Do any religions allow gambling and is gambling a sin? This may have been first questions that popped into your head. There are, in fact, numerous religions that, while they may not necessarily encourage betting, don’t outright prohibit it. If you’re looking for a loophole in your religion; if you want to engage in an activity as fun as games of chance without risking your afterlife (or if you’re just a curious atheist), this article is for you. We’ll cover the relationship between gambling and religion.
Just to make things crystal clear: we won’t be diving into the topic of interaction between faith and gambling. That’s a purely personal thing, so your actions, thoughts, and beliefs may be determined solely by your faith and not by a certain religion. Religion has a set of rules which are considered mandatory. These rules are reflected in spiritual books being taught throughout the centuries.
When it comes to faith, though, you’re the one who’s making rules, and you determine the foundation of your relationship with supernatural powers. But enough with philosophy! Let’s see what religions are more laid-back when it comes to gambling.
Gambling is forbidden by many religions. But Buddhism is the kind of philosophical belief that treats games of chance with tolerance. Buddhism doesn’t technically forbid it – as we know, that means it’s automatically allowed. Siddhartha Gautama (another name for Buddha himself) had nothing against light and harmless types of such games. Buddhism holds that there are three stages of this fun but controversial activity: recreational habitual betting, which is considered to be okay, and a forbidden one: the addictive type.
As you may already know, Buddha presented Five Precepts, each of them forbidding something, and gambling is nowhere to be found on that list. It was relatively widespread throughout India before Buddha came along in fifth century B.C.E., and banning something so popular was an absolutely bad idea. As you know, Gautama was a wise man.
There is another side to Buddhism relationship with betting – karma. You must have at least a basic understanding of karma, even if you’ve never been interested in Buddhism per se. To oversimplify this concept, karma involves cause and effect. Whatever you do in life, good or evil, is going to come back to you in equal part. Taking into consideration that gambling is all about luck, you ain’t gonna get any if your life is full of bad deeds. In other words, this Buddhist principle means that if you’re a kind, virtuous person, you’re going to win. It kind of makes sense. Moreover, there is yet another loophole here. If you spend the money you win on charity (at least, a certain percentage of it), your karma will be as clean as a hound’s tooth.
Hinduism’s attitude toward games of chance is complex. This is a religion for which we don’t know the origins and path of creation. It doesn’t have a supreme god, nor will one book teach all its concepts. Instead, there are religious manuscripts, and they contradict each other. Nevertheless, let’s try to sort things out.
Books on Hinduism mention many precepts that discourage people from getting involved in betting activities. At the same time, these books relay stories about positive outcomes of gambling. During major religious holidays, people are allowed to win some ‘sinful’ money. Adults even encourage their kids to bet money; it’s safe to say that it’s a tradition. Yet again, it’s all about karma. People who manifest Hinduism believe that if you’re winning at a casino, for example, it’s a result of your good deeds, either in this life or in a previous one. If you can’t catch a lucky break playing online slots or poker, there’s a chance you were the epitome of evil in a previous life.
What does the Bible say about betting? Believe it or not, the Bible says nothing about it, and Jesus never mentioned games of chance even once in his speeches. So can that rule ‘everything which is not forbidden is allowed’ be applied in this case? Hmm: let’s see. Technically, Christianity doesn’t forbid games of chance. However, the church has stated that they are “mildly against it.” It’s more about Jesus’s attitude towards money. He held that one shouldn’t seek wealth or opportunities to gain money. As a form of making money, betting is excluded.
At the same time, there are issues that remain very vague and unclear. The first is: what do you consider the purpose of betting? If your aim isn’t to make money but to have fun, socialize, spend time with friends and family, then gambling doesn’t contradict God’s guidelines. The second issue is the structure of the modern world. If Jesus was against money, it’s strange that ‘In God We Trust’ is being printed on dollar bills.
It’s worth noting that seemingly ‘harmless’ betting flourishes in Christian society. Lottery games and bingo are widely popular, so they are often used to raise money for charity. Conversely, in Buddhism, using gambling for religious charities is forbidden.
Are you surprised to see Islam on the list of religions that allow betting? You should be, because this activity is actually considered a sin (or, as Muslim themselves call it, ‘haram’). But if Islam made its way onto our list, things must be a little bit more complicated. There are quite a few mentions of gambling (referred to as Maisir in literature) in the Holy Quran, some of them actually allow games of chance; at the very least, they say that it’s not entirely bad.
For example, it’s said that in both gambling and wine lies a sin, but that each is also beneficial for humanity. On top of that, Prophet Muhammad allowed betting on horses, camels, and shooting arrows. All because these activities were meant to improve an army’s strength. All in all, though, we can say that Islam is the least tolerable religion when it comes to games of chance. Despite its loopholes, rules have grown more stringent over time, and now Islam doesn’t allow animal betting at all. So why on Earth did it make its way on our list, you may ask? Well, firstly, reading about an epic confrontation of Muslim society and betting is rather interesting, isn’t it? Secondly, the Holy Quran does admit certain advantages of gambling, so technically, we had to include it here.
Judaism is yet another religion with a controversial attitude towards gambling. Is there an organized religious system that actually allows games of chance having absolutely nothing against it? Honestly, we’ve been surfing Internet backwards and forwards, and we haven’t found any evidence that one exists. None of the major religions issues a strict ‘no’ to games of chance, and Judaism is no exception. Back in the day, gambling was rather popular among Jews, despite the fact that rabbis didn’t approve of it; it was considered a form of robbery. The concept of people getting money without putting effort into it didn’t mesh with Judaism. What’s more, gamblers weren’t allowed to testify in courts because of it.
But if you think about it, betting is far from stealing. First and foremost, you can consider an action to be stealing if money or possessions were taken discreetly. Secondly, in games of chance case, the process of giving up money is a voluntary and acknowledged act. If you bet your money willingly, then lose it in a twist of fate, you can’t say that another gambler stole that money from you! Some religious dogmas turn out to be absolutely illogical.
Many religions accept certain forms of games of chance, especially if winnings benefit the church. Judaism, like Christianity, doesn’t mind games of chance if they provide financial support for a religious community. We can’t speak for you, but this seems somewhat hypocritical.
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