Meet a member: Douglas Schiebel

Name: Douglas Schiebel.

Where I live: Port Ludlow, Wash.

Family: Married 54 years to Carolyn. We have two adult children and three grandkids.
Education: Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Occupation: Clinical psychologist.

Military: Civilian guard, U.S. Army, Germany.

How I got where I am today: I was born in a rural hamlet in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps and grew up during the Nazi era in Germany. I entered grade school in the provincial town of Sonthofen and went on to pass the high school “Abitur” examination in Oberstdorf, the southern terminus of the country’s railway system. Commuting there involved the train making unscheduled stops in wooded areas to hide from strafing runs by marauding Allied planes during the war.

I went to work as a paramilitary civilian guard for the U.S. Army after high school graduation, prior to immigrating to the United States. I have been here since.

My religious indoctrination began with the Roman Catholic baptism customary in my native region, including a stint as an altar boy. I knew the Latin Mass with its repetitive “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” by heart. I grew tired of its drumbeat of guilt induction before too long, however, and decided to skip out on the mandatory periodic “cleansing” of my soul in front of unctuous priests in the confessional booth. I was on my way to becoming a secular humanist. I decided that morality is best viewed as a matter of avoiding harm to others (or oneself), rather than obeisance to the dictates of a possibly sadistic deity.

While remaining true to my humanistic convictions, I must allow that I had a brief lapse into wishful thinking in the context of the civil rights movement and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cold War. I entertained the hope that belief in a loving god, whether valid or not, might persuade people to treat each other more kindly and to avoid incinerating the whole world in a conflagration of mutual assured destruction. The shrill advent of the evangelical Religious Right a few years later promptly extinguished this budding fantasy in my mind.

Where I am headed: To oblivion upon my death. But I will savor my remaining time on Earth with all the gusto and intellectual excitement I am capable of.

Person in history I admire: Martin Luther King Jr., for establishing nonviolent resistance to evil as an effective tool for social change.

Quotation I like: Richard Dawkins (paraphrased): We who are fated to die are the lucky ones, considering the myriad of potential human beings who were never born to see the world.

These are a few of my favorite things: Balmy summer days in the Pacific Northwest. Visiting national park lodges. Strolling on an ocean beach. Hot (and cold) running water.

These are not: Empty ritual, especially of a religious type. Belligerent nationalism. Moralism.

My doubts about religion started: When I heard about the medieval tortures of the Inquisition and the burning of live human beings at the stake “to save their souls.”
Before I die: I would like to see the freethought movement continue to decimate the religious mindset.

Ways I promote freethought: I take my atheism out of the closet in front of family and friends.

Freedom From Religion Foundation