Hash gives God good name
FEW people are more annoying than the sanctimonious believer, but the sanctimonious atheist is one of them.
You know the type. He starts pointless, circular arguments with religious people at social gatherings. He posts glib, snarky jokes on Facebook about imaginary friends. He says stupid things like: "I've never met a stupid atheist". (Dude, meet Joe Stalin, Mao Ze Dong, Pol Pot and umpteen other atheist brutes of yore. Cunning, maybe. Intelligent? No.)
The high priest of this fast-growing sect of atheist onanists is Richard Dawkins - a brilliant biologist, but a shrill and charmless advocate of godlessness.
At least all the pompous believers out there can plead an insanity defence. Pompous atheists should know better. They're probably right that this glob of mud we're clinging to lacks a caretaker. But they should also have noticed that the idea of a caretaker makes billions of hard lives liveable, and inspires many intelligent people to extraordinary feats.
Exhibit A: Hashim Amla's triple ton at the Oval. Amla is the antidote to Dawkins: gracious, generous and respectful of the views of others. He was quick to forgive Dean Jones for calling him a "terrorist" in 2006. ("Sorry, mate, I didn't mean for it to come out on air," secreted Jones, but Amla accepted even that pitiful dribble of a non-apology.)
Facial foliage aside, Amla's devout Muslim faith is lightly worn, and he doesn't attribute his success to divine connections. (He's not one of those gits who would have us believe that a certified supreme being took 90 minutes off his universe-management schedule to help the aforementioned git chase a ball around a lawn.)
Amla bats and lives in the old school, Abrahamic style: no excuses, and no easy victories claimed. He takes full responsibility for his decisions with every delivery that hurtles towards him. And you won't hear him spouting evangelical, New Age bollocks about anything being possible if you simply believe.
Amla knows that most of our dreams are impossible, no matter how hard we believe. A small minority are possible with the aid of extreme effort, judgment and discipline. For example, you can't stare at the sun and you can't pretend to have fun, but you can score a triple ton against England if you learn how to consider each ball on its merits and never play into the air.
The wonderful thing about Amla is his refusal to be seduced by public praise in the way that many similarly gifted South Africans have been.
A case in point is one Kevin Pietersen, who stomped off to England in 2000, moaning about being unjustly ignored by Dolphins selectors in favour of allegedly undeserving black players such as Amla.
Twelve years later, Amla's test average has just breached the 50 barrier, overtaking Pietersen. Amla's highest test score is 84 runs higher than Pietersen's. The England batsman may be a lot richer than Amla, but he's also a lot less loved. Self-worship is satisfying for a while, but it is not sustainable.
While we laud Amla's triumph, it is worth noting that we also reared Pietersen, along with many other complacent, annoying South Africans who are unfortunately still here.