Žižek calls himself a psychoanalyst of cultures. What a culture consciously believes is secondary to what it unconsciously believes, as demonstrated in the culture’s actions. A belief functions differently depending on whether a person is psychotic, neurotic (obsessive, hysteric, or phobic), or perverse.
“Normal” individuals are neurotic by default, but Žižek claims Christianity, is perverse. This means the doctrines we hear are interpreted very differently by each individual because of how religious symbols are understood. Žižek’s wager is that we can analyze how a belief will function by understanding how communities and even entire cultures respond to symbols of belief. Further, he claims that Christianity – with its founding myth of the death of God and the resurrection of Christ in the holy community – has enormous liberating potential, even radical political potential so long as we are able to forsake our preoccupation with divinity and embrace material existence.
Following Marx, Žižek is hostile to centrist/liberal politics because centrism always mitigates contrast, preventing radical progress. This is also seen in his debate with theologian John Milbank in The Monstrosity of Christ. Their debate centers on whether Christian theology must rest indefinitely in paradox or resolve dialectically. Žižek claims that Milbank’s paradoxical stance is more pagan than Žiźek’s atheistic Christianity, because paradox bypasses rigorous thought by assuming there is some unknowable harmony between (seemingly) opposed beliefs. In contrast, Žižek claims we must make the full, dialectical turn that makes the death of God a central facet of Christian belief. For Žižek, the message of Christianity is that there is no God coming to save and that we, as the Holy Spirit, bear the responsibility of saving ourselves.
For Žižek, a paradox is anathema. We must risk throwing ourselves fully into our faith even when that faith leads to materialism. The problem of political centrism and “pagan” paradox is the same: each bypasses the felt antagonism that leads to a more mature, radical, and faithful solution.