Hi Colin, welcome.
I'm going to pass on the first thing you mention, I can't quite wrap my head around that one.
As to religion being based on fear, I would agree that it's origins were based on fear. And fear is still a well-wielded tool in service to a belief system. But I think in it's rather broadly defined contemporary state, there's lots of other interesting stuff going on beneath the surface.
Bear with me, I've been thinking about this for a while, but haven't tried to articulate it yet. I expect to be speaking in a very general sense about "people" as opposed to "individuals", and from a western bias. I'm also speaking of the sort of vanilla christian - they "believe", but not in an examined or deeply involved way. The range of "Christmas and Easter Only (CEO)" Christians, to "we go for the kids" to those who may or may not attend but don't really think about it much.
They may not be all that aware of what the RCC is up to these days. They may be too busy with spouses, families, work, and the day-to-day of life that they don't have much left for anything that doesn't touch their lives pretty closely. They might be quite well read in some areas, but not others, so all kinds of things might be completely off their radar. I read a lot and from many sources (TFSM for the internet), I can't fairly gauge how much the average American reads, sees, or knows about current events. And I have biases of my own.
People often say they find comfort in their religion, and although I don't share that experience, I believe that they are speaking the truth, and even think I understand what they mean.
I believe that there are lots of intelligent, reasonable people who, if pushed to really examine their beliefs, and to critically conclude whether or not those beliefs made any sense, would find it very uncomfortable to do so. One of the first things you would have to face is the implications of no god.
It doesn't take long for a reasonable, intelligent mind to make a (subconscious?) link to the conclusion that in a godless world you are fully and inescapably responsible for yourself. The "believing" brain more or less flinches away from the edge of the idea and goes off in a different direction. I think the idea is so flat out terrifying the first time your mind sees it that it twitches in self defense. I'm not saying this well… in a vast universe that we ARE aware of on some level, the idea of being alone, for really-real alone, can be pretty overwhelming.
I don't mean to say that believers are irresponsible, or not self-reliant, or weak; I think they are often encouraged, subtly, to see themselves as such. Like Pavlov's dog. It's not entirely within their control.
Strength, even from imaginary source; solace in times of pain; oversight when you feel weak or afraid; these are all really appealing things. A believer loses those things if they stop believing. True self-reliance is a big concept. They already are self reliant, I know, but belief combined with conditioning is powerful. There's god, telling them that they are not alone. The other side is too big.
And I think it's at least partially related to the comfort concept. If there's a god that takes an active interest in you and your well-being, then you can "lean on him" and "gather strength" and whatever other phrases you like. While I don't pretend to understand how it works, I can't deny that people do, in fact, seem comforted by the whole idea. If there's a god, then all the bad stuff, big, little and in-between, happened for a reason, but you'll be rewarded in the afterlife. And for all the stuff we feel guilty about, again in multiple sizes, we also find comfort in knowing that we'll be adequately punished for it (yes we do - we really don't like guilt); and those who have done badly by us will be punished as well, and probably more because they're way worse than us. It's a way to feel less bad about yourself when you don't have power. It's a way to explain why crap happens that you don't deserve. And it really only holds up if it remains mostly unexamined, and just passed on as Truth. Most christians are not well-versed in the bible, and many may not be all that clear on their own beliefs. But the idea of "there is no point, not in the way you mean" is pretty damn painful for a lot of people. I don't think it's about any sort of self-righteousness for most people, it’s about a desire for meaning and balance and fairness that we all want.
There's comfort in having answers ready made for you. There's comfort in being part of the crowd. There's comfort in not having to look too hard so you can just keep taking care of the rest of your life, which probably demand more of your immediate attention anyway.
I don't think many believers think they are bound for hell. It's always the other people who are going to hell. I'm not sure if the "loss" of hell would result if adherents falling away - if it did, I'd be really interested in determining if it was because people were no longer worried about themselves, or if they were pissed that everyone else was off the hook.
I know there's a lot of loose ends flailing around in this post - as I said, I'm still working my way through this one. Apologies for the broad strokes and sweeping generalizations.
There is, of course, far more going on around these little pieces; these are just the ones I find intriguing at the moment. I find myself a little better able to be decent to people when I remember that not everyone is able to let it go, and that de-conversion tends to be a process, not a light switch flipping on.