My perception of Judaism and the Jewish community has transformed over the last decade and a half. I used to very much perceive the Jewish community as the hierarchy that I described here.
I made the mistake of confusing the strength of one's belief in God with the intensity of one's Jewish identity. My misconception was that those on the top of the hierarchy buy into the Jewish God hypothesis, while those on the bottom either don't, or do but to a lesser extent. I believed that, as an atheist, I automatically fit on the bottom of the hierarchy in terms of Jewishness. I come by my atheism honestly. My previously devout great-grandfather went "OTD" during WWII, and declared: *"קינדער. נישטא קיין גאט אין דער וועלט". "Children, there is no God. What kind of God kills so many people and spills rivers of blood?". (With all due respect to my Gread Grand Deda, my answer to his question is : "A Jewish one". The Torah certainly has no shortage of senseless killing.) I am a fourth generation secular Jewish atheist - so much for the theory that assimilation will kill off the Jews! Nevertheless, I perceived that my identity as Jewish was simply a result of halachic default . . . a loophole that made me Jewish because my mother is halachically Jewish etc.
Once I began to strongly identify as an atheist, I did not feel myself to be genuinely a part of the community, and certainly wanted to distance myself from the doctrine underlying Orthodoxy. I was very uncomfortable participating in any religious activities. I felt I had no business as an atheist participating in something that was sacred for others, but not sacred to me. It seemed disrespectful. I also boycotted any religious synagogue services, including those on Yom Kippur. In part it was for similar reasons: as an atheist who values honesty and integrity, there was something very hypocritical about going to shul - particularly since I was not fasting etc.
Also, as time went on, not only did I feel that the Orthodox synagogues were not reflective of my beliefs, they were counter to my beliefs. I could not - and continue to avoid tacitly or actively - supporting organizations that do not promote equal rights, and though many Orthodox people support the equal rights for women and gay people, Orthodox Institutions, IMO, don't. In any case, it was a gradual transition from rejecting Jewish Orthodoxy to embracing Secular Jewish Humanism (though I only discovered the label recently - in the last year or so).
My husband and in-laws, to their immeasurable credit, accepted me despite my "quiet rebellion" (or, truth be told, just didn't take it too seriously!), and through their unwavering welcome of me in the family, I began to appreciate the beauty in the shades of grey in Jewish life. Though my instinct, as informed by the "triangle", was initially to abandon all things Jewish, and say, "well, I'm just Jewish by default. Moving on", I saw value on a social level in the Jewish practices my in laws observed. When I cut out the "God" part, passover dinner was still a nice way to reconnect with the extended family, and Friday night dinner is a lovely tradition. All experiences I had never had in our household as a child.
I bobbled along happily shnorring the Judaism off my in-laws' events until we had children. When my son was born, making Jewish choices became important once more. Things like the bris, having to start making decisions about education, how to celebrate holidays etc., forced me to confront where I stand Jewishly, and how I want to present being Jewish to my children. In part, the introduction of the concept of Orthopraxy finally shattered the myth of "belief" as the distinguishing factor of the Jewish hierarchy. People find themselves in different denominations for different reasons. I've tried on this blog to point the multitude of factors that have informed my belief system. Had I been born into a frum family, perhaps I would be in a different category on that triangle, but maybe not. The triangle, thus slowly melted for me into a continuum (see below), and then became the circle - with no implicit gradations of Jewish. I finally saw myself as just Jewish, and just as Jewish as everyone else.
The transition from a "triangle" to a "circle" representation also changed how I saw myself in relation to my MO relatives . In seeing the Jewish community through the hierarchical lens, the divide between my interpretation of Jewishness and theirs was defined by commitment to halacha. From this perspective, my MO relatives' lifestyle seemed closer to UO lifestyles than to mine. As I shifted in perspective to the more inclusive/pluralistic model of Judaism, I came to interpret Judaism more as "the shades of grey". On the one extreme, in highly seclusive UO circles (this is not ALL Haredim), where all knowledge is prescribed by Jewish doctrine ("black"). On the other extreme, complete assimilation, and no Jewish identity ("white"), and in the middle are the shades of grey. I have more secular influences informing my lifestyle, so I fall into a lighter shade of grey, and they have more rabbinic or religious influences, so theirs is a darker shade of grey. Nevertheless, for both them and me our Jewish identities are a fluid and transient mix of black and white.