Symbols sometimes meet needs that realities cannot.
Whether there is a heaven or not, the symbol of “heaven” motivates people to do good, evokes hope, inspires determination.
Whether there is a god or not, the symbol of “God” meets people’s emotional needs, makes people feel loved, hopeful, cared for, connected to the universe. On the other side of things, whether there is a god or not, the symbol of “God” makes some people feel guilty, afraid.
To reap the benefits of a symbol, we need only relate to it as if it were real. Whether it actually does refer to a reality or not is irrelevant to its psychological power.
When we treat a symbol as real, it becomes active in our inner life and can impact us as deeply, if not deeper, as any actual fact of our real lives.