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Unmasking the Culture of Death

David Klinghoffer


Wesley Smith at First Things describes “Three Culture of Death Tipping Points”:

Pope John Paul II once famously described Western society as a “culture of death.” But what does that term mean? It refers to a civilization that endorses lethal omissions and even outright killing by doctors to alleviate suffering or resolve life crises.

“Culture of death” is most often applied in the context of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and abortion. A few decades ago, most such acts were outlawed and widely scorned. Not anymore. The sad fact is that now most people tolerate — and some even celebrate — the culture of death as necessarily linked to secular individualistic modernism.

How did our culture become so indifferent to the sanctity and equality of human life? Roe v. Wade had a lot to do with it, of course. But subsequent to that, three major cultural tipping points fueled popular acceptance of death-culture paradigms.

Wesley cites the killing career of Jack Kevorkian, the tragedy of Terri Schiavo, and the Planned Parenthood fetal organ harvesting videos as turning points. In each instance, there was a now familiar evolution — guided by the media and “bioethicists” — of public sentiment, from outrage to apathy.

In each case, the ultimate victory for the death culture was secured by a false appeal to compassion – the “shield” — and a brandishing of the “sword” of personal autonomy. The only defense lies in unmasking just how this works, a mission in which our colleague Wesley Smith is unequaled.

Image: Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica, via Wikicommons.