My changing Political and Religious views

This is my chance to explain myself, and how I came to be who I am. Much detail is necessarily left out.

When I was a kid, I grew up in a very abusive/dysfunctional family. I was a very confused kid.
It took me a very long time to sort out my toughest issues and figure how how to adjust, cope and survive
and achieve a small amount of success. I battled depression all of my life which has been worse
at some times than others. I didn't even know I suffered from it until 2004. It has held me back and
I would have been so much further ahead without it. There are so many things I would liked to have done
when they could have been done much easier in my 20s, but are more difficult now.

In this environment I speak of, I was raised a Catholic and my parents were Union members who
worked mostly in furniture factories when I was born until I was a teenager. For 'Democrats' they
were fairly conservative. You could say 'Reagan Democrats' because in 1980, they (and I) voted for him.

But throughout all the constantly unsettled nature of my life (until my mid-40s), I learned one thing:
Both Politics and Religion should not be the be-all and end-all for everything in your life. You really have
to be willing to be at least a little bit flexible and you really have to be honest with yourself about how
well you can put into practice what you believe. Your ability to put into practice what you believe should
determine what those things have to be. It should not be a further shackling of a life that is already shackled enough.

Besides, principle is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Equally respectable people have different principles.
I may not agree with someone and think they're crazy, but I don't hate them because I don't agree. Most people come
by their beliefs sincerely and they will eventually change if they find out something else is better or not as bad
as they thought. Dogma has little practical place in my life. It has never benefitted me with anyone or any thing to
adopt extreme views that even at the time I believed them I felt were extreme. This is really how you know.
The purpose of the extreme views I used to have (Political and Religious) seemed to be a crutch (something to
hold onto and provide me 'moral support') to hide my constant failure and pain. It did a very poor job of that.

It is fair to note that 'extreme' can also mean different things to different people. You have to be the
ultimate judge of what is too extreme for you to get along practically in your life and in society. But, just
because society changes its values, doesn't mean you have to necessarily. You have to live with yourself.

What is ultimately important about what you believe as it affects society is whether the practice of those
beliefs will harm the rights of individual U.S. citizens. For this reason, much of the religious views I used to
have a long time ago had to be dumped. They could only have led to a civil war, and nobody wins in that.

What do I now believe?

Politically, in the last 12 years I have become a lot more pragmatic. That is not to say some people would not
still vehemently disagree with me on a few things (however much less than before), but whatever I do believe has to be
based on what is legal, what is fair to everyone, and does not favor any group over another, as long as we're talking
about American citizens. That is a sticking point for some people who don't draw a distinction on citizenship. I do.
I feel that is a moderate view, but in any event on most other aspects of politics I'm a moderate. Some things business
does better, and some things government does better. If it requires coordinated effort and enforced standards, that seems
to be where government works. If it requires profit to drive the economy and support the government, business is needed.
Too much regulation is bad. Not enough of the right kind is also bad. For each new one put in place, at least one old should be removed.
It is easy to create burdens when you don't have to live under them. A lot more thought needs to exercised before creating them.
Public land should not be off limits to the people who own the land (us). There is far too much public land in the West, in my opinion.
Take a look at this map some time: Federal Lands in the United States
Half of that 640 million acres can be sold and still save for the public to enjoy everything worth preserving. Maybe less out-of-control forest fires!
Responsible disbursement of a large percentage of that land (not to be sold to foreign companies or governments) can be the means
for us to take a large bite out of the National Debt. Definitely enough to get our country away from the edge of bankruptcy if we act now.
Also, a Balanced Budget Amendment is a necessity. Anything that can make it easier for American citizens to have children is also
critical to our survival as we find it harder to fund Social Security and Medicare. Anything that rewards companies who stay in the
U.S. and keep jobs here is critical. The one part of medicine that the government should rightfully be in a lot more is developing cures
for sickness, because the pharmaceutical companies only make money when you are sick and stay sick. If you are well, they lose. So finding
cures is a common benefit to everyone and Big Business does not do 'common benefit' very well. They are in business solely to make a profit,
which is their proper place.

Religiously, there is not any room for discussion beyond what I will say here. Religion has not ever benefitted me at all.
It has done a lot of harm in my life or else it has done nothing. The best I have ever been able to function as a religious
person is much less than I have been able to function as a non-religious person. So guess which way I must go? It also seems
that religion is an even worse place for extremist views than politics. Usually with politics, no one's telling you that you
will burn in hell if you don't go along. Yet, religion doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose if the beliefs are too moderate.
If I had to start my own church, I would probably have to disband it the next day due to my lack of attendance. Being part of a
church necessarily means you are subjecting yourself to pressure to keep up with what the group believes. That does not fit me,
because I'm too willing to change if I think something is wrong...of course, that means I have to leave. It's best we live apart.