If we don't consciously and constructively work with the religious impulse that co-evolved with and was indispensable to cultural evolution, it will continue to manifest itself unconsciously and perniciously in ostensibly secular institutions.
I recognize the sentiment. I've heard it many times before. On both sides of the aisle. Even prominent "new atheists" like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins have deemed it necessary to address and adapt to it.
I don’t find it convincing.
I guess many people who are brought up in a religious environment take for granted that everyone, inevitably, has a ’religious impulse’ and that atheists are posers or ascetics or exceptions. But I don’t think that’s true.
As a Swede I have lived my whole life with almost no contact with religion at all: personally, socially or in society as a whole. Most people I have ever come in contact with have never shown any ’unconscious’ or ’pernicious’ urges or emotional voids sublimated into anything remotely obsessive or dysfunctional. It just isn’t such a big deal.
Religion, or even ’spirituality’, is certainly not necessary, neither psychologically nor sociologically. It just seems that way to people who are surrounded by it. The zealousness of some ’new atheists’, ’rationalists’ etc. isn’t a symptom of unfulfilled existential needs. It’s just a consequence of the fact that religion is so obviously destructive.
Without religion it would be so much easier to actually get on with building ’secular institutions’ that are the exact opposite of ’pernicious’ to social progress. To someone outside any religious framework, finding meaning by engaging productively with community and society comes as easy, or even easier, starting from neutral ground rather than from within a religious framework, or in opposition to one, or even as an alternative to one.