The Death of Mark Daily.
Christopher Hitchens has recently written a very moving article about a brave young man named Mark Daily who, after reading an article by Hitchens regarding the morality of invading Iraq, made the decision to enlist. He enlisted with the specific purpose of going to fight for the liberation of Iraq, joining one week after the invasion started. Less than three months after his arrival in Iraq, he was killed in a roadside blast whiling riding in a Humvee. Another Humvee was intended to take the lead position in the convoy, but as the Humvee was not properly armored, insisted on taking the lead. Although his Humvee was armored, it was no match for 1,500 pounds of high explosive. Mark Daily was a great loss to the Army, and to the world.
He was a great loss to the world because he was, even apart from his army service, was a very fine young man. According to his family, he would not let others be bullied in school, won an online argument with a neo-Nazi (not that that is particularly hard), and joined the army expressly to liberate the people of Iraq. His death was a great loss.
Hitchens, by his own account, felt a bit responsible for Daily's death as an article he wrote influenced to his decision to join. He got in touch with Daily's family, and they kindly invited him to go with them when they sprinkled their son's ashes along his favorite beach, as was his request.
While this story is definitely sad, it is also a uplifting. Daily is resting in peace, where he wanted to be buried, and he fought a good fight in Iraq. He saved the life of others (including that of one man who had seven children) in his death, and he was a first-class soldier. In my Christian worldview, and most others, Mark Daily led a full life, one that he can be proud of.
The only worldview in which Daily is not a hero is Hitchens own, if he followed it to its logical conclusions. If we postulate that there is no afterlife, from Daily's point of view, the world ended the day he died. And what had Daily accomplished? He had fought to save the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator, but he got nothing for it. (Remember that Hitchens assumes there is no afterlife).
Most religious people do good deeds in the hope of experiencing a desirable outcome in the afterlife. But Hitchens assumes Daily will have no afterlife. Some believers are holy enough to do good deeds simply for the love of God. But Mark Daily was a atheist, and if he was a believer Hitchens see his belief as illogical.
I find it odd that Hitchens can writes so movingly and well about a man whose action he should find illogical. While I am sure that he would disagree, I see this tenedancy as evidence that, despite his best efforts to eradicate belief, Hitchens still reasons from a religous standpoint in matters of the soul.
A quick notes. I would read Hitchens' recent article in Vanity Fair about his reaction to Daily's death (link), as well as his original article (link) that inspired Daily to enlist. These are both brilliant articles. In addition, Mark Daily's MySpace page (link) is worth visiting.