I thought that sitting down to write the differences between being religious and being spiritual would be easy, but let me tell you that I was wrong. Dictionary.com defines them as the same thing essentially, but I have issues with that. I do believe that there are plenty of similarities between the two groups, but there are also some vast distinctions between the two.
Religious and spiritual people both deal with an aspect of themselves that not everyone accepts, the spirit within and the connection to God, Deity, Goddess, Great Spirit, and the many, many other names out there that describe some aspect(s) of the infinite. But here is where I see the difference being made. Religious people allow others or an outside influence to define their relationship with what is infinite where as spiritual people tend to study the infinite from more than one angle and accept that there is more than one view of Deity.
This is not to say that all religions are bad or evil, they are not, and have in fact done some positive things for society. Religion was the first science. It was a way that ancient man could explain and control his environment. Granted most of it was not accurate or in some cases even close to what reality is, but it was a start to discovering why things did and do what they do. While science may have developed on its own, it may not be as advanced without the foundation in religion. Religion was the first laws, and in many small tribal societies the religious leader was also the judge of the law of the land since both were intertwined. This does not mean that I support such a system; laws should be secular so they apply to everyone, no matter what religious or spiritual practices they may be involved with.
Getting back to the more spiritual side of things, specific religions really do not matter much. The stories in religions teach the same basics: love one another, be a good neighbor, give to the needy, help out in your community, take care of your home, and take care of your person. So if these are the lessons that we all seem to think that we should learn, what is the purpose of religion? Many times the nitpicking of the small differences between religions seems to lose the more important, albeit more generalized messages of love, peace, and support. Some, not all, religious people have lost sight of that message and are breeding hate and contempt in place of love and peace.
Another point about organized religion is that there is a support system available to help individuals make moral decisions according to the beliefs he or she was brought up with. Spiritual people tend to be disorganized, in that they do not gather in one spot to worship or necessarily have a hard and fast dogma to measure their lives by, but a more general sense of right and wrong. While most of the time the spiritual person may not care that the support of a group is missing, and in fact enjoy it, there are times where support from a like minded spiritual group would be beneficial for guidance if requested or at a minimum, support.
Is there a moral to this story? Sort of. We should all learn, religious, spiritual, atheist, whatever to accept where that person is along their journey. We should accept that that person knows themselves and has chosen the path that is right for them. We should also try to be the best that we can be by loving ourselves, our households, and our neighbors. Be the peace that you would like to see in the world.