The five best atheists

The five best atheists August 16, 2012

Recently, an article came out naming the author’s picks for the five worst public atheists.  I’d like to counter that with writing about the people who I think are the best public atheists.  These are the ones who I feel should be the public face of atheism, and who we should be the proudest to trot out.

This was decided on a couple of factors:

1.  How well they handle themselves publicly.

2.  Their individual character.


The five best

PZ Myers

Love him or hate him, the dude is committed.  He never hides in a green room – he’s always out commiserating with the people in the crowd.  He treats every single person he encounters with the same level of respect and importance, whether it’s a random person or Richard Dawkins.

He’s also all about the cause.  This guy could make bank charging an honorarium to speak and he doesn’t do it.  Not only that, I found out at Skepticon 2 that PZ must drive three hours to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport every time he gives a talk (and the guy gives a lot of talks).  As one of the organizers of Skepticon 2, I tried to give him gas money.  He steadfastly refused.  This guy is terribly giving of his time and resources to this cause, and he never even mentions it.  For PZ, it’s all about this cause, not about him.

PZ is unquestionably the biggest monster in the atheist blogging game.  His blog is Pharyngula.

Greta Christina

For most of the famous atheists, they’ve let the fame get to them at least a little bit.  Not Greta.  She listens intently to every single person who approaches her and prioritizes making time for her fans.  This woman cares about almost every person she meets.  Just a kind, sweet woman.

She’s also one of the greatest wordsmiths our side has ever seen.

Her blog is Greta Christina’s blog.

Hemant Mehta

Like PZ, fully committed.  Doesn’t charge to speak, which is impressive considering he maintains a full-time (and then some) teaching gig.  Even with that, he still cranks out a healthy supply of quality material.

If Hemant sees someone suffering, especially the young, this guy will go to the ends of the earth to do whatever he can regardless of whether or not he agrees with them.  Like PZ and Greta, Hemant sacrifices an enormous amount of his personal time toward advancing this cause.

He is the creator of the Friendly Atheist blog (but he’s still kind firebrandy).

Dave Silverman

A work horse who runs American Atheists despite spending a killer amount of time traveling.  Honest, mischievous when the cameras aren’t on him, and with an uncanny ability to denounce injustice in such a way the Curiosity rover is moved from millions of miles away.

No matter what, Dave always seems to have time for you no matter who you are.  If you’re speaking to Dave, you are the most important thing in his universe at that time.  For being a “marine of atheism,” he is one of the nicest people you’re ever likely to encounter.  There is no such thing as a less-important activist to Mr. Silverman.

Matt Dillahunty

One of the most keen intellects we have, and simultaneously incredibly modest about it.

Like the others, Matt places a tremendous amount of importance on every activist he meets.  If you want to find Matt at a conference, don’t look where all the stars congregate, look for a group in the audience where he is answering questions, astounding with magic, or otherwise making himself available.

Matt is also one of the most multi-talented people on earth.

Matt contributes to the Atheist Experience blog and co-hosts the Atheist Experience TV show.

Honorable mentions

Jen McCreight

Passionate, honest, funny, but most importantly, human.  The more you’re in the public spotlight, the more you’re tempted to harden up as people look for reasons to criticize you and even as those on your side demand perfection of you.  Jen has never let it stop her from being human.  Like everybody else, Jen will likely be found hanging out with her friends at events instead of catching up on much-needed sleep.

She is the author of Blag hag.

Amanda Knief

Has the patience of an oak.  While she lacks the fame of a PZ Myers, there is no doubt she makes up for it in both her capability as a public face and with a rare character.

An uncommonly high amount of compassion is often a curse, as you feel compelled to help everybody who suffers even though you can only be so great.  This, I imagine, is Amanda Knief’s life.  This makes her a tireless worker (which frequently earns her my sympathy and awe).

She is seriously one of the kindest people in the world (that is not hyperbole).  She’s the type who regularly messages you to see if you’re alright and to make sure your life is going well.  If ever there were someone who should be the face of kind atheism, she’d be a good candidate.

She’s presently the Administrative Director for American Atheists.

Ed Brayton

Ed Brayton is a paradox.  You know he’s one of the wittiest writers in atheism and a political genius.  Yet, when you meet him, you can’t reconcile that with his aura of “just another dude (who you really want to have a beer with).”

Very much like Matt Dillahunty, Ed lights up a room.  He just trails happiness and jovial fun wherever he goes.

This guy is the last to judge anybody negatively.  If you have caused Ed to dislike you, you must’ve done something really heinous.  He’s another one, like Amanda who, if he hears you’re having a tough time with anything will be there in two seconds to see if he can help, whether you’re a famous atheist or an obscure activist.  Actually, that’s not true in my experience with Ed.  He’s all about the obscure, burgeoning activists.

Ed is the founder of Freethoughtblogs.  He writes Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Adam Lee

Brilliant, down-to-earth, and super kind. Talking to him, you realize he’s way more humble than he has a right to be.  He also fan boys out meeting fans and heroes of his alike.

His calm, but hard-hitting style of delivery makes him an ideal public face for atheism.  His compassion and humility make him a person we should look up to.

He’s the author of the Daylight Atheism blog as well as the Daylight Atheism book.

Dan Barker

Co-president of perhaps the mostly influential atheist legal group in the world, the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  This takes up a lot of Dan’s time, but he still maintains a schedule as a speaker/debater.  He almost always speaks to schools for free, and I don’t just mean for no honorarium: I mean Dan will get himself there and put himself up too.  He is another genius caliber intellect who makes huge sacrifices for this movement.

He is also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Richard Carrier

Hip.  With it.  Perhaps, in my estimation, the greatest thinker on the atheist side of things, but simultaneously doesn’t take himself so seriously he can’t talk about D&D.

Charismatic and superbly intelligent, if Carrier says something in public you can bet the farm it will be well-sourced, thoroughly researched, and presented in a way that everybody he is trying to reach will understand it.  Were we to have an atheist president, this is probably the guy we’d want.

He has a lot of books, and he blogs at Richard Carrier Blogs.

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