skip to Main Content

Placebo Religion

I had been down with influenza the previous week; and remembered an article I had read recently in the WSJ which stated that all surveyed doctors nationwide dispense placebos instead of actual medicines about 50% of the time. The writer’s premise was that, knowing this, how could we ever be certain of our true condition? Or why should we pay any attention to the doctor’s diagnosis or to their recommendations, when they may be dispensing nothing but sugar? (The patient’s side of this is another issue; but the article dealt only with the doctor’s participation.) If true, it may be that you are not any better off when you leave the office than you were when you got there. But you will have been successfully parted from some of your funds along with the transaction. Nothing is required, and therefore, nothing of any value will likely result. They may stroke the fur and calm the kitty, but they don’t do a thing towards healing. And you and I won’t be able to tell the difference.


Bearing that in mind, what is your true spiritual condition?


Which do you prefer — lessons and platitudes on peace and prosperity or calls for repentance and holiness? Do you tire of the press of the preacher for you to hold the line, to quit giving lip service to God and to start living right? That is assuming that you hear such calls from the pulpit where you attend. Perhaps you only hear sermons on how God wants you to be financially successful, homilies on emotion and on the lightness of never having to fret about your spiritual condition. Are serious lessons just too tedious and too much to bear? Do you get enough nagging at home so that you want nothing to do with it coming from a pulpit?


When was the last time you cracked open that dusty old Bible in the corner and looked to see if what you are being told is true? When was the last time you checked to see if the medicine addresses the symptoms?


Many religious teachers (probably at about 50%) dispense placebos just like those doctors. They know what sells and what doesn’t, and they often prefer to land on the side of likeability and survival. So they offer what they know most people will readily accept. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. But if there is no medicine, then all you get is sugar. And sugar alone is no good for you. It tastes sweet, goes down easy, but it has no long term value, and will only make you feel a little better for just a little while.


James wrote that the Word of God is able to save your soul; but how will we be able to know if all we get is a placebo in its place? What will our end be if we respond, “Teach unto us smooth things.”


Just like with a placebo, nothing will ever be cured.

Back To Top