Man has transitioned from viewing himself and his life as a gift from God, to seeing his life as his own. As such, people make decisions based not on what God would want, but on what is easiest, most convenient, least painful, and selfishly rewarding to them individually.
The "culture of death" is what occurs when society rejects the value of human life as a gift from God. It is made evident when people make decisions regarding life, not based on what is morally right by God, but on what benefits people personally. The "culture of death" is the acceptance by society that life is in our hands, and not in the hands of God. Therefore we assume that we have the power to choose who deserves to live or die. The mere toleration of crimes against life such as abortion, euthanasia, and prostitution are proof that we are today truly living in a "culture of death."
The "culture of death" is built upon the assumption that there is no God. As John Paul II states, "By living 'as if God did not exist,' man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being." (EV #22) It could be safely stated that our current "culture of death" has, as its cause, the absence of respect for the mystery of life. Life is seen as merely something else that can be controlled by man. This feeling of control increases the tendency for people to be more concerned with maximizing the "quality" of their lives, while de-emphasizing their concern with life as a whole. "The so-called 'quality of life' is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence."(EV #23) This denial of God's existence permeates most modern societies, especially those in the western culture. Its effects are widespread and commonplace.