In response to Bill Realman Stella, I am taking the easy way out this time. I'll limit myself to one belief which is sure to cause controversy and one which should not. Other parts of the fielded questions will be tackled later in the week.
When I write that I am confused by people who claim to be "spiritual" but not "religious," I start to wonder what they really mean. I believe that there are good people in the pews, even in our most conservative and homophobic churches and temples. My belief is that we remain in our faith communities and keep being "in their face" about our sexual orientation. Studies have recently shown that about 60% of Roman Catholics are in favor of gay marriage. A great many also support a woman's right to choose. I daresay that most gay Catholics (practicing or inactive) know at least a few gay priests they admire or have dated! Aside from how it might appear, the hierarchy in this church doesn't speak for most of its members. There is still enough if the spirit of Blessed John XXIII to diminish the seeming power of this institution.
Ah, but why stay in any branch of organized religion? I have found that a community of believers helps to strengthen my diverse opinions. Aside from that, I will be the first to admit that my gay-self enjoys the music and the smells (incense) and bells and the beauty of a well celebrated liturgy. (Disclaimer: None of this refers to fundamentalists and Jehovah's Witnesses).
When I hear people say they are spiritual and can worship God playing golf on Sunday morning, I agree that one can do that, but I also doubt that they ever do. Sometimes these spiritual nomads find a "religion" in the twelve step groups. Others create their own view of the universe and it meets their needs. How they pass along those views to the next generation is a moot point. A Methodist minister once told me that he has observed that a significant number of converts eventually go back of their religion of origin. I have to agree. In my super gay-sensitive years, I belonged to many churches including a gay church. Something was always lacking for me.
If nothing else moves you about my convoluted thoughts, just try to remember that organized religion is probably the primary reason that the poor people in this country have not killed the rich people. Someone important said that, and it clicked.
The less controversial subject was the last in NJRealman's posting. I have gone through major peiods of depression in my life, and I have been helped by the medications out there. However, I don't see how a person can have awake participation in our world and not experience depression. We have poverty, the rape of the middle class, political corruption, natural disasters, AIDS, a technolgy system which doesn't appear (to me) to be able to become more sophisticated. It might not be therapeutic, but when you're not feeling depressed, it's pretty obvious that you're operating in low mental gear.