I don't think the deepest, original, authentic essence of religion is simply a lie we tell ourselves to to distract our attention from our suffering.
It appears to me, rather, a discipline, or practice, we can employ to, eventually, learn how to disconnect a psychological suffering response from the chaos and tragedy inherent in reality. This is to say that real suffering is optional even though physical misfortune is not. But avoiding this suffering is not an innate talent. It is a skill that must be learned by practice, and religion's purpose is to teach that practice. Science is a natural ally to this enterprise; not an enemy.
This purpose may be more readily recognized in non-theistic traditions like Buddhism than in a deity-centered religion like Christianity, but it is there as well if you are willing to see it.
Regardless of what they call themselves, worldviews whose primary focus is on pacifying the neonatal parent-worship instinct into adulthood are not true religions; they are just that; pacifiers.
The central act of religion is to train the individual to release ego-identity, and thereby release psychological suffering regardless of material circumstances. Metaphorical imagery of this act is found in every major world religion. Those who take these metaphors to be intended as historical fact have missed the entire point, whether they be believers or non-believers.