The death of Pope John Paul II pretty well overshadows anything else going on in the news today — the Terri Schiavo controversy is all but forgotten, but one can’t help but be struck by the irony of it all.

It was an exhausting two weeks emotionally, as well, what with the death watch for Terri Schiavo, immediately followed by the death watch for Pope John Paul II.

The irony was lost on the media — first they were clamoring for the starvation death of Terri Schiavo and criticizing those who tried to save her as ‘right-wing fanatics’ — then fawning over the passing of ‘a great champion of life’ only three days later.

The contrast between the two death watches could not have been more stark, but the theme was the same.

As Terri Schiavo slowly starved to death, the media championed her ‘right’ to ‘die with dignity’ arguing that ‘nobody would want to live like that.’

Seventy-two hours later, the same media was babbling about how the Pope demonstrated how to approach death with joy and happiness. “Death is a part of life, after all” — the talking heads kept reminding us, helpfully.

The natural man has an innate fascination with death. What made the United States of America unique among the nations of the world at the time of its foundation was its respect for life. The Declaration of Independence stipulated that all men were created by their Creator with an inalienable right to life.

Under the American system, the life of an individual citizen was not in the hands of government, it was in the Hands of God. Life was revered, respected and carefully protected by a system of checks and balances designed to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be the American legacy.

America’s culture of life has reversed itself in a single generation. In 1972, the Supreme Court took upon itself the authority to define ‘life’ — using the only yardstick available to the carnal man — death.

Something not ‘alive’ is therefore ‘dead’ even when it is obvious that it is not. Unborn babies are not ‘alive’ and therefore it is technically legal to destroy them.

Proverbs 8:36 provides some insight into the growing death culture within Western society, revealing, “But he that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate Me love death.”

Fascination with death is the hallmark of paganism. The ancient Egyptians revered “the Book of the Dead;” the high holy day of the pagan Celts is celebrated today as Halloween.

God sent the children of Israel into Canaan with orders to eliminate the pagan death cult of Molech and replace it with the Hebrew culture of life.

The pagan Mayans performed ritual human sacrifices. So did the Babylonians. Rome, at its zenith, built huge amphitheaters for the express purpose of making violent death a spectator sport.

Violent martyrdom is a guaranteed ticket to paradise in Islamic theology, particularly if one takes plenty of enemies with him.

A culture that celebrates death, historically speaking, will soon have its own death to celebrate. “From abortion on demand in 1973, to a right to die in Oregon, to a right to suicide in Holland, to involuntary euthanasia in the old folks homes on the old and dying continent of Europe, to America’s death sentence for Terri Schiavo, the West advances steadily toward its own death.

As we find more and more justifications for ending life, we also find that not one Western nation has a native-born population that is growing. All are dying. Before century’s end, the West ends, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “Not with a bang, but a whimper.”