Exploring ‘Hollow Gods’: An Interview with Davidson Loehr

MEET: Davidson Loehr is a remarkable individual whose life has been a constant exploration of diverse passions. From his early days as a talented musician to his time in the Army, where he used his skills to arrange interviews, Davidson has always sought out the most challenging experiences. His service in Vietnam as a combat photographer and press officer left an indelible mark on him. Following his return, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery, exploring photography, woodworking, and eventually finding a deep interest in religion. With advanced degrees in theology and philosophy, Davidson became a Unitarian minister, further expanding his knowledge and understanding. His intellectual pursuits continue to this day, making him an inspiring figure in the realms of religion, history, and academia.


1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Honest, heretical, revolutionary.

2. Could you share your experience of writing the critically portrayed book “Hollow Gods”? Which aspect was more challenging for you: exposing the flaws of the liberal utopian society or coming to terms with your own involvement in that ideology for an extended period?

I’ve been a heretic since I was six. We really serve, not facts, but our beliefs. All wars and religious confrontations demonstrate this. As I grew beyond my own uncritical liberalism—thank goodness for a first-rate graduate school!—it wasn’t so much hard as it was surprising, revolutionary.

3. As a reader, my journey through this book can be described as moving from the hollowness of ignorance, imitation, and self-preaching toward the wholeness of social self and the quest for meaning. Why did you choose the title “Hollow Gods” for your book, and what was the inspiration behind it?

You’ve just described the results of worshiping hollow gods: ignorance, imitation, narcissism, and often sociopathy. And the wholeness, social self, and quest for meaning show the more healthy and grounded kind of beliefs that cover both the first and second culture (see Chapter Three).

4. In your book “Hollow Gods,” one can clearly observe your love and embedded understanding of etymology. Have you ever tried to trace your life and purpose using it?

I think my love of etymology began in a grad school seminar on religion. About a dozen students and a great professor. He was talking about some of Christian history’s heretics—who were burned at the stake or killed in some other awful way. He didn’t think our comments showed much understanding of what was really going on, so he asked us to define the word “heresy”. We ad-libbed the kind of generic definitions most groups would. No, he said, that’s too ignorant to let you see what’s really going on here. Try etymology. The word “heresy” comes from a Greek verb that simply means “to choose”. How can just choosing be such a bad thing? We asked. “Because first, there was this arrogant little group of the “orthodox” (right-thinking) who declared all choices closed because only they had found the final answers. From then on, the heretics are the people who say, “No, I’m not through choosing yet”. In that moment, I decided that “heresy” was sacred, and orthodoxy was ignorant and dangerous. I’ve almost always found that etymology helps me understand words I had merely been using until then. Heresy can give us the courage that doesn’t come easily to members of a social species who are taught to go along to get along, and not to question those defined as authorities.

5. In the book titled “Hollow Gods,” you extensively explore the aspects of life that are often taken for granted by society but have a significant impact due to liberal utopian ideology. Why do you think the youth is being deprived of critical truth and not questioning liberal education?

As unlikely as it may seem, I think it can be traced back to Tom Hayden at the University of Michigan in 1962. A very bright student and editor of the school’s newspaper, The Michigan Daily, he also pretty much defined the agenda of the fledgling SDS movement, which had only about 200 members nationwide at the time. In what may have then sounded simply insane, Hayden thought SDS should control the whole country. How? By controlling our education: college and graduate school, then K-12. With 200 members? Crazy. But by 1968-69 the anti-Vietnam War movement, women’s movement and black power movements had captured so many college students that SDS grew two hundred-fold, to about 40,000 members. Liberals—though really, it’s just the Marxist socialism that was the core of SDS—now control college education, where the liberal-to-conservative ratio among faculty is nearly 13:1, and in areas like “Communications” including journalism studies, the ratio was 180 to zero: not a single Republican (see pages 7, 13, and 163). Democracy, freedom of belief, and honest informed discussion of controversial issues cannot exist in that atmosphere.

6. The book also delves into the three main aspects used by liberals—sexism, racism, and white supremacy—not to unite but to create division and segregation among people. How do you understand the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement?

BLM, like Antifa and the (so far) 75 district attorneys hired/backed by George Soros, are parts of the socialist movement to destroy all stable, free and healthy aspects of our society, so it can be reduced to rubble more easily controlled by the socialism these “liberals” desire. The point isn’t socialism. That’s just a “bait” word to seduce the ignorant masses. Socialism is always and only about power. Today’s students learn in K-12 and college that there aren’t really two sides to important social and political and religious questions. There’s only one side: the ideology of the far left: socialism. This has let those in the media believe their mission is to help save the USA by acting as the bullhorn for this leftist ideology (pun intended).

7. You have conducted extensive studies on religion during your MA and PhD respectively. In your opinion, what do you think universities and campus faculties are missing in terms of religious studies and understanding sacred scriptures?

This opens into a big subject that it’s time to start exploring in much greater detail than I can do here—even though, of course, it will represent a dangerous heresy to almost all religions, both conservative and liberal. It’s also revolutionary and exciting! It starts with the fact that we don’t get our highest ideals—the Golden Rule, a commanding sense of fairness, empathy and the rest. A broad hint came 20-30 years ago when there were popular t-shirts listing about 20 religions that all had versions of the Golden Rule. In other words, that famous and profound Rule preceded all of our religions. As we’ve become aware since then, our highest behavioral ideals also preceded our species! This isn’t just about human behavior; it’s about animal behavior, especially the behavior of social species, of which we are one.

The science that studies this is ethology, also known as comparative animal behavior. The most influential scholar in the field is Frans de Waal. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory,[1] and author of numerous books. His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food-sharing. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. I have written that his mission is to reclaim the area of moral and ethical behavior for science, away from religion—which, as he says, can’t contribute much to any deep discussion here because “it’s just too new”, and he agrees. One of de Waal’s post-doctoral students, Sarah Brosnan, designed what has become a classic (and hilarious) scientific experiment to show whether a sense of fairness is innate in capuchin monkeys. The experiment has been replicated with other species. Just Google “Monkeys and Fairness” to watch the 3-minute video. The experiment is quite decisive, and one of the funniest scientific experiments you’re likely to see. Other universities are also engaged in this exciting area. I’ve seen videos done at the University of Chicago and Duke University, and am sure there are others in this fast-growing field.

What these and similar experiments show is that we got our highest—and lowest—behaviors naturally, and share them with thousands of other species that have been here for many million years before we came along to give them names.

So the serious discussion of our highest ideals now needs empirical study among many species, rather than religions. We projected these high ideals and behaviors onto our religions and gods, for preservation, we don’t get our high ideals FROM GODS OR RELIGIONS. So non-theists are right in saying these subjects are rightfully scientific rather than theological. And people deeply interested in behavioral and experiential approaches to religion are right in challenging the non-religious to show what, if anything, opens them to these deep and ancient behaviors, and commands them to embody those noble behaviors in their own lives. The scientists win the first, merely intellectual, argument; the religion win the second, far more profound, argument.

A quick online search came up with this list of 2023’s “Best Animal Behavior & Ethology Schools” which are awarding 183 degrees in animal behavior and ethology: University of California, Davis; Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA; Indiana University, Bloomington, IN; Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; Carroll University, Waukesha, WI; University of New England, Biddeford, ME; Canisius College, Buffalo, NY; Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX; Eckerd College, Saint Petersburg, FL. It’s a field growing in popularity, as interest in theology is diminishing.

8. How would you define the true and distorted meanings of liberalism, considering your experience as someone who has been involved in the ideology for an extended period of time?

It’s ironic. For me—etymology again—the basic meaning of “liberal” is “a bigger helping”, of everything. This is also the core of all real education. But the current socialist—aka “far left”—thinking has betrayed liberalism, education, the media, politics, and race relations, as I elaborated in the book.

9. One of the most insightful aspects of this book is the exploration of the betrayal committed by liberals and how they view it as a divine authority and duty, as mentioned in the book. How do you think liberals will react to your work after reading about this betrayal?

It depends on the liberal. I’m a liberal, and think this is just what we need to realize about the betrayal of traditional liberal thought by the socialism that is replacing our democracy.

10. This book is filled with exciting self-introspection exercises, which are reflected in your comparative analysis, as quoted: “Humans are, above all, a social species: herd animals, easily turned into unthinking crowds chanting in one unreflective and uninformed voice. Think of the partisan crowds at sports or political events, passionate religious arguments, loaded social issues, and so on.” Do you believe that many liberals join the liberal ideology as an act of imitation and recognition?

It’s how we all start. We grow up, or gain an important identity in, a culture that defines our herd, whether or not we realize it at the time. It can be liberal, conservative, Christian, Jewish, humanist, Buddhist, or whatever. But that culture, that herd, biases nearly all of our thinking and partially shapes our character. If it’s what our herd agrees on, we believe it is right. We’re certain it is right, and that certainty defines us at a pretty deep level. What we forget, however, is that certainty is only an attitude, as Wittgenstein put it. It has no necessary relation to facts, truth, or anything good. Remember, the Nazis, Communists, and all socialists and communists are also certain, as are the armies on both sides of every war. Certainty doesn’t make us right, though we may kill for it.

When education, growth, etc. shift us enough to disconnect us from those certainties, it can feel catastrophic. We can lose friends, a community, and our certainty about truth, and the meaning of life. It is very much like going through a religious conversion experience. Our former faith becomes an embarrassing mistake, and people with our former faith now seem ignorant, deeply wrong, destructive, the enemy.

11. You have also brought about a paradigm shift by not only criticizing your own ideology but also exposing the myths it promises. How much more difficult is it to challenge one’s own ideas and beliefs compared to criticizing others, and what does it require to undergo such a realization?

Good questions. It’s always harder. Who then am I? What’s true, what’s good, what is required of me now? Think of a devout Jew (or Christian) who becomes a devout Christian (or Jew). We have to reorient ourselves around different certainties, different communities, make new friends. So we initially have very strong resistance to this change. We tend to just overlook or bracket the beliefs that we now see as wrong, rationalize it by thinking “Well, nothing is perfect”. Whether we can do this depends on several things: mostly our age, and our character. Sciences seem to agree that our character is formed by our mid-20s, and is unlikely to change much after that. And what kind of character do we have? What kind of person are we? A conformist or a heretic? A groupie or an individualist? These are the reasons that such a change in our beliefs and certainties is rare.

12. Have you ever wondered why people all over the world try to fit themselves into predefined boxes of ideologies? Why have these ideologies become more significant identities than any other?

Sure, always. See above.

13. You have also discussed the use of a secular religion by liberals as a soft power to undermine Biblical religion. Why do you think they are replacing God’s omnipresence with their false ideology?

The rise of sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries changed many people’s worldview. Myths and supernatural gods, heavens and the rest can now seem embarrassingly ignorant and naive. So if we take religion literally, it’s an embarrassment. But what on Earth can we use to replace that eternal but nonexistent Heaven? And that Supernatural God? If there is no omnipresent supernatural God (who loves us and thinks of us as his children), what is the source of authority, our meaning, our essence? What can we trust? These are fundamental and ontological questions. The obvious answers are that the myths about God’s truth are replaced by the empirical and provable beliefs of scientists. So, We are the logical and necessary successor to God. And our wisdom gives us the authority to create the legitimate heir to Heaven: a Utopia here on Earth: socialist or communist (depending on how much violence we think is needed to establish this utopia).

The implications of this are, as we have seen, Earth-shattering. Our gift of an imaginative understanding beyond the capability of the ignorant masses gives us an absolute duty to create this utopia, and to prevent the unenlightened masses from interfering. This is the reason we must have complete power, what Democrats are referring to as “One-Party Rule”. We want a “Parental Government” where we are the “parents” who take the place that used to be reserved for God. And we can do whatever is necessary to keep the ignorant masses from interfering, as Plato assured us 2400 years ago.

14. The book “Hollow Gods” will also help youth and teenagers understand how intellectual curiosity is damaged by political motives. Why do you think it is so easy for liberals to influence the mindset of youth studying on campuses?

Because over the last 50 years, liberals have taken over education: K-12, college, and graduate school. In 1969, the ratio of liberal to conservative college faculty was about 3:2. Now it is about 13:1, and as high as 108:0 in a field of Communications (which includes journalism). This notion that the liberal ideology is the only acceptable answer replaces education with indoctrination, as we have found.

15. One of the questions in “Hollow Gods” that is not only straightforward but powerful is quoted: “Our character becomes essentially fixed by our mid-20s. Now, how important do you think our education is?” Can religion help us regain our true education?

We can’t overstate this. This was Tom Hayden’s insight back in 1962 when he believed the SDS ideology should take over the US culture, and saw that the only way to do that was by first taking over the whole educational system. It’s well known that totalitarian regimes always focus on changing the children, which then easily changes the future. While most liberals—the ignorant masses—aren’t aware of this plan and the reasons for it, they/we have mostly been following it for over 60 years.

Can religion help? That’s complex. Our culture will not return to the supernatural religion of yesteryear. Science is here to stay, and we’re just beginning to feel the transformative power that AI brings. It requires something akin to a religious conversion. And here, religion—taken at a deep generic level—can indeed be the answer. Religions must be judged by the behaviors they instill in their followers. Ideally, this behavior will include our noblest behaviors: the Golden Rule, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, treating those who disagree as our brothers and sisters, fairness, dependability, and the rest.

16. Utopia, a complex word to understand in contemporary times, yet many people believe in it. Do you believe this utopian ideology affects our thinking and behavior patterns? In your opinion, what are the reasons for the success of utopian campaigns?

It seems, abstractly, eminently logical: good, better, Best. We can handle the good and better, and traditionally expect our gods to know what’s Best. And we yearn for the Best. Granted, our gods seem never to have been able to do this, though they have sometimes inspired us to behave in loving ways that can seem ideal. There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus seems to make the job of establishing the fabled “Kingdom of God” a state of affairs that God cannot bring about. Only we can. When we treat one another as brothers, sisters, and children of God, the resulting culture will become the Kingdom of God (in the Gospel according to Luke). No gods required, ironically, just the quality of behaviors that all of our best religions have always taught.

17. The book “Hollow Gods” is filled with an intellectual journey, incorporating different perspectives and insights from various authors. What is the purpose behind including diverse authors and their insights in the book?

It’s a huge subject with many interlocking parts, and requires several different perspectives to understand it. This is true of many subjects. The answer to the seemingly simple question “What is religion?” depends on what methods you use to examine it. Will you look at it theologically, philosophically, anthropologically, sociologically, historically, psychologically, comparatively? Each method leads to a different understanding of religion. And the more methods we can use, the bigger, broader and more complex our picture becomes. Also, I’ve always been interested in finding bigger and more nuanced ways of understanding things.

18. You have also highlighted individual and social identity in your book. According to you, which societies and individuals can be categorized as reptilian selves?

Those rooted in our limbic system without the factual and logical refinements of our newer neocortex. Any government that involves exalting one person or one exclusive viewpoint falls here: tyrants, totalitarian rulers, narcissistic rulers.

19. You have also discussed the concept of building eutopia. Could you share your thoughts on it?

“Utopia” means “no place”; “Eutopia” means “a good place”. No, not a perfect place. But a good place should be our aim. What’s the best sort of society? How about one in which we each get a vote, and continually work to make it as open and welcoming as it can be for the best kind of people and the best kind of conditions we can create? For many, that’s a working definition of a democracy.

20. You have also extensively analyzed the ignored truths of religions, as quoted: “Humility” and “humble” have the same roots as “human” and “humanity.” We cannot be truly human without humility, as any religion could teach us. Why is it that in religion, sometimes the messenger becomes more important than the message?

Why is Jesus exalted above his teachings, for example? It’s easier. We’re hard-wired as a hierarchical species, and we like to create Alpha figures (god, king, queen, president, boss, CEO, Pope, Bishop, etc., etc.) It also empowers those who claim to speak for him, whether gifted spiritual leaders (I think of MLK) or religious hucksters.

21. You spent 48 months in the service of the Army. What were the important lessons you learned during this period?

43 Months: from 2 January 1964 to 6 August 1967. I can’t overstate the importance of my time in the Army. We would have a much healthier society if we had a universal draft for men and women, kind of like Israel. It wouldn’t have to be military, though it would mostly be. But it could also be something like the Peace Corps, or working in the inner cities, etc. What’s essential is that from around age 18-20—before we begin our adult career—we should serve something good that’s bigger than we are. That’s a transformative experience. And yes, though it sounds very religious, the Army can effect this change. I still see my year in Vietnam—especially the final seven months as a combat photographer and press officer—as sacred.

22. Do you have other writers in your family?

No, but there’s another intellectual. My younger brother Peter has a Ph.D. in education and is a professor of education working with graduate students at Buffalo State University. I rely on him to catch me when I drift off into ungrounded abstractions and bring me back down to Earth.

23. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, particularly those who may be struggling to find their own voice or develop their own unique style?

I would say what I say on many occasions in many fields: the meaning of life is finding the best answer to two fundamental questions:

  1. Who, at my best, am I? (for that’s who I damned well better be becoming!).
  2. How should I live, so that when I look back, I can be glad I lived that way?

In a world increasingly shaped by ideology, a book dares to delve into the heart of a contentious debate: the rise of liberalism as a destructive religion. HOLLOW GODS by Davidson Loehr uncovers the sociological dimensions of this phenomenon, inviting readers to a captivating exploration of how liberalism, once a bastion of progressive values, has transformed into a dogmatic belief system with far-reaching consequences. Brace yourself for a thought-provoking journey that challenges established narratives, provokes introspection, and sparks passionate discussions about the role of ideology in shaping our society. Loehr’s controversial analysis compels us to question whether the pursuit of social justice and individual freedoms can unwittingly lead us down a path of intolerance and the suppression of diverse perspectives. Get ready to have your assumptions challenged and your worldview reshaped as we embark on a sociological expedition through the pages of HOLLOW GODS ( Buy Now).

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