Choosing Life - I think some people regardless of their upbringing or religion have a hard time making friends. Don't be hard on yourself. If and foremost, if you put yourself out there, most people will respond.
Do you work w/ any people at your office that you enjoy their convos? If so, ask them to go to lunch, or have a general convo with them a little more regularly. Also, the volunteering idea is great. There are book clubs and meet and greets all over the place. Take a class if possible in something you enjoy that will allow you to meet new people.
JW Daughter, I am sure that you are not how you perceive yourself. Sometimes we are much harder on ourselves then we need to be, it is a throw back to the whole self hatred that was drilled in our heads. You know the whole ... it is only with god's great kindness that any of us blah, blah, blah .... Also, "retarded" is a rather harsh word to use. All of use at times are socially awkward, that is only natural, it is the ability to step outside our comfort zone that some times seems so hard to do. But it gets easier with time.
Mr. Happy, I think you and I Like Jews might be related, because he/she mentioned the whole "there might be sexual predators that post here and their names are ...." and look you appear out of no where. Really, give us a little more credit then that.