Gambling is a very popular form of entertainment for people of all different religions who enjoy trying their luck and having fun with their friends. It is a great way to relax, socialize, and play your favorite games, but could it also be considered a sin? The relationship between gambling and religion is not a simple one to detangle, and the main religions worldwide have contrasting opinions on this subject.
Although the Bible doesn’t specifically disapprove of gambling, games of chance are generally frowned upon in Christianity. The reason for that lies in one of the main Christian teachings, which is ‘to guard against every kind of greed’. That is why gambling was forbidden among Christians until the Reformation. After the Reformation, the Orthodox Church and Protestantism continued to oppose all kinds of gambling, believing that it often leads to addiction and pushes people away from each other. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church adopted a more lenient approach to it, and many forms of gambling games are nowadays used among Catholics to raise money for charity, the most popular ones being bingo and lottery.
Islam, the second-largest religion in the world very harshly condemns any kind of gambling. Islam recognizes two basic types of wrong deeds: ‘halal,’ meaning lawful, and ‘haram,’ meaning sinful. Gambling belongs to the category of the deeds that are deemed haram and thus it is prohibited under Islamic law. In areas where it is not completely prohibited, it is harshly regulated. Since it is viewed as taking money from someone without earning it, it is almost equal to stealing. Moreover, it is believed that gambling inevitably leads to addictions and as such is destructive for the safety of the society.
The uniqueness of Hinduism comes from the fact that it is a combination of philosophies and different teachings without a single authoritative scripture. Therefore, there are Hindus who believe in one deity, as well as those who believe in multiple gods. With such a complicated religion, it is difficult to find one view on the subject of gambling. On one hand, it is believed that gambling was a very popular pastime activity in ancient India, but on the other, there is an ancient legal text about Hinduism, ‘the Manusmriti’, which lists gambling as one of the four worst sins a man can make. Generally, gambling is frowned upon among today’s Hindus.
Just like in Islam, gambling is seen as sinful and it is generally frowned upon. Taking somebody’s money without earning it is considered theft, and even recreational form of gambling is believed to be dangerous as it can lead to gambling addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle. With that being said, Jews, just like Christians, use mild gambling games such as raffles and bingo in order to raise money for charity. Moreover, there is a very popular game played during the Hanukkah celebrations, ‘dreidel’, which involves some small-stakes gambling.
Buddhism differentiates between three kinds of gambling: that which is recreational, habitual, and finally, addictive. Addictive gambling is the only kind that should be avoided and that is considered sinful, while recreational and habitual forms are acceptable. This way of observing gambling makes Buddhism the most tolerant religion towards games of chance. However, Buddhists never use gambling in charity events or fundraisers, which is where they disagree with Christianity and Judaism.