The responses and reactions elicited by the question Is Christianity testable? on Philosophy Stack Exchange have been quite insightful. In particular, I would like to bring the reader's attention to two highly upvoted comments:
Plenty of such anecdotes can be found about other religions too. Even straight up cults like scientology. Are those also true? What is more even if we granted the fact that belief in Christianity or reading the new testament helps people put their life together, it is no proof of divine origin as such thing can be obtained by mundane means too. This is highly unserious on the part of Lennox. (41 upvotes)
So, Lennox has discovered the Placebo effect? Congratulations to him for this discovery. (9 upvotes)
On a more serious note, the comment about the placebo effect prompted me to conduct a cursory search for scientific articles to determine if this view has any merits from a scientific standpoint. That's how I came across this paper, titled Spirituality: an overlooked predictor of placebo effects?, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences journal. The abstract asserts the following:
Empirical findings have identified spirituality as a potential health resource. Whereas older research has associated such effects with the social component of religion, newer conceptualizations propose that spiritual experiences and the intrapersonal effects that are facilitated by regular spiritual practice might be pivotal to understanding potential salutogenesis. Ongoing studies suggest that spiritual experiences and practices involve a variety of neural systems that may facilitate neural ‘top-down’ effects that are comparable if not identical to those engaged in placebo responses. As meaningfulness seems to be both a hallmark of spirituality and placebo reactions, it may be regarded as an overarching psychological concept that is important to engaging and facilitating psychophysiological mechanisms that are involved in health-related effects. Empirical evidence suggests that spirituality may under certain conditions be a predictor of placebo response and effects. Assessment of patients' spirituality and making use of various resources to accommodate patients' spiritual needs reflect our most current understanding of the physiological, psychological and socio-cultural aspects of spirituality, and may also increase the likelihood of eliciting self-healing processes. We advocate the position that a research agenda addressing responses and effects of both placebo and spirituality could therefore be (i) synergistic, (ii) valuable to each phenomenon on its own, and (iii) contributory to an extended placebo paradigm that is centred around the concept of meaningfulness.
Keywords: spirituality, spiritual practice, salutogenetic effects, meaningfulness, placebo, neuronal top-down effects
How can a case be made against the view that the Christian experience is nothing but the Placebo effect?