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Bahá'í Law on Gambling

Bahá'u'lláh, Prophet/Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, expressly forbids this form of stealing from suckers, both for the business and the gambler: "Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto you. Eschew them both, O people, and be not of those who transgress...We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you, and to this bear witness all created things, had ye but ears to hear." - Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Book of Laws), para. 155

As there are so few Bahá'í laws phrased in the negative, it is interesting that gambling is equated with recreational drug use in the severity of the restriction, "Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body." ibid

However, the Book of Laws does not strictly define all the ways to gamble. It leaves such specifics to the world governing body of the faith, the Universal House of Justice, which has said that this matter will be considered in detail in the future. In the meantime, Assemblies and believers should not make an issue of it, but leave it to the conscience of the individual. It has, however, ruled that raffles, games of chance and lotteries cannot be used to raise funds for the faith.

My conscience isn't bothered much because I'm not into the idea of betting on sports, lottery tickets, the stock market, or even most kinds of insurance. I will occasionally buy a raffle ticket at some charity fundraising event, but as a donation rather than an anticipation of winning something. So this particular religious law doesn't seem very important in my life--early childhood disappointments and a reasonable understanding of statistical odds having tarnished my belief in wonderful returns!

But in meditating upon the law and its repercussions both for the individual and society, I wondered if the purpose might not be less about the activity of games of chance, per se, than about the inherent lack of faith we express by engaging in them. One of the basic religious definitions of faith is that firm conviction that everything will be okay and the believer will always have what is needed, no matter what happens. Perfect faith does not bet on fantastic or unrealistic hopes of riches in order to meet those needs.

Now, I will be the first person to admit that it looks like God and I frequently differ over what constitutes my needs. But if the basic purpose of this earthly life, according to the Bahá'í Faith, is to be a training ground for our spiritual 'muscles,' then I infer that nothing can happen to me by uncaring chance. Rather, all the experiences necessary to develop good character will be provided as I need them!

Think about it. It can be a scary notion! So far, however, I have not been tested with excess wealth...and I have no intention of asking for more tests of any kind.

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