Alain de Botton is one of those self-described atheists who wants to preserve religion. In an article he explains four reasons for his stance.
For a start, there is the danger of individualism: of placing the human being at the center of everything. Second, there is the danger of technological perfectionism; of believing that science and technology can overcome all human problems, that it is just a matter of time before scientists have cured us of the human condition. Third, without God it is easier to lose perspective: to see our own times as everything, to forget the brevity of the present moment, and to cease to appreciate (in a good way) the minuscule nature of our own achievements. And last, without God there can be a danger (note the tentative can) that the need for empathy and ethical behavior is more easily overlooked—in other words, that evil becomes less incongruous.
To me, these arguments seem either vague and overblown or straw men. For example, getting rid of a god does not mean that we put “the human being at the center of everything”. There may be some scientist somewhere who thinks that “it is just a matter of time before scientists have cured us of the human condition” but how common a view is is that? Furthermore it is precisely the absence of a god that makes us better appreciate the grandeur of the universe and our tiny role in it. It is religious people who think that the universe’s creator did so with them personally in mind and that the universe was created for our benefit. It is the absence of a god that makes us realize that this life is all there is and that everyone should have the fullest benefits of it as possible while they are still alive, which is surely a strong basis for generating empathy?
Damon Linker may or may not be an atheist (there are hints that he was once a believer but now is not) but in an article titled Where are the honest atheists? he seems to think that atheists are deliberately and dishonestly hiding the supposed fact (using arguments similar to de Botton) that a life without god would have terrible consequences.