The common dismissal of religion is that is a crutch for the weak against the fear of death. And while that may be true to some extent, I think that the major role of religion and religious institutions has been to provide guidance about to how to live. And that the real problem is that there is no overt mechanism to update the guidance being given.
So religions, with their intellectually devastated rationale, are forced to cling onto their Iron Age inspired, medievally edited message about Sin and an Angry God. And they are stuck with both no reason for their authority and giving bad advice.
But the impact of religion, especially to the avowed atheist, is so small that it isn't really the moral influence we need to worry about. We are surrounded by advertising and the random mythology of reality tv, public radio, video games and paper backs. And all throughout our lives we are indoctrinated into norms of dress, diet, self-presentation and hygiene; most of which we internalize and no longer realize were at some point decided for us. These sources of motivation are the ones that now need to be countered.
We all benefit from being reminded what we ought to do, and for those of us without a deliberate community the only thing we are reminded to do, is spend. Nowhere in our lives as atheists is there room, time, or context for our own values to be reinforced. There is a quote that "The only alternative to tradition is bad tradition."
What this means is that atheism has given up fantasy and corrupt institutional authority for a faux rugged individualism. All atheism has now is the claim that the individual who doesn’t go to church is their own person, guided by only their own intellect and judgment; which is wrong on two counts.
None of us are smart or wise enough to figure out all the answers to our lives on our own. And secondly we are constantly encouraged to behave in ways that are totally orthogonal to our own values. And so I take it as unavoidable that we would be better off with an institution build to help us figure out our role in the world, and to at least fight off the values put forward by mass media, if not in fact to promote those values we endorse.
We are guided by outside messages whether we like it or not, especially those that we do not notice. And that the trouble with churches is the content of the messages they give, not with us for being effected by them. So I think it makes sense that we should form institutions that remind us of the values that we care about.