There's a very good short story called Dragon: The Old Potter's Tale which summarises perfectly my view of religion, and where I think your interpretation is wrong. In the story, a man erects a signboard saying that a dragon will ascend to heaven from a pond, in order to trick the townspeople for mocking his large nose. In short, all of the townspeople are utterly duped on the day written on the board, to the extent that the man who erected the sign is taken in and believes he saw a dragon.
The view of religion presented here differs markedly from yours. Of course there will have been times when God or a deity would have been used as a hastily devised excuse, but when we look at the Crusades and other wars of religion, were they undertaken because the Pope wanted a war or because he firmly believed in the cause he fought for? The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who conquered Constantinople, wrote a famous poem in which he professed he conquered as he did as his Islamic imperative to wage jihad. Barring cynical examples like the Borgias, I believe more often than not that these religious men believed in what they fought for. I also do not believe that, somewhere in the ancient world, a few devious and highly superior minds "created" religion in order to control others. Religion held sway over the hearts of the rulers and the ruled, in almost equal measure, until the first Enlightened monarchs of the 18th century.
Rather, I see religion as being rooted in an ignorance to goings on present in all ancient men, in the inherently human wish for answers which, in those more basic times, the rudiments of science possessed even in Greece or Rome couldn't come close to answering. Miracles are a particularly good example; an unexplained phenomenon which creates the sort of mass hysteria that allows religion to flourish (as we see in the aforementioned story), and for which religion offers 'explanations', they naturally serve a key role in justifying most religions, be it Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus coming back to life, or Buddha repeatedly escaping assassination attempts - perhaps there was an earthquake that displaced water in the Red Sea, some people suffering from psychosis saw a hallucination of Jesus, and Buddha's assassin was highly dyspraxic. Once these miracles are witnessed, the instinctive group hysteria might easily lead the uninformed men of old to believe in some sort of divine bestowing of power, and from here people in need of 'answers' look to this person to satisfy their need; the miracle-makers, convinced of their own powers by group reinforcement, proceed in their prophetic role to give these answers out of belief in themselves and their deity.
The last point of the above paragraph is best reinforced by the Prophet Muhammad. Unlike most religious founders, Muhammad attracted followers by being a military genius - an oft forgotten member of the top class of military man, equal in talent to Scipio Africanus, Timur, Napoleon etc - and attributing this to Allah, hence building up his religious authority and, over the course of his life, creating Islam. Why would Muhammad downplay his role in his victories by attributing his success to Allah? Because he truly believed that he was bestowed with a divine mission, and no doubt the hype around him created and reinforced this belief. Islam is unique among religions for taking as its starting miracle the acts of a man rather than natural phenomena, but nevertheless the concept is the same: religion as a form of group hysteria, used to explain certain miraculous events and then extended to the wider world. I am really describing in historical terms the thought process behind the fallacious logic, seen in this thread and still common in the world today, that leads people to go 'Look at the wonders of the world: there must be a God'. Paley's argument was not so much a justification of theism as a sort of articulation of how it arose, I tend to think.
In conclusion, religion is not a consciously created social control mechanism with some tyrannical aim, but a human phenomenon originating in group hysteria over some purported miracle and extended to explain all things, which over the centuries became so ingrained in our way of thinking that the world came to be viewed, even in polytheistic Greek and Roman times, in religious terms first and foremost. Once institutionalised, it became the lens through which we all viewed things, such that, as previously mentioned, the Pope called Crusades not to control people and exert political influence, but because of the control Catholicism had over him.
"Imagine yourself surrounded by the most horrible cripples and maniacs it is possible to conceive, and you may understand a little of my feelings with these grotesque caricatures of humanity about me."
- H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau