The benefit of role models is that they are living examples of thriving individuals with an attitude similar to the one's own. The reason this is particularly important for me right now is that i'm living in what i consider to be South Africa's Bible belt. I have a well developed set of personal values which i subject to constant reevaluation, some of which are incompatible with Christian norms and values and some completely conflict with them.
My misguided method of coping with this is to ridicule Christianity to reaffirm (primarily for my own benefit) that Christianity is not the be all and end all of ethical behaviour. Consciously i know that this is destructive in many ways but unfortunately we're predominantly instinctive creatures and my impulse to defend my position overcomes conscious empathy with my defendees.
As a result i've become a pretty shitty person of late and the people around me are undeservingly feeling the brunt. My teenage step-daughter particularly because naturally she wants nothing more than to be accepted within the community. Being a "Bible belt", teenage recreation in these parts translates to Christian youth group get-togethers. I appreciate the communal aspect of the youth group but i also know how destructive it can be to ethical reasoning and how it tends to promote alienation of anything outside of "the norm".
Back to the topic of role models; i now have a pillar of certainty, my position on religion is not as questionable as it's often made out to be and therefore i have less reason to be defensive about it. I am now able to approach the topic of religion and ethics from a constructive and supportive position instead. There are many potential atheist role model candidates but few that have the ethical bearing that Jacob Appelbaum has. Rejecting organised religion is for me, less about growing out of fairytales as is the case for a large majority of atheists and more about the valid concern of the ethical distortion at the core of religion.
Here's a video to give you an understanding of Jacob Appelbaum's character. It's somewhat unrelated to this post but very much related to what i stand for and my attitude towards society and authority.