In a world where God is not there (or, at the very least, is not talking plainly), the two things that redeem existence from being a very, very large mistake are just two things:
By morality I mean loving at least some other humans beside the narrow shrew of your own isolated self—being in solidarity with them—and by aesthetics I mean beauty, nature, art, blogging, science, architecture, math, cooking, photography, literature, music, poetry, drama, film etc.
I thus find Friedrich Nietzsche’s radical atheism and skepticism, though affirming aesthetic quests, unsatisfying insomuch as he removes solidarity, compassion, and love from the human equation and replaces them with the will to power. The post-9-11 New Atheists (like PZ Myers and Sam Harris) are certainly better on human solidarity, but they are also intellectually top-heavy on science (too often to the detriment of other elements of beauty, especially literary beauty). And they frequently harbor a naive optimism that I find grating. Albert Camus, on the other hand, seems to me to get the balance right: his philosophy retains affirmations of solidarity that are combined with aesthetic longing and a sense of the tragic.
And yet Camus seems a bit indifferent to science, and so he is not really (at least to my mind) the ideal doubter or unbeliever either. This brings me to Thomas Jefferson. He was a moralist philosopher cum scientist cum aesthete, and for this rounded and interesting character, I would give Jefferson my mythical Doubting Thomas Award. (And it’s kind of nice to think that a Doubting Thomas Award would go to somebody named Thomas).
In terms of nonmortals, of course, I like Prometheus, for he not only rebelled against Zeus, but loved mankind (stealing fire from heaven, and so bringing us techne and the arts).
In a world without God, who is your heroic ideal (mortal or mythic)?