For follow-up discussion and general commentary on the topic. Comments are sorted chronologically.
"Religion" has a negative connotation because of how it has evolved.
"Religion" to most people means a set of rules to be followed, rituals, repeated prayers--things some churches tell people they HAVE to do to please God.
On the other hand, Christianity is a faith. A faith that Jesus Christ died for YOU. It's God saying He's done it all for you, that there's absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself.
The reason we declare we have a personal relationship with Christ is because we become the children of God when we receive Him. John 1:12. That makes Jesus our brother.
Not all people are God's children; they are His creation but not His children. This is what makes Christianity personal and not a way to achieve God's favor by doing stuff a denomination may tell us we "need" to do.
No one can be baptized for you; no one can accept Christ as your Savior for you. There's nothing you can do but exercise the faith God gave you to acknowledge that Christ died for YOUR sins to reconcile you to God.
This is a very personal relationship.
I believe you nailed it Cindy.
A belief system is a religion by definition, and is very necessary for the structure and foundation needed to survive the unending assaults on our faith.
For instance: Prayer ( spiritual contact with the Most High ) is a ritual, and a very useful and effective one. The word ritual might not sound right to some, but only means "a prescribed or accepted procedure for a religious rite".
Belief in a system alone is is to be in relationship with that system. The system is supposed to be the lead-in to the relationship with the Son of God needed for reconcilliation to the Father. The system, religion, is good but can only get you to the waiting room. You have to have insurance to get to see the Doctor...