If the gods are listening
Japan is a place of contrasts. Everywhere you look you can see the old juxtaposed against the new. Japanese people are largely religion free. However, in every neighborhood, there are Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines where people can pray to the gods. Tonight, I walked past Yushima Tenman-gū, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Ame-no-Tajikarao-mikoto, the god of sports and physical power and Tenjin, the god of learning. Although it was night, several people stopped by to pray at the temple. There were businessmen in suits, a housewife, and some young people who looked to be around high school or college aged. All of them were there to ask the gods for favor. Either for learning, sports, or some physical power. At the university where I teach here in Tokyo, I was told that I had to take the Japanese proficiency exam this coming December. While I was at the shrine, I should have asked the god Tenjin to “help a brotha out”. Maybe I'll go again soon.
Although I don't have any religion, I do believe in Pascal's wager. The story goes that Pascal's belief in God was based on the laws of logic. If he chose to believe in God and the stories of the Bible were true, then he would be saved. If he chose to believe in God and the stories of the Bible were false, then nothing would have been lost except the effort it took to believe in God. On the other hand, if he rejected the notion of God, and the stories of the Bible were true, his soul would be condemned to hell for eternity. Given that logic, Pascal chose to believe in God. To put it in simpler terms, if you pray to the gods and nothing happens all you will have done is lost air. However, if the gods really are listening you will have everything to gain. I wonder if there's a shrine that houses the God of winning the lottery. I'd sure like to pay that guy visit.