Did you know that the “Close Door” button on the elevator probably does not do anything? If it was built after 1990 in the USA, it does not work unless you are a firefighter and have inserted a key.
The “Push to Cross” buttons in NYC streets do nothing, all the lights are computer controlled.
So why are they still there? It’s the placebo affect. It makes us feel better if we can push the button while we wait for the elevator or the light to change.
So could religion be a placebo for life? If you believe in in a God, then of course it’s not a placebo, it’s the real thing. If there is no God, the placebo effect could explain why religion was developed, why all cultures have some kind of religion. It helps us get through this existence, living a better life, and helps us through death of loved ones with the promise we’ll see them on the other side.
What about those that do not believe all that religion teaches, but follows one anyway? There has been studies done that show that even when people know that a pill they are given is a placebo, and has no known medical effect, they still receive a benefit. Could that be what is happening with “cultural Mormons”, those that believe little or none of the church’s tenants, but continue to go because they see the good in it? Mormon’s have no corner on the “cultural member”. In Catholic countries like Chile where I was a missionary, most Catholics I ran into were “Cultural Catholics” or “Cafeteria Catholic” They rejected church teaching they did want to follow (e.g. divorce, birth control). But they still remained “Catholic”.
So does it help to push the “Mormon” or “Catholic” button, even when you believe there is nothing behind it? Or is it more complicated than that, with family, cultural, and a little of Pascal’s Wager thrown in into the mix?