I play Noble and if I don't start with Mysticism, I'll shoot for Polytheism and most of the time will get it too. Even if I have to research Hunting first, which is always my first choice in tech. If you're having so much trouble with it, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on your first few cities, and don't build a new one until the old ones are at least breaking even or even showing a profit. Another stategy you can try is to check up on the other civs, and just try to keep with them, city for city. It seems pretty obvious you're trying to expand too quickly. I usually don't have a dozen cities until I'm approaching the Industrial Era.