The difference between someone who is religious and someone who is spiritual is similar to the difference between someone who is a student in school and someone who has vocational experience. Imagine you have two people to turn to for answers to questions about how to remove a very rare type of brain cancer. The first person is a brilliant student in his last year of medical school. He is studying to be a neurosurgeon and his marks are at the top of his class. The second person also finished at the top of his class but he has been out practicing in the field of neurosurgery for twenty years and he has actually performed hundreds of brain surgeries.
Neither person is greater or less than the other. Both are operating at full capacity on their own personal journey and are exactly where they should be. They would both have the answers you were looking for but one would actually be drawing upon his own experiences as well as the experiences of others whereas the other one would solely be relying on the lessons and teachings of other peoples’ experiences that are taught in the classroom. The student is akin to the religious person and the surgeon is akin to the spiritual.
A religious person must practice their beliefs on blind faith mostly. They are learning all the lessons that have been passed down by someone who was spiritual and had first-hand experience with the divine. The great spiritual teachers of the past were not religious however religions often get created around the spiritual experiences of a particular teacher or master. Whether the lessons come from Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, or any other spiritual master, the religious person relies entirely on the words and lessons that originated with a spiritual teacher and got passed down through the generations. A spiritual person is simply someone who has had their own personal experience with the divine.
Now you can be a spiritual person who also participates in a religion. More commonly though you see that once someone has had their own spiritual experience (whether it be a near death experience, an experience during meditation, an experience with clairaudience or clairsentience, etc.) they tend to move beyond religion as the spiritual experience itself has shown them something much more expansive, vast, and inclusive than that which is encapsulated in most religions, which are exclusive institutions. Once someone has felt and experienced the “oneness” sensation even in meditation, any institution based in exclusivity no longer seems fitting.
Religion can be a great stepping stone on the path to spirituality but one does not need to embrace religion on the journey to spirituality. Spirituality can be experienced by anyone, at anytime, from any culture, and with any beliefs. While every spiritual experience or awakening may be incredibly different from one person to the next, one thing is certain; once someone has had a spiritual experience they are forever transformed.