Here are people who have shaped how I think, who I admire the most in the world. Saving the best for last, of course….
I don’t know this man’s real name. I only know him by his YouTube screen name. He hasn’t uploaded anything in years, but I still occasionally watch his material to this day.
I was raised Christian, but I abandoned faith after spending some time with doubt and then simply waking up with an epiphany. After my apostasy, though, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, nor did I feel I had legitimate grounds to be an atheist. For the first few months or so, I still believed evolution was a myth and Earth was only 6,000 years old. That’s when I stumbled upon Philhellenes’ videos.
This man explained things so fluidly (and one could even say elegantly). He helped me understand my own already-existing thoughts concerning religious faith that I didn’t know how to put into words. I went from a Christian in doubt, to an atheist in doubt, to an atheist with grounds and a voice. As I’ve explained in the past, being a new atheist is terrifying, because for many, like me, I still feared burning in hell and God’s wrath. It makes no sense when you think about it, but I didn’t have any means of understanding my own epiphanies or have any confidence in them.
Philhellenes, whatever his real name is, fearlessly called out religious people for their lies, and just overall displayed wisdom concerning who we atheists are and how we ought to live our lives as non-believers. With his help, I overcame my fear of divine punishment, and I saw the absurdity of religion with the clearest focus. I’ll link to just some of his works here.
I heard of Bill Maher’s movie Religulous when it came out, and at the time of its release, I was still a devout Christian. At that time, I thought the movie was just more anti-God foolishness and forgot about it. However, after I abandoned faith, I remembered the movie and decided to watch it. And I loved it so much, I started to follow Maher’s work, and have ever since.
Bill Maher criticizes not only religion, but also absurdities about our own society. He goes after conservatives most of all, but occasionally also attacks liberals. Bill Maher is the person who made me learn something about myself: that I, at the time, was extremely tribal and only ever called out people’s nonsense or unethical behavior if they were not one of ‘my people.’ He’s the one who made me realize that one should hold morals and principles paramount, above tribalism, above any other beliefs, and above any person. Of course, that’s never been at the core of any of Bill Maher’s messages, but it is still something I learned through him.
He taught me well, because there are times when I disagree with him, or even outright disdain things he says. Something I never would have done if he had never made me realize how narrow-minded I used to be. I hate that Bill Maher undervalues and undermines children; I hate that he never points out positives in specific people who don’t belong to the liberal tribe (he only criticizes liberals as a whole, and even that is rare); and I hate that he is openly against marriage and speaks of it as some kind of pointless, even detrimental, institution.
I do admire him, though, and I regularly follow him on his show Real Time with Bill Maher. He is one of the very few liberals out there who calls out Islam for the dangerous religion it is, and finds political correctness ridiculous.
Of all the idols I have who I have never met, Christopher Hitchens is the greatest. Unfortunately, he died in 2011 and I will never have the chance to meet and have a conversation with him.
Hitchens is the man who inspired me years ago to oppose religion regularly, with my words and my writing. He viewed religion as a cancer; as mankind’s greatest enemy. It should be viewed as such. He was never afraid to speak his mind, even if it was to speak against Mother Teresa and claim she was absolutely no saint. Everything Hitchens said and wrote, even if I disagreed, was always said with such wisdom and confidence and firmly-grounded in reality. He taught me to never stop standing up for what I believe and he reinforced what I learned from Bill Maher, which is to hold principles sacred above literally all other things. I think the only matter I disagreed with him about was his stance on the Iraq War, which he supported and said was necessary.
Lana and Larry
Two people share the number one slot for my greatest idol. It is a husband and wife named Lana and Larry, who I have known since I was 2 years old.
Read my blog, and you will see that I have a lot of gripes against a lot of people, and I am permanently saddened by how fucked up a world we live in. I have been abandoned, betrayed, and lied to by nearly everyone I have ever known. My mother and father were the first ones, actually. My siblings are included in that as well, and of course dozens of friends I have/had. Nobody is perfect, and that includes Lana and Larry, but I have never personally known people who are so damn close to perfect as them.
They taught me from an early age the importance of love, and how to love unconditionally. They display it every single day of their lives, with everyone they have ever known. They are generous, compassionate, wise, and in my eyes, the walking epitome of love. This world would be a peaceful utopia if everyone on Earth were like them. Yes, they are devout Christians, but they do not hold that against me in the slightest, nor do they attempt to shove their religion down my throat. They truly live as Jesus commanded his followers to live. They do not think or behave as most Christians in this country do – hating the poor, loving money, supporting torture, desiring the annihilation of rival religions, etc. They simply live a life of love, giving love to everyone they can. They are the ONLY thing in this universe that makes me even the slightest bit interested in rejoining Christianity.
There is no one I respect more, and there is no one in all human history who I wish to be more like than them. I fail at this every single day, but I still try. I wish I could always be gentle and kind, even toward those who completely don’t deserve it, as they do.