I've heard my whole life that there is a difference between religion and faith. And I always believed that to be true, even at times when I couldn't see the difference.
I've just finished the book Tribes by Seth Godin, and he puts it very neatly: "Faith leads to hope, and it overcomes fear." "Faith is demonstrated by the actions you take." (Funny; I think I remember reading something similar in James 2.) By contrast, "Religion... represents a strict set of rules that our fellow humans have overlaid on top of our faith."
Mr. Godin isn't writing about Christianity; his book is about leadership. But I think he's hit on a crucial point; faith is what allows believers to soar. Faith is what allows people to take risks. Faith says that it's okay to refuse to go along with what everybody's doing.
Religion can be the one to tell us to colour in the lines. Religion can tire people out and send them on their way discouraged. I don't think it must be that way ... but it happens.
The first group to be called Christians were noticed because they stood out. They did things differently than other people. They didn't go along with the crowd, and refused to do so even when threatened with death, because they had faith. But as time went on there were rules built around the faith, and someone had to be the hall monitor for the rules, and one day this movement that had stood against the culture became the culture, and to oppose it meant dire consequences.
How sad the things that can happen when we turn to religion, instead of to faith.
So today I encourage you: Be different. Do what you believe in. Soar, hope, love, and dream. Have faith.