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Gambling and religion: Histories of concord and conflict

Per Binde

Abstract


This paper discusses the diverse relationships between gambling and religion in various societies and at various times in history and suggests a theoretical model for how these relationships can be understood. It is argued that gambling and religion have certain elements in common: notions of the unknown, mystery, and fate, as well as imagery of suddenly receiving something of great value that changes life for the better. In many traditional cultures gambling has existed in concord with polytheistic and animistic religion; gambling and religion go well together precisely because of the elements they have in common. Monotheistic religions that claim authority in religious and transcendental matters, however, tend to denounce gambling, and this disapproval has been strengthened by a conception that gambling offers a wicked alternative to certain religious notions and experiences. The elements that gambling and religion share have thus become a source of conflict.


Keywords


gambling; religion; magic; morality; social anthropology; ethnography

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4309/jgi.2007.20.4

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