I do sometimes wonder what the world would be like if gods existed and magic worked.
If magic worked as mechanically as, well, mechanics then I doubt it would make that much difference. We’d just rush about the place in our seven league boots or on our magic carpets. As Arthur C Clark said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistigishable from magic, but it’s less obvious that the reverse is true too. If you could summon up spirits from the vasty deeps, you’d probably just get their voicemail. I think a magical world would be shiny but mundane like a cross between Ikea and Comet. You’d expect there to be less of a problem with pollution and global warming of course, but maybe there’d be a shortage of newts’ eyes in much the way that there is a shortage of tigers and rhinoceroses already and for exactly the same reason. (Rhinoceroi? Rhinocerodes? Why is there never a greek scholar around when you need one?)
Ok, so magic would be dull, but what about the power of prayer?
It seems to me that if prayer worked then it would be just another form of insurance.
Travel insurance? – Check.
Passport and tickets? – Check.
Prayer? – Oh, no, hang on a minute while I get down on my knees.
I’ve certainly sat down to meals where grace was as meaningless and mechanical as putting a napkin on your lap.
If prayers and special pleading worked, it would suck great big hairy cheese-monsters. It’s always shit when the middle-sized bully gets the big bastard on their side. For example, you’d have to avoid competing against one of the deity’s top pray-ers if you wanted that promotion:
Let’s see now, Aphra has more experience, better qualifications and a personality that will really fit in, but we’ve just had a note from the Big Guy that we’ve got to hire the other one.
Functional prayer just sounds like belonging to the mob: The power of prayer – putting the god into godfather.
On top of which, I’m not at all sure about a world where there’s a god who’s nicer to those who are nice to it, and who really did throw thunderbolts at the bad guys. That suggests a world where the supreme being has the emotional intelligence of a five year old, a point well made 40 years ago by Gene Roddenberry in The Squire of Gothos not to mention everyone who’s ever written about the classical or nordic gods since Homer had an eye test.
And if we go for the nature-thang, we end up with a world where healing spirits heal you without any of that annoying waiting-lists-and-cold-hands-on-your-privates stuff, and where sister wind and brother rain come to your garden but are far too nice to fart about or piss around like drunks at a barbeque, which – lets face it – is how they behave right now. It sounds nice, but would you really want to live in a world which was trapped inside a shop in Hebden Bridge and full of wind-chimes, incense, velvety lace and oestrogen?
Mind you, the only way I can make sense of a world where Sarah Palin could be president of the US freaking A is to conclude that this whole universe is indeed the bad-acid trip of some great big hairy cheese-monster.
I take it all back. I’ll have the Hebden Bridge one, thank you.