing tickets.

  9. Some people may claim that they’re buying a ticket to “help charity” but everyone knows they’re just after the prize.

  10. There’s no shortage of quacks and superstitious nonsense all claiming to know the secret to getting the winning combination.

And a bonus #11: If everyone just stopped wasting all their time and money betting on the lotto and concentrated their efforts on something more tangible and realistic, a lot of good could have gotten done instead.

In recent senate reports, the aggregate lottery sales of PCSO’s accredited operators have grown to P23 billion in 2009. That’s 23 billion in disposable income that people were willing to throw away in a game with ridiculous odds. Now granted a third of that amount is supposed to go to charity, what if the whole amount instead went to a worthwhile cause? It shouldn’t be too hard of a strain to the imagination to think of ways to put the whole amount to good use, instead of 2/3 of it getting lost to the system.

In the same way, imagine a world where people found more productive ways to spend their time instead of worshiping their deities in the slim chance that he/she/it actually exists. And the same reasoning applies when apologists give the same lame excuse that religion does “some good”. If people *really* wanted to help their fellow men, then wouldn’t it make better sense to spend more time helping people than performing those inane religious rituals over and over again?

In the end, its a question of priority – do you want to spend your time and energy making this world a better place? or do you just want to play the odds that there’s a better one in the next world?

You do the math.

 
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.

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