In his book, Violence, Slavoj Žižek contests the standard story that religious adherents use in response to the claim that religion causes violence. Generally it is claimed that perpetrators of religious violence are “only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual message of their creed.” Žižek argues instead that we should wise up and admit that religions simply are violent and thus “restore the dignity of atheism, perhaps our only chance for peace.” In other words, Žižek calls religions to the mat, insisting that any easy answer of “they aren’t true representatives of my faith…” is necessarily a dodge.
However, what is ironic is that Žižek utilizes the exact same logic in his defense of the moral superiority of atheism to religion. He claims that we should “renounce religion, including its secular reverberations such as Stalinist communism” and that while “there are cases of pathological atheists who are able to commit mass murder just for pleasure,” these events are “rare exceptions.” Here Žižek is simply marshaling the same argument flippantly used by religious adherents to explain away the violent behavior of their fellow-believers. He claims that events of atheist-perpetrated violence are simply exceptions that abuse and pervert the noble morality of true atheism. Why should the exact same argument be more believable as a defense of atheism than of religion?