God Lotto: Converting the unsaved by the millions

God Lotto: Converting the unsaved by the millions May 31, 2011

Perhaps somebody ought to try upping the ante on Christopher Hitchens’ salvation. You may recall that Hitchens is a devout atheist. (Is there such a thing? Can you be devout if you don’t have an object of your devotion? Or is that like ending a sentence with a preposition? There’s nothing on the receiving end? If you figure that out, lemme know.)

At any rate, Hitchens does not believe in God. Period. Even though he’s got a bad case of cancer. A lot of people have been praying for Mr. Hitchens. I already wrote about that here and here.  Mr. Hitchens is still about the business of writing. He had an excellent piece in Slate on Serbia and his newest Kindle book on the death of Osama Bin Laden has just been released: The Enemy.

So I’m not sure he needs the cash but perhaps if someone offered him $1 million, Hitchens might reconsider his position on God.

That’s how Sal Bentivegna, 28, came to become a God-fan.

According to Newsday, young Sal was previously a self-declared atheist. (Is there any other kind? I mean is there someplace you can go and register yourself as an atheist? Where they write your name down in a ledger like they did for Ellis Island immigrants? Excuse me, ma’am! I said excuse me, ma’am. You done stuck me with the Baptists and I told you I’m an atheist! Now would erase my name? I don’t believe in no God. See it says so right here on my Serbian Driver’s License?)

But Sal does believe in voodoo, apparently, because he told his mama, a good Catholic woman, that she ought to ask God for a $1 million. But Sal’s mama, who has one of the hardest names in the world to live up to — Gloria — refused. I suspect she wanted her son to know that the God she loves and adores is not some Hocus-Pocus-Genie.

God has skin in this game, already.

The question all the rest of us have to answer is — do we?

Sal didn’t.

Until his mama won the lottery.

Yep. That’s right.

We got us another lotto-winning convert.

What is it about winning the lottery that makes a believer out of people?

You may it see it differently, but if I wasn’t a believer beforehand, and I win the lottery, I’m not about to convert. Why would I want to take up a faith that might require me to share from my abundance? The more I have, the more I want. It’s the American way, right?

Since Gloria wouldn’t ask God for the million bucks, Sal did: “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 told his mother: “If Jesus wants me to believe in him, that’s what he’ll do.”

Apparently the Cross wasn’t good enough.

Sal need cold, hard cash.

The next day, Bentivegna, a single mom on disability, went to a charity auction at a Lutheran church (those loosey-goosey Lutherans!) where she bought several instant lottery tickets — and wouldn’t you know it? Praise Jesus and pass the bowl of cherries, please, one of those picks was a winner!

“I can’t shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it,” Sal said of his mama’s winnings.

Ummm… lemme see… we rise every morning to the gift of an illuminating sun seamlessly hanging in the spanse of sky overhead, and to a Tilt-o-Wheel world that gives to us generously from her bounty of oils, waters, perfumes, and nourishment — yet, that’s not gift enough to warrant a heart of gratitude?

For that we need God the Banker, God the Bookie, God the Gamblin’ Man?

We fail to see the gift that is the voice of a mother who has lifted our names, pleading for God to protect, guide and cherish us, the way she always has? That alone isn’t reason enough to drop to our knees in Glory be to God for having mamas who prayed us out of harm’s way and a life-long prison term, when the odds were high that we’d end up with one of those lousy Devil-in-a-Red dress mamas?

That doesn’t give you pause enough to say, Thank You, God. You’ve been good to me?

Why is it the hooting and hollering kind of Thank You Jesus gratitude only comes when we get a certified check from the state lotto department? How come such thankfulness doesn’t burst out of us when tulips bloom humbly, faithfully, demanding practically nothing from us other than a soft place to grow?

Why do we equate money with God and yet not the wealth of his wisdom found in the stories he has shared?

Why are we tempted to measure  God’s faithfulness by provisions and not by his providential care for us?

Sal’s mama will receive $50,000 a year for the next 20 years. After taxes it will be around $35,000.

By New York standards, that’s hardly a living wage.

Do you suppose it won’t be long before Sal is upping the ante on God again?

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy me a Double-Wide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV.

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  • What a fantastic post! On one hand, whatever works…. On the other hand, you are right. Each of us, especially since we live in this country have so much to be thankful for. I think that gratitude is the secret to happiness. Or, to paraphrase Paul, gratitude is the secret to being content no matter the circumstances. No matter how bad life is, we always have reason to give thanks. And regarding “devout atheists”. Yes, there is such a thing — in fact, I think they all are — you have to be devout to not believe in a Creator.

    • Magical Atheist

      Is a devout atheist like someone who is a devout disbeliever in Santa Claus? Why do you say creator and not creators? Many religious people believe many gods created the universe.

      I assume there are 1000s of gods you don’t believe in. Are you a devout disbeliever in Zeus and Allah?

  • I am willing to start a collection for Hitchens if it will only take a million to win him over…

    • Your tactic is to bribe someone into believing in a god? And you really think this god of yours would accept someone who only “believed” in him for a million dollars?

  • Bill Ferrell

    An amazing post. I heard this yesterday. I wish I could say I was surprised. As for Hitchens, a brilliant man—in many ways.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yes, he is…

  • Great post. And to think, I thought it was “the education lottery.” A few more conversions like this and people might turn on the lottery because it violates the separation clause…
    and Hitchens has already had time to write a book on OBL’s death? While fighting cancer? Some writers (and I count you among them) make me feel downright lazy!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Education was the way they sold the lottery to the people of Georgia, too, but then they turned around and slashed that funding when hard times hit — altho we know statistically that people play the lottery more during hard economic times.
      And, yeah, Hitchens is prolific as all get out… even in the haze of treatment.

  • You think your god will listen to a prayer to give someone a million dollars while ignoring the millions of prayers from starving children who want nothing more than a slice of bread? Oh that’s right, “he works in mysterious ways.” Sorry but that’s not being “mysterious,” it’s being an a**hole.

    • Steve T

      MrSmith2Wash – I know that such responses as this are usually not held in high regard but do wish you to know that I respond out of deep respect for you and the beliefs you hold as true. I simple would like to point out that millions of starving childrfen is not the will of God. God’s will is that those children be fed. There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible where God calls on God’s people to show compassion and mercy toward the poor, the widow, the children, and the hungry. Jesus so aligns himself with the poor that he says to feed them or not is to feed him or not. In fact, Jesus ties the measure of a follower of God on whether or not they respond in such accord. So, though God really doesn’t need my defence, I do think it is appropriate to point out that this issue is not whether God is concerned for God’s poor but are we who claim to follow this God of love. It really is our failure that the children go hungry. You see, we can be the answer to their prayer or not.

      To such end, I often work with a group that is currently teaching children in Africa, the victims of the AIDS pandemic to grow their own crops and live-stock so that they might feed themselves. Currently, we are working with over 20,000 families in such ministry. You can find more about it at zoeministry.org We would love to have you help with us. Please check out the web site. Your life will be richer for it. Peace and grace,
      Steve T.

      • Magical Atheist

        “I simple would like to point out that millions of starving childrfen is not the will of God.”

        LOL its absolutely hilarious when people claim they know what some god wants. I can’t think of anything more arrogant than claiming you know the mind of the most powerful thing in the universe. Its especially ridiculous since millions of people claim to know the mind of thousands of different gods.

        “There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible where God calls on God’s people to show compassion and mercy toward the poor, the window, the children, and the hungry.”

        Have you taken the time to count the verses where your god commands slaughter and annihilation of people? How many verses command the destruction of children?

        • Steve T

          Magical Atheist, I invite you to zoeministry.org as well. Sew a little hope in the world.

          • Magical Atheist

            Hi, no thanks. I’m only involved with secular charities. We do good for the sake of doing good not because we think Bronze Age mythology commands us to do so.

        • Steve T

          Ahhhh, MA, we don’t do it because we are commanded, we do it because we are loved.

  • graham green

    I learned of evolution—a theory so simple and obvious that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals, and us—with imagination, free will, love and humor.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Apparently some of us got hung up in the evolutionary process — have you seen The Jersey Shore? Or the post about the KKK taking on the Westboro Baptists?

  • gcgwgc

    Devout atheist. It’s supposed to be ironic. Like a “Catholic atheist”.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Glad someone caught that — thanks!

  • Steve Taylor

    Widows… not windows. Dang Droid keyboard.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I’ll fix it.

  • Rhonda Reed

    I figured it out – God fearing people do not have a monopoly on devout – see definition 3, from dictionary.com
    –adjective, -er, -est.
    devoted to divine worship or service; pious; religious: a devout Catholic.
    expressing devotion or piety: devout prayer.
    earnest or sincere; hearty: He had a devout allegiance to the political regime.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Ah… yes… those devout Nazis… how could I have overlooked that? Thanks!