I guess I could jump in here too with a few comments, being a gay man too and all--
Farmer Dave, it really is no big deal, and I personally hope that you will simply be comfortable and happy and enjoy your life from your own unique perspective.
I personally like to call homosexuality an "affectional preference" rather than a "sexual preference," because it seems like anti-gay folk tend to be obsessed with the sex part, which has always seemed somewhat odd to me.
Anyway, responding briefly to the person who asked why it seems necessary to share one's private sexual preference, I can offer this-- A gay person often feels a subdued but constant pressure from the society he or she lives in, caused by the assumption people usually make that a person is heterosexual, unless they are told otherwise by the person him or herself.
A gay person can become very aware of a dissonance between others' views of him and his own views of himself. At a certain point a gay person, just like any person feeling a difference between what others think of him and what he thinks of or knows about himself, feels more or less obliged to correct these misimpressions of others around him. It helps to clear the air and to get one's interpersonal relationships and interactions on the right track, without some big, bad bogeyman of an unstated and hidden fact, or a false assumption, always lurking in the background.
I don't want to address the religious issue much, except to say that in my case I was raised among Christian missionaries of various denominations in the Amazon rainforest of South America, and those difficult circumstances caused me to do a lot of heavy-duty thinking at an early age and to come to my own conclusions.
Actually, I'm glad that happened because it made me question beliefs rather than simply accepting and absorbing them indiscriminately. I ultimately concluded that a person's spiritual beliefs as a whole is a matter that is directly between oneself and the physical and perhaps nonphysical environments in which one has his experience, and I came to believe that one should not rely on any external "authority" such as a group, a person or a book for answers to or information about life's questions that his own experience can and should provide.
Be true to yourself Dave, OK? If you lose a few friends because they don't approve of you being gay, then so what? Maybe they'll come around, maybe they won't. But you wouldn't want to have them as friends if they couldn't accept you as the person you are, right?
Be happy, enjoy life. To a great many people nowadays, being gay or having a gay friend is so not a big deal. I think that most people have at least one gay or lesbian or bisexual member in their immediate or extended family, and it seems like almost everybody knows somebody or has a friend who is gay.
Well, I've rambled on long enough, and a lot longer than I expected to.
Steve / xscd