The video above was attached, just a moment ago, on a previous blog post. In it, Zizek makes the claim that an ethical act does not occur when a person – presumably an atheist – is moved toward prayer when faced with the possibility of death. Rather, the truly ethical act occurs when an individual avoids prayer and replaces it with a telephone call. The ethical act thereby occurs when one calls one’s loved one on the telephone so as to inform him or her that the love between them was never really there, that it was a long-lasting sham. The first question we should ask ourselves is: why, if the individual does not love his wife, does he call his wife before dying at all? If the person who makes the telephone call believes his or her partner to be dumb enough to not ask this question then his lie would probably strike the widow/er as sweet but nonetheless insulting. Zizek, of course, provides a compelling answer: it is to help her move on in life. I accept the sentiment.
However, I can not help but think that prayer in the face of death – especially by an atheist – is an ethical act par excellence precisely because the atheist finally speaks his truth. Recall that analysis ends when the analysand approaches the truth of his desire. Moreover, it is often a desire that occurs as a result of castration (especially if we are dealing with the masculine side of sexuation) by one – a god figure – who is not castrated. This moment of prayer marks the atheist’s discovery of his own desire.