Knitting Help is by far the best for quick help and comraderie. Amy and Sheldon have been adding patterns to the free pattern section regularly and there are a whole lot of them now.
Here is why I love Ravelry for different reasons and besides KH is by far the visited and valuable site I've come across. I use it not only for pattern searches, but seeing how others used patterns..what yarn, weights, how certain colorways look, if there were problems or errata, and modifications. I can search patterns using the filters.. like only V-neck raglans in fingering weight for children, or stuffed vegetables for instance. I also look up yarn and see if it's discontinued or if others thought it was splitty, or soft, etc.
I use my own page to keep track of my projects. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to look to see if what yarn or needle size I used or how I did something. It's been invaluable.
I do use the forums occasionally, but I avoid the controversial ones. I'm not sure why anyone complains about that because it's easy enough to avoid. I belong to several, but really only view a few and participate in a few... I post primarily to a low carb group, a Survivor TV show group, and a local yarn store.
Now I know your question is WHY can't you just view patterns. I believe that ability is fairly new and not everyone allows it for whatever reason. I have a few patterns, but I have no idea if they are viewable. See if you can view these links. If not I'll see if I can figure out what you need to do to making them viewable.
I set up a yahoo email just for this type of thing. It's the one I use when I need to join a forum or website. That way I don't need to use my personal email. I don't know of any spam that I've gotten can be traceable to Ravelry. The more you are online the more chance it can happen from anywhere. It's just an annoying fact of life. Fortunately Yahoo is pretty good at catching it before I even see it.