Edited 3/4/2012: I shortened up the summary a bit and add the following update:
Thanks for the lively comments. As a preliminary summary of things I've found quite useful/helpful:
It's almost one year later, and I've finally made tangible progress on some of the input suggested in my post about being non-religious in a primarily religious environment. That is, I have a near-final draft of a "coming out" statement I plan to share with a majority of those who know me.
I was involved in two religious communities for about six years of my life (SPO and CCR). Two years post-deconversion from Catholicism, many of them still do not know I no longer believe in god. This can make for awkward interactions for myself, as well as for my wife, who's still a believer. She thought it would be helpful if everyone was on the same page, as did I.
My sad prediction: Few will read past the title page. Maybe as far as the first paragraph.
Why? Because you're implying that them being wrong about everything is possible. This generates an ugh field of overwhelming strength.
Likely results: nothing you say in the paper will be taken in by your intended audience. Worse, they will read as far as that first paragraph and then fill in the blanks with their received preconceptions of atheists. If they discuss your apostasy amongst themselves, it will be in terms of said stereotypes, and nothing to do with anything you've actually said, written or thought, ever. Perhaps I'm being unduly pessimistic ...
The document is worth having for yourself. I expect some will read it and actually take you seriously. This will make it worth it.
Edit: I've just realised the above falls afoul of "plausible is the opposite of probable" - a compelling story of a possible outcome is strictly less probable the more details you add. Still feels like an outcome of sufficient likelihood to be prepared for, though. (Am I wrong there?)
What is the objective you're trying to achieve with this document ?
Neither are nor my close family members have never been religious, so it's hard for me to put myself into your target audience's shoes. Still, if I did something radical, like joining a snake-handling Pentecostal cult; and if I chose to announce my decision by way of a 10-page, single-spaced document full of scholarly references; then I would expect my family members to feel hurt. They'd expect me to talk to them on a more personal level.
Those are just my two cents, though.
My immediate gut reaction (to your first paragraph) is that you're trying for a deeply profound style, and that makes me want to stop reading. I understand exactly why that feels like the right style for an account of apostasy, but it's infinitely better to be as basic and plain-spoken as you would be in a casual conversation. (After all, you're not trying to win a prize for style or satisfy the requirements of academics, you're trying to help your friends to see and respect where you're coming from.) Edit your first page until you can read it out loud to a stranger and have it sound like natural speech.
If you want to know how religious people will react to it, it might be helpful to get feedback from religious people.
Very well written piece. I enjoyed reading it.
The parts discussing the evidence on the historical existence of Jesus are likely to be the most provocative parts, and they are practically the first thing you discuss. I understand that this was an important part of your de-conversion process, but if there were a way you could eliminate or delay this discussion, I think it would be helpful in preventing your intended audience from being turned off by the writing.
That's inspiring, and beautiful. You should be very, very proud of your rationality, adherance to the Socratic method, and your determination to create and maintain a happy marriage and beautiful life. I know you will achieve your goals. You deserve to.
I found it pretty readable and interesting, though most of what was new to me was how you were treated by a lot of the religious people you know. I was surprised that Jesus not making more of a splash in his own time was that important to you.
How are you and your wife handling your children's (ir)religious education?
I was going to recommend Julia Sweeney, too.
I hope you make your final version available as HTML as well as PDF so I can link people to it - thanks!
I have a low attention span but I read through your entire document and when I reached the end I was surprised because I had the impression I was still reading the preliminary part. So, for what it's worth, I found it easy to get through.
Upvoted for honesty, and for conscientiously documenting it in a very readable format, and for courage. Of course, we who already choose to read LessWrong are not the intended recipients of this message -- we're the choir, and don't need to be preached to. We've arrived at this forum from many different backgrounds, along many different paths. You came from Roman Catholicism. Eliezer came from Judaism. Some LessWrongers were never religious at all.
Your message is not to us, but to your own friends and family, who remain active believing Catholics. By co... (read more)
Good read. I think that's a description of an intellectual journey, if is not so similar to EY or Luke, maybe is the beggining. Joining in the Bayesian Conspiracy put you in a good path. Rationalists should win.
I enjoyed reading that. I spotted a few grammatical errors, so I will offer this: if you make this available to me as a Google Document and give me commenting rights, I will go through it within the next week with my editor hat on and mark up everything I think should be changed. Even if you don't want to do that, good job: that was a fairly enjoyable read and will probably do what you want it to as is.
Don't take this the wrong way at all, but I did not read all of it; it was not interesting enough. (I read three pages) But that is due primarily to a complete disinterest in religion, nothing else. It was very well written, and I suspect that my apathy wouldn't apply to your target audience.
For what it's worth, congratulations on taking the time to write all of this out so that you can explain to people. It is imaginably a very difficult thing to do for someone in your situation.