For me it was a gradual process throughout my time in college and the seminary that started my freshman year. As I would come up with questions and doubts I would drift towards agnosticism and then when I'd find a weak answer I'd swing back to theist. As my study progressed I would be forced to revisit the topic and the cycle would continue. I was probably a deist about half of those five years, an agnostic at least one of them, and true Adventist very little of it. By the end of my brief stint in the seminary I had completely rejected creationism, the authority of scripture, and the doctrine of salvation, so I finally called it quits.
I did a pretty good job of keeping my doubts hidden from those around me, enough so that my senior year at Walla Walla I was the dorm chaplain and at the end of my second semester in the seminary I was elected president of the Chaplains Club.
This did cause some social issues since I didn't quite fit in with the "good" kids and definitely different fit in with the "bad." I can definitely say that those I spent the least amount of time with in college would be the ones I would want to have a drink with now.
If you want a more detailed account, I did a five part series on it in July 2010 on my blog.
So, how did you come to fall outside of the remnant?
Maybe this will sound completely lazy and silly, but... Zeitgeist did it. Or more specifically, a religious debate group on cafemom, where zeitgeist was discussed.
I remember feeling insanely angry at the lie I felt I'd been believing for so long.
The short version: mid-1980's it was my disgust with SDA church administration. The re-election of Neal Wilson as GC president. The Meri-Kay lawsuit over equal pay for equal work and discrimination against women. The Davenport scandal. The "White Lie." I was not into the Glacier View debacle that much, was really not aware what was going on with that. But the hypocrisy of the church elite disgusted me. Our family just withdrew from religion.
Mid 90's, my son was given a book by one of his Jewish high school friends about the Shroud of Turin. The thesis of this book was that the Shroud was indeed authentic, BUT, the body it covered was NOT DEAD. Hmm! It posed a lot of stuff I had never even heard of before. Events and personalities of that "Time of Christ" era. That launched me into a frenzy of reading 40+ books about the Essenes, the Dead Sea Scrolls, all that "higher criticism" stuff associated with who wrote the gospels, when were they written, why were they written. Read all about the Jesus Seminar people . . . and believed them to diabolical apostates. Read John Shelby Spong with disgust. Read about the history James the Brother of Jesus and that author kept inserting stuff into the record of Acts that completely turned Acts on its head. Read a book about Paul, the Apostle of the Heart Set Free, and to this day, I am not certain if Paul was the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity.
At the same time, I went through a life-changing event called a divorce and in that trauma, regressed back to a point in time that was still stable in my life. I reconnected to the SDA church, and through a series of what I considered to be miracles, gave up a tenured teaching position in a state university and joined the faculty at Pacific Union College to fill a similar position that they had.
I attended the "heretics" Sabbath School class in the Choir Room and felt both a little queasy yet exhilarated at some of the points that I heard. Points that were just at the edge of being non-orthodox.
Another experience of trauma was fueled by the blatant lying of the Academic Dean, my boss, and the closing of our Department and program. I left PUC in disgust. That was the moment of liberation for me. [A word of advice: Never, ever shackle your economic livelihood to your state of spirituality by working for a parochial denomination with loyalty oaths.]
I found a position with a food management company and signed on as the general manager of one of their client accounts in Northern California. A young chef was hired about three weeks before me. He and I and one clinical dietitian were the management team for this hospital food service operation. The chef knew I was SDA, coming from PUC. He was very tight with his background, but as he learned to trust me, he revealed his story. Raised in an ultra-conservative SDA environment, "incarcerated" at Weimer Institute, and now totally "liberated" with a sexual lifestyle I found astonishingly open. That kid showed me what liberation from SDA bondage could be like.
I accepted another position with that company and moved across the country. This was 2004. The most pivotal year in my life.
My transformation from Republican politics to disgust and contempt for Bush and his cronies with their illegal wars, revoking of civil rights and protections, their torture, their ignoring of the constitution. The epiphany of what it means to be a progressive within the political sphere.
But more importantly, I was beginning to able to deal with my true identity and very being. Three closet doors had now had their locks lifted. The homophobia of the United States Army, I had retired with 23 years of active duty service. The homophobia of the Seventh-day Adventist church, I was no longer a member. The release from a heterosexual marriage that should never have happened, but did, because that was what gay SDA men did to overcome their inherent gay identity.
I did a massive internet search on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
The bigotry and hatred espoused by fundamental Christianity both frightened me and angered me.
It never occurred to me to "Google" the words "homosexual" and "Seventh-day Adventist" in the same search because I just knew there would be zero hits. And so it was truly by accident that I found a link to SDA Kinship on another Christian gay-support web site. I connected with Kinship for awhile, and the fellowship was helpful. My resentment to the SDA church was growing exponentially.
I discovered John Shelby Spong again, as a Christian that called bullshit on the homophobes of Christianity with their "demon" texts. JSS became my patron saint!
I discovered Thomas Paine with his "Age of Reason."
I discovered there really was something to this "higher criticism" of the scriptures.
I discovered what "secular humanism" meant and it was the Unitarian-Universalist Church, an accepting and affirming church, that really helped me in the transformation to an "out" gay man, and a very progressive secular humanist man.
The prominent history of the U-U 19th century transcendentalists, and the U-U instigators for all things progressive such as women's suffrage, and so many prominent figures in progressive political history gave me a very secure relationship with the U-U church. The bottom line is that atheists are welcome, one can believe what they must believe, and the ground rule is that there is reciprocal respect with others and their beliefs.
I had left the SDA church, but in a professional way, I still had some affinity to SDA church. For I then worked for this food management company in a position that supported their campus operations division with recipe and menu support. This company was having difficulty with their SDA client accounts in meeting the needs of the Adventist cultural cuisine.
Unfortunately, my position came to an end through a re-organization and downsizing (2007, start of the big recession). However, one of their client SDA colleges (Walla Walla) needed a general manager. I was encourage to apply, and from the company's perspective, to develop a test kitchen at that site to work on recipes and menus that would better facilitate the SDA culinary culture. [I still have a copy of the old WWC recipe file from the mid-60's.]
My management company knew that I am gay. Hell, half of their chefs are gay. I insisted that the client know that as well as I was not going to go into the closet and I wanted no surprises that would end up embarrassing everybody involved. I interviewed for the position. The president of the college was on the interview panel. He and I had been on the faculty at PUC together, he had even taken one of my classes.
After a week, I was simply informed that I was "not qualified."
That was the severance point for anything resembling a favorable relationship with the SDA church. The overt homophobia and the denominational policy of "no accommodation" was evil hypocrisy of the highest order.
I started reading Spectrum blog, and watched the train-wreck unfold over the teaching of science at La Sierra University. All the time thanking the Flying Spaghetti Monster I was no longer employed by the denomination at PUC.
It has angered me to realize how entrenched the SDA denomination is, and reverting even more so backward, with the denial of science with respect to young earth creationism and young life creationism.
I have become involved with the freethought organizations and read PZ Myers and other blogs "religiously" with their contempt of the creationists. I have now read Dawkins, and Hitchens, and Sam Harris, and a number of very prominent biologists that write on evolution and genetics with a lay audience in mind. I find it mindboggling how disconnected the SDA mindset is with the denial of science to support the YEC requirement, and yes I will concede, for the SDA church to give up that nonsense, it would nullify its very name and reason for existence.
And so I now look, and clap with glee, at the train wreck Teddy Boy, the boy child of old Neal Wilson, is heading this fundamental denomination into.