Atheist converts after mock-prayer is “answered”

In the news:

A self-confessed atheist has become a believer after mocking God by sarcastically praying for his mother to win the lottery. However, his joke prayer was amazingly answered as the next day his mother won $1 million on the New York Lottery Sweet Million game.

Sal Bentivegna, 28, who did not previously believe in God, had sarcastically asked his mother to “ask your God for a million dollars”.

However, his mother Gloria Bentivegna, follows the Catholic faith, and staying true to her belief refused to ask God for such a thing.

Taking his joke further, Sal then prayed out aloud saying, “God, I don’t know if you’re real or not, but if you are there, please let my mother win a million dollars.”

He added, “If Jesus wants me to believe in him, that’s what he’ll do”.

The following day his mother bought a “Lotto Tree” of unscratched instant win tickets from her Church’s charity auction. Sal was then left absolutely stunned when he found out his mother had won a million.

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

I credit Bentivegna for putting his money where his mouth was (or, in this case, putting his mother’s money where his mouth was?), but I have to wonder at his reasoning. Forget the question of why he would think his “answered prayer” would be so improbable given atheism as to overthrow it; I’m curious why he would think it proof of Jesus, of all gods? Look at some of the other items in the news, like this one:

A 14-year-old girl from Russia was so scared of the May 21 doomsday and rapture prediction made by Harold Camping that she committed suicide the same day, investigators said Wednesday. The teenager wanted to choose death rather than be among the ones suffering on earth after the rapture.

Where was Nastya Zachinova’s miracle? Even if we suppose that every low-probability “answered prayer” really is a miracle, their spotty distribution, and variation from the wonderful to the banal to the abhorrent, suggests the truth of some polytheistic religion like Asatru, rather than Christianity. If I were Bentivegna, I would not see the realization of his mock-prayer as the kind of thing that Jesus would do, all while allowing the children to suffer (and I’m sure many Christians will back me up on this); if one insists on drawing a religious conclusion from such an ultimately banal “miracle,” I would say it sounds more like the kind of thing a mischievous Loki would do.

Religious Experience – Recognizing God
The Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity
Rape them Atheists!
Geisler & Turek Rebuttal, Part 7: Chapter 8
About Bradley Bowen
  • Dathinkingman

    yes but we are not just talking about the probability of winning lotto but rather we are talking about the probability of asking a particular deity to win lotto and THEN winning it the next day. This is far more unlikely than just an ordinery lotto winning. nevertheless it can still be explained away by chance. its not THAT unlikely.

  • LadyAtheist

    After consulting my crystal ball and some tarot cards, I predict that more people will pray to win the lottery now, and that some of them will win it after praying. My lucky 8-ball says "Concentrate and ask again," so I'll try again after my second cup of coffee.

  • Ian

    Pascal's wager, modified. If acting as if you believe in God will (a) make your mother happy, (b) make her more likely to share her winnings with you, and (c) having your 15 minutes of fame, might that not be worth the cost?

  • Enkidu

    The probabilities of a) winning a lotto and b) having a prayer answered are independent, both vanishingly small, but at least someone has to win a lottery.

    This from the "christianpost"? I suspect it is either totally fabricated or Sal was no atheist.

  • Mark Vuletic

    Enkidu: In my experience, Christian Post isn't bad; it tends to have a slant, like most news services, but its general accuracy appears to be on par with everyone else's.

    The story does sound a little chain-mail-hoaxish in form, but honestly, it also does not seem that implausible to me. The kind of thing it describes sounds like the general kind of thing I would expect to occur from time to time; given the number of sarcastic prayers that surely are offered every day, low-probability fulfillments will occur here and there, the same way some dreams (summed over a nation of dreamers) will turn out to be freakily "precognitive" by chance alone.

  • NAL

    I've always suspected that God only answers prayers from atheists. Only atheists go to heaven, too.

  • Bradley Bowen

    My mother also has an answered-prayer story. She wanted a particular model of Cadilac with a pale-yellow leather seats, but Cadilac did not make the model she wanted with the pale-yellow leather seats, so she prayed for God to intervene. She also made several phone calls, and eventually spoke to a high-level executive at Cadilac who arranged for the pale-yellow leather seats to be installed on the model she wanted – That you Jesus!

    My brother-in-law notes that for some reason God never answers prayers to restore hands, legs, fingers, or toes that were destroyed by physical injury. But God cares so much about my mom that he graciously provided pale-yellow leather seats for her favorite model of Cadilac.

    God has an odd sense of what is important.