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AASF: Clergy Project Ex-Minister Tells How Critical Thinking Led Him to Atheism

This month Atheist Advocates of SF features Rick Wilmot, a former long-term Minister with the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church, who struggled with the contradictions of his religion and became an atheist. In 2011 he joined the Clergy Project and finally “spilled the beans” about his beliefs in a Church staff meeting. On December 31, 2012 his employment was terminated. Thus ended a career of pastoring for 36 years. Before that his formal education from the first grade through earning a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree was in SDA run schools.


It was during the past 24 years as an associate pastor of churches in Napa, and then Lodi, that Rick had more time to prepare for the sermons and Bible classes he taugh. Being a stickler for truth, understanding and clarity, Rick soon found himself having more and more difficulty reconciling the contradictions which he saw within the Bible and also between the Bible and Christian and SDA doctrines. Many of the answers given by apologists were not satisfying to Rick. He bought virtually every new English translation of the Bible that came out on the market, hoping to find the “right” one which would help clear up the Bible’s inconsistencies. That never happened. Instead he slowly came more and more to the realization that the Bible was simply a human book and that probably most of the Bible’s stories were based on myths and legends.

In 2002 Rick realized that his beliefs were more in line with secular humanism, freethought, and agnostic/atheist ways of thinking. He kept his mouth shut about his new views and continued his employment, while trying to find another way to support himself and his family. That ended in 2011.

Please join us for this fascinating story of critical thinking that led Rick from the only way of viewing the world he had ever known.

Afterwards we will go to dinner in a nearby reasonable Chinese restaurant. Please join us.

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When: Sunday, February 10th at 3:00 to 5:00 PM (Meeting will start promptly at 3:00)

Location: Audre Lorde Room (Upstairs), Women's Building,[masked]th (at Valencia), San Francisco

Cost: $6 Renting a meeting room means we must charge admittance. We would appreciate exact change if convenient. Most of all we want you to join us for this talk.

Note: The Women's Building is three blocks from the Mission 16th St. BART. If you don't know the neighborhood we suggest that as you reach the top of the stairs from BART, turn right and walk a few yards to 16th. Then turn left on 16th Street and walk to Valencia, then turn left on Valencia to 18th St.

Parking: Garage at[masked]st Street (at Lexington)

Our next meeting will be on Saturday, March 16th at 1:30. It will feature Ed Buckner, former Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and former President of American Atheists; currently Treasurer and Board Member of AA. He will speak on his book, In Freedom We Trust, about the separation of religion and government in the founding of our nation.

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  • Ming L.

    Listen to the other 3 clergies?

    I would love to listen to the other 3 clergies - anyone else interested?

    Enjoyed Rick Wilmot's talk. Please remember it was less than 2 months since he left the church and his biography paints a picture of how isolated his education and views of the word had been. He does not know how others specially atheist view him and that they are mostly interested in the why & how. It is amazing that he was able to achieve leaving everything including his source of income at age 60. Not an enviable place to be.

    1 · February 11, 2013

  • Dave H.

    Only my second meetup. So glad I went. And to meet like-minded people is such a plus. Speaker spent too much time on personal biography—we all do the first time we speak in public. That will change as he gets more comfortable doing the public speaking thing.

    1 · February 11, 2013

  • Dave H.

    So glad I went. The biography was a little tedious, but since it was his first time speaking to a group I cut him some slack. A year from now he'll be a fantastic speaker.

    1 · February 11, 2013

  • David D.

    I learned things about 7th Day Adventists that I had not known. It is good to know what religions are promoting so that arguments against religion can be pointed, exact and based on actual magical thinking.
    We also heard what it is like to be totally immersed in a sub-culture to the exclusion of everything else. The reality of that saturation gives me a feeling of sympathy for the ex-minister because his escape is all the more remarkable.
    But, like others, I thought there was too much personal biography and too little information of how change came about, how that change affected him, how he parlayed his "awakening" to other facts and factors into a resolution to announce his disbelief and to really accept it and to join with others by, for example, the Clergy Project.
    Regardless of my criticism, I am glad I attended the talk. The gentleman has some tough trials ahead. I hope he finds plenty of help, possibly from advisers to cult escapees.
    Oh, and glad to see everyone.

    February 11, 2013

    • Dave H.

      It was his first time speaking to a group. I'm certain that each successive time he speaks he will have shortened the biographical part. A year from now I bet he'll be an awesome speaker.

      February 11, 2013

  • Dick H.

    too much biography and tool little chance for Q and A
    There were four Clergy Project members there but we were never introduced. I thought theClergy Project was given short shrift considering the publicity indicated the program was about it.

    1 · February 10, 2013

  • Terry P.

    Too much detail on his life and churches and not enough like the last 20 minutes and the Q&A. I would have preferred him explaining Adventism, little on his life, experiences leading to questioning his belief system (which he did a little), more on how it was for him for the 10 years atheist in the church, how the Clergy Project experience helped (if it did)

    1 · February 10, 2013

  • Sabine B.

    I am really upset, but I'm going to have to miss this, even though it's one of the most interesting topics to me.

    February 10, 2013

  • Dick H.

    I am also a member of he Clergy Project

    February 9, 2013

  • Diego

    Sorry. Something came up.

    February 8, 2013

  • Gaila Marie A.

    thank you
    Gaila Marie Allen
    [masked]

    February 4, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sunday is the one day I can simply spend with my family.

    February 4, 2013

  • Starchild

    How much is this meeting room rental? Could we possibly find a free or lower cost space that would accommodate the amount of persons who typically attend? Having to pay $6 might well make the difference between some people attending or not.

    January 29, 2013

    • Starchild

      Thanks Larry, glad you like it! I would post the idea to the list, but I don't have posting privileges. Perhaps you can do it for me? With all the people in the group, perhaps someone will come up with something. Even if there were an expectation of people ordering something, I think we'd come out ahead. Most places you can buy something to drink for under $6. And, of course, then you have a drink.

      February 4, 2013

    • Starchild

      How much is the meeting room rental?

      February 4, 2013

  • Terry P.

    I'm also a member of Clergy Project.

    January 29, 2013

  • Dave H.

    Looking forward to it—will try and bring a friend.

    January 29, 2013

  • David D.

    It must be hard to spend all your life in a certain frame & then find you do not believe it. How do you move on?

    January 29, 2013

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