Sir: Much of what Niall Ferguson says is admirable, but I take issue with the idea that the lottery is "profoundly pagan because it elevates the role of chance above that of God or reason".
The truth is that paganism actually moved in precisely the opposite direction. In the refined paganism of Plato, and his followers, the science of reason was unfolded to a greater degree than at any time since, and the central theme of The Republic is that an intellectual and divine justice rules human and natural affairs without exception.
Even in the less philosophical paganism of the "man in the forum", the idea that there is a goddess of the family hearth, a god of the field, a deity of the city and so on enshrines the precious truth that all things are moved by divine intelligence.
In the goddesses of Fortune and the Fates, even the hidden and complex causes of our so-called chaos theory were viewed as divinely ordered.
As Socrates said to Alcibiades: "You may escape from your present condition 'if God pleases'. " Not, you will notice, to pop over to Babylon because "It could be you!".
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