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Atheist Converts to Christianity for $1 Million

by Noah Lugeons

In the past, I’ve often been asked what it would take to make me believe in god. Normally I simply answer “a shred of objective evidence would help”, but from now on I’m going to add to that “a million dollars of Jesus’ money”.

Atheist Sal Bentivegna claims that he offered a mock prayer to Jesus that his mother would win a million dollars in the lottery.  According to a widely disseminated report, on the following day she did. This was all the proof Sal needed and now he’s a Christian. Or so we’re supposed to believe.

Now, I won’t trip into the “no true Scotsman” fallacy here. It’s entirely possible that this story went down just as it was reported and it’s entirely possibly that Sal was a genuine atheist. But clearly he was no skeptic. And if he was, he was a really crappy one.

Skeptics learn early on that anecdotes like this are a dime a dozen. They’re unprovable so they have to be taken entirely on faith (something we atheists tend to lack), they’re not repeatable and most importantly, there is no measurement of success. Let’s suppose that mom had won only $10,000 on her scratch off ticket. Would Sal remain unconvinced? What if she’d still won the million but it wasn’t for another 3 days. Would Sal remain loyal to the ranks of the non-believers?

Now don’t get me wrong. If the report is to be trusted, the odds of his mom getting $1 million the day after he mock-prayed for it are pretty damned remote. I don’t know exactly how remote it was, of course, since we have no idea how much money mom’s pissed into the New York lottery up to this point. The report says she’d purchased a “Lottery Tree”, not a ticket, so it’s not like Jesus was only getting one crack at this.

For those not familiar with the term, this is a lottery tree:

Not to be too speculative, but I’m guessing that a woman who was talking about the lottery with her son the night before (to the point that he was belittling her faith over it) and then purchased a testament to poor math skills like the one shown above probably plays more than her fair share of lottery.  So what were the odds that she would have won a million dollars at some point?  Remote to be sure, but she might have narrowed them down to 1 in 1200 if she flushed enough of her income away on the things over the years.

This is one of those stories Christians love to trot out. Man prays for million dollars, man gets million dollars, ergo, Jesus. It’s a win-win argument for them because for some reason the people who pray for a million dollars and don’t get it aren’t counted in the “god is bullshit” column of their ledger. Remember the hits, forget the misses and ignore the fact that while Jesus was busy acquiescing to the greedy prayer of an atheist he was also ignoring a devout mother who was begging for the health of her child.

It would be pretty easy to test the claim scientifically, of course. Sal could just pray that mom wins another million tomorrow. If she doesn’t, he knows the first million was a fluke and there is no god.

There is an alternative theory, though, and I don’t want to be too quick to dismiss old Sal. When mom wins a million bucks in her will-writing years, it might be best to believe whatever the hell she wants you to believe.

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