Fame can be an incidental thing that can be used as a tool, but can also be a thing pursued as a replacement for the love of God. In this latter approach, the adulation of the crowd is taken to be the voice of God saying, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” There is a problem with this—beyond the obvious that it’s simply false and thus will lead to misery, and that it’s idolatry, which is just saying the same thing.
The practical problem with trying to use fame as a justification for one’s life is that one is not famous among people who are better than oneself. No one is famous for deadlifting 500 pounds among people (of the same bodyweight) who can deadlift 600 pounds. No one is famous for playing the guitar very well among people who play it better. This can, to some degree, be forgotten as long as the famous person doesn’t meet his fans, but it will become very obvious the moment he does.
Now, this is actually the proper relationship. He who would be the lord of all must be the servant of all. It is the natural order of creation that the greater serves the lesser, because this is how God fills creation up with being, as in a stack of Champaign glasses where each layer overflows into the one below it. That can only be satisfying, though, if one understands the order of creation and how the serving of the lower order of being is in fact the fulfillment of one’s telos and the parking in God’s act of creation out of generous love. It does not satisfy at all if one looks to get something out of it, rather than to give merely because it is possible to give.
Famous atheists must, therefore, be unhappy.